EDITOR’S NOTE: This story contains graphic information that may be disturbing to some readers.
SALEM, Idaho, June 29, 2020 (East Idaho News/Gephardt Daily) — Rexburg police executed a search warrant at Chad Daybell’s home Monday afternoon.
Officers in marked and unmarked vehicles arrived around 1:15 p.m. and showed some paperwork to Daybell’s son-in-law, who has been living at the home with his family, witnesses told East Idaho News.
Police went into the house and exterior buildings on the property and were seen in the backyard with cameras. They left around 2:50 p.m. It’s unknown what officers were looking for, and Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood declined to comment on the warrant.
The scene Monday is dramatically different than when a search warrant was served June 9 at the same house, the newspaper said. Dozens of officers were on the scene and roads were closed for two days as Daybell’s property was excavated. Police discovered the remains of Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and Tylee Ryan during their search.
The fact that Rexburg police are at the house means the warrant is likely related to the children, and not the death of Chad Daybell’s wife, Tammy Daybell. The Attorney General’s Office and Fremont County Sheriff’s Office are investigating her death. Fremont County Sheriff’s deputies were assisting Rexburg Police Monday.
Court documents released June 19 detail the horrific manner in which Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and Tylee Ryan were found in Chad Daybell’s backyard. J.J. was wrapped in plastic and bound by duct tape, and Tylee was dismembered and burned.
The information is in an 11-page probable cause affidavit that was unsealed by Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins. The documents are about Chad Daybell, who is charged with two felony counts of concealment or destruction of evidence. He was arrested and booked into the Fremont County Jail on June 9 after investigators excavated two sections of his Salem, Idaho, property and discovered the remains of Tylee and J.J.
The children’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, is in the Madison County Jail, charged with desertion of children and three misdemeanors.
What happened to Tylee
The last time Tylee Ryan was seen alive was on Sept. 8, 2019, on a trip to Yellowstone National Park with their mom, uncle Alex Cox, and J.J. Rexburg police released photos of the trip earlier this year.
It’s not clear how Tylee died, but police learned about a possible motive for the death from Lori’s friend Melanie Gibb, according to an article in the East Idaho News.
Months earlier, in the spring, Lori had told Gibb that Tylee had become a “zombie,” meaning her spirit had left her body, and she had become “dark.”
“Gibb was on the phone with Lori and heard Lori call Tylee a zombie to which Tylee responded, ‘Not me, mom,'” the affidavit states. “This arose out of Lori requiring Tylee to babysit J.J., and Tylee did not want to. Lori Vallow also told Gibb that Tylee had turned into a zombie when she was 12 or 13, which was approximately the same time Tylee had become ‘difficult’ to deal with.”
Gibb traveled from Arizona to Rexburg with her boyfriend, David Warwick, from Sept. 19 through Sept. 23. They never saw Tylee, and Lori said she was attending school at Brigham Young University-Idaho.
Cox had a townhouse in the same complex as his sister. Investigators obtained Cox’s cell phone records and compared his activities on Sept. 9 with other days the same month.
“On Monday, Sept. 9, from 12 a.m. and 12:44 a.m., Cox’s phone was located at his apartment (107). However, at 2:42 a.m. to 3:37 a.m., Cox is located again at Lori’s apartment (175), where Lori lived with Tylee and J.J. This is significant, not only because he is there in the middle of the night, but also because this is the only time in September he appears to go over to Lori’s between midnight and 6 a.m.,” the probable cause affidavit states.
Cox returned to his apartment at 4:37 a.m., and at 9:21 a.m., he was located at Chad Daybell’s property. The GPS datapoint placed him near the east end of the barn, according to court records, and he was still at the property at 10:30 a.m.
“At 10:47 a.m., his phone shows a hit at the city of St. Anthony. At this time, we are unable to tell if he was actually inside the city limits of St. Anthony … or if this was a cell tower ping on his phone while he was still at the Daybell residence,” Lt. Ron Ball of the Rexburg Police Department wrote in the statement. “At 10:57 to 11:39, Cox is located at the Daybell property. At 11:52 to 12:02, he was at Del Taco in Rexburg. He appears to spend most of the rest of the day in his apartment.”
Investigators subsequently executed their search warrant. “Ground in this area was probed with a steel pole, and several areas of disturbed ground were located,” the affidavit reads. “During a search of this ground, a buried cat and dog remains were found. A backhoe was used to dig further layers of dirt. While doing this, bricks were located approximately a foot below the ground. The dirt in this area was searched, and several other items of interest were found, including other bones, charred tissue and charred bones. Cheryl Anderson (a Boise State University anthropologist on-site) indicated these additional bones, both charred and uncharred, and tissue found were human remains.”
What happened to J.J.
Lori withdrew J.J. from Kennedy Elementary in Rexburg on Sept. 24 and told administrators she was going to homeschool her son. Police say they never found any evidence of homeschooling during their investigation.
When Gibb arrived at Lori’s house in September around the same time, Lori told her J.J. had become a zombie.
“Gibb that J.J. had become a ‘zombie’ and (Lori) pointed out behaviors such as sitting still and watching TV, claiming J.J. said he loved Satan, and an increased vocabulary as evidence that J.J. was now a zombie,” Ball wrote in the affidavit. “Gibb observed J.J.’s behavior and felt it to be the same as she had always observed it.”
Gibb told detectives that Lori told her Chad had taught that once a person becomes a zombie, “death of the physical body is seen as the mechanism by which the body’s original spirit can be released,” according to the probable cause.
Lori told Gibb that it was her and Chad’s mission to rid the world of “zombies.”
The last time Gibb and Warwick saw J.J. was the night of Sept. 22. Warwick told investigators it was late, and he was going to do a podcast with Gibb and Lori. Warwick said J.J. was acting up, so Cox took J.J. to his apartment.
“When Alex returned later that night, he was carrying J.J., who appeared to be asleep with his head on Alex’s shoulder,” Ball wrote. “Warwick specifically remembered this because he saw it as a tender moment.”
The next morning, between 8 and 9, Warwick asked Lori where J.J. was. Lori told Warwick and Gibb that J.J. “had been acting like a zombie” and crawling on and on top of the kitchen cabinets.
“She informed Warwick and Gibb that when J.J. had climbed upon the cabinetry that he had knocked a picture of Jesus off the refrigerator,” the probable cause says. “Vallow then informed Warwick and Gibb that Alex had come and taken J.J.”
The FBI analyzed Cox’s cell phone movements on the morning of Sept. 23. He was at the Daybell property from 9:55 a.m. until 10:12 a.m. — a total of 17 minutes — near the pond. Police searched the area last week.
“Members of the FBI removed the top layer of sod. Underneath the layer of sod were several large flat rocks. The rocks were removed, and two pieces of flat paneling were found. The paneling was removed, and investigators exposed a round object covered in black plastic,” the affidavit reads. “Upon exposing the round object covered in black plastic, a strong odor was noticed. An FBI member used a small sharp instrument and made a small incision in the plastic and a layer of white plastic was observed. An incision was made into the white layer of plastic exposing what appeared to be human remains, the crown of a head covered in light brown hair.”
The affidavit says J.J.’s body was wrapped in tight black plastic and secured with gray duct tape.
It is not clear how J.J. died either.
Chad watches events unfold
As law enforcement executed their search warrant, Chad was “continuously watching where officers were searching. He was observed watching officers while sitting in his vehicle in his front driveway and while sitting in his vehicle across the street at his daughter’s residence,” the affidavit reads.
When J.J.’s remains were discovered, police wrote Chad left his daughter’s house in an SUV. He was arrested about a mile from his home.
He remains in custody in the Fremont County Jail on $1 million bail. Lori is in the Madison County Jail, and her bail has also been set for $1 million.
Cox died in December 2019, apparently of natural causes.
Tammy died in October 2019, and Chad married Lori two weeks later. Results from Tammy’s autopsy have not been released.
Chad was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 1 and 2, but it has been postponed to Aug. 3 and 4.