After nearly nine months of searching, investigators found 7-year-old JJ Vallow – still clad in red pajamas and tightly wrapped in black plastic – in the backyard of doomsday writer Chad Daybell’s home in Idaho, a detective testified on Monday. The little boy’s head, arms, and feet were taped.
A few yards away, authorities discovered “a mass of charred meat and charred bones” that they later identified as the remains of 17-year-old Tylee Ryan in a “pet cemetery” on Daybell’s property, said Ray Hermosillo, a detective with the Rexburg Police Department.
Hermosillo described the gruesome finding on the first day of a two-day preliminary hearing at the Fremont County courthouse where prosecutors will outline their case against Daybell, 52, who is accused of hiding evidence when authorities began investigating the two children’s disappearances from examining his second wife, Lori Vallow.
The hearing is coming Almost two months after authorities found the remains of Vallow’s children on Daybell’s Idaho property. Daybell and Vallow, who are members of a doomsday prepper community and married two weeks after Daybell’s widowhood, were not charged with the deaths of the two children whose bizarre missing person case has attracted national attention.
Hermosillo detailed how authorities found the body of a young child on June 9th in a “shallow grave” near a tree with “three large white flat rocks” placed “in a row” with “thin wood paneling” underneath were.
“As soon as we lifted the wood paneling out of the hole in Chad Daybell’s backyard, I could immediately smell the smell of a decomposing body,” said Hermosillo. The detective later said that investigators found the “burned mass” in a molten green bucket near the remains of a dog and a cat.
JJ’s body was dressed in red pajamas and sketchers socks. A white and blue blanket had been placed over him, said the detective, while duct tape tightly covered his head, arms and feet. Hermosillo added that a lightweight plastic bag was found on JJ’s head.
“His hands were folded chest-high. He had duct tape wrapped continuously from the elbow around his arms around his hands to his right elbow – several layers, wrapped tightly, ”Hermosillo said.
“He had a ball of duct tape over where his hands would be,” added Hermosillo. “His wrists were also taped with another layer of tape. His ankles were also tied with tape. ”
In a white shirt and blue tie, Daybell sat quietly next to his attorney, John Prior, as Hermosillo answered questions from Madison County Attorney Rob Wood.
Daybell is faced with two crime counts of conspiracy to destroy, alter, or obscure evidence and two crime counts of destruction, alteration, or obfuscation of evidence. Vallow, whose trial is scheduled for next week, is being held on child desertion and other charges.
Kay and Larry Woodcock, JJ Grandparentswere also present at the hearing on Monday, Reporters say “it’s showtime” before going to dozens of media and Several community members hold up signs of support.
JJ, 7, and Tylee, 17, had not been seen since September, although they were only asked to look after them as police officers in late November to see that they were reported missing.
Hermosillo testified Monday that he first opened an investigation into Vallow’s children on November 26, 2019 after the autistic 7-year-old’s grandparents contacted police about a social check. Upon arrival, Hermosillo found Lori’s brother Alex Cox at home – with no JJ or Vallow. Hermosillo said after Cox refused to cooperate with authorities, the detective found Daybell near a second apartment and insisted he didn’t really know Vallow and only met her a couple of times through her brother.
“I found it suspicious again because I knew they were married two weeks before my contact with Mr. Daybell,” said Hermosillo. A few minutes later, Daybell gave up his wife’s phone number and informed the detective that he hadn’t originally given it because “he felt like I was blaming him about something,” Hermosillo testified.
Rexburg Police Department detective David Stubbs also testified on Monday, describing how he met Vallow twice on November 26 when authorities were doing a social check on her 7-year-old son.
In court-played body camera footage, Vallow can be heard telling Stubbs and another officer that “this is a big mess” and that JJ is “with one of her friends, Melanie Gibb, in Arizona.”
Gibb, who testified on Monday, admitted that she initially lied to authorities about dating JJ after Vallow told her the 7-year-old was in danger.
When Stubbs Vallow stated that they are “concerned” after getting “in a bad mood”, she starts a bizarre explanation about her family history, claiming that “a lot of things” are going on and that she has had to move several times.
“One of my brothers tried to kill me,” Vallow once said, adding that Kay Woodcock has tried to “fight” her for custody of her adoptive son since her husband Charles Vallow died.
“I just don’t tell people where I am,” said Vallow. When Vallow was heard telling the police that Woodcock “doesn’t do anything but cause me trouble,” the grandmother shook her head in court and glared at her husband.
When asked about Tylee Ryan’s whereabouts, Vallow Stubbs said her daughter was attending school in BYU Idaho. On Monday, Wynn Hill, the university’s dean of students, testified that there was no record of the 17-year-old enrolled in the university.
Hermosillo said the suspicious character of his meeting with Cox and Daybell prompted detectives to search three apartments rented to Vallow, Cox and another family member, Melani Boudreaux. In one of the units, the detective said, police found a suitcase with JJ’s name and a half-filled prescription bottle of pills for the 7-year-old. The other two units appeared to be empty.
When Vallow and Daybell refused to cooperate, Hermosillo said the investigation quickly expanded to find Tylee Ryan after relatives said she had also disappeared.
In January, after Vallow repeatedly lied about the children’s whereabouts and then fled to Hawaii with her new husband, Hermosillo said an order had been served on the mother of two to instruct her to return the two minors. He said there was no evidence that JJ or Tylee were living in the Hawaii home.
Vallow was finally arrested in Hawaii after failing to give birth to her children. After following Lori’s brother’s cell phone movements, authorities were able to locate the remains of the children on Daybell’s property on June 9th. Hermosillo said Daybell was arrested less than three hours after the bodies were found.
The children’s disappearance brought a review of the couple’s involvement in the prepper community – and the deaths of Vallow and Daybell’s former spouses.
Last October, Daybell’s 30-year-old wife, Tammy, died of unknown causes. After that, the writer of apocalyptic novels turned down an autopsy for a Mormon audience – a movement that raised eyebrows. He married Vallow weeks later.
Vallow’s husband Charles Vallow was shot dead in July – allegedly by her brother Alex Cox, who said he shot in self-defense during a domestic argument. Cox was not charged and later died of natural causes.
Charles Vallow had written in divorce and custody petitions that Lori was obsessed with doomsday visions and threatened his life. He said she believed she was born again to lead people at the second coming of Jesus Christ in July 2020 and said that if he stood in the way of her salvation of humanity, she would kill him. NBC News reported.
Police have exhumed the body of Tammy Daybell, who was found dead at home. While her death was originally classified as “natural,” it has since been classified as suspicious. An autopsy report has not yet been published.
The Idaho Attorney General took over in April an investigation by Daybell and Vallow related to Tammy’s death. A court document in the case reveals that possible charges could include conspiracy and murder, but no one was charged.