A woman who calls herself a close friend of Lori Vallow Daybell, the jailed mother of two missing Idaho children, described disturbing new details about the case in a wide-ranging interview. Melanie Gibb told EastIdahoNews.com's Nate Eaton Lori considered her "a really good friend" and that she knew the couple well, which is why she's sharing what she knows amid the ongoing search for Lori's missing children, Joshua "JJ" Vallow, 8, and Tylee Ryan, 17.
Gibb said she once shared Lori and her fifth husband, Chad Daybell's, end-times religious beliefs. Gibb recounted how she stayed in Lori's home in Rexburg, Idaho, from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23, a crucial period of time that is after investigators say Tylee was last seen at Yellowstone National Park and before JJ was last seen at his elementary school.
Gibb said when she visited Lori in September, Lori told her Tylee was studying at Brigham Young University - Idaho in Rexburg, but Gibb never saw the 17-year-old. Gibb said she did see JJ, who was also being cared for by his uncle, Alex Cox. A comment Lori made about JJ when she arrived disturbed Gibb, she said.
"As I arrived on the Thursday, [Lori] had said that [JJ] had turned into a zombie the day before I got there," Gibb said. "And she was pointing out behaviors of his like, 'Look how he's doing this, that's unusual. Or, 'Look how he's doing that.' She was trying to create uncertainty in me about what I saw [in] his behavior."
"I'm looking at [JJ] and trying to discern," Gibb added. "He looks normal to me, I couldn't tell, so I was like, there was a lot of doubt there, obviously. It's hard to believe that completely. I don't ever even believe that Lori completely ever believed it."
On the morning of Sept. 23, Gibb said she left Rexburg to travel home to Arizona. That was also the last time JJ attended Kennedy Elementary School. The next day, Lori told school officials she would be homeschooling him and unenrolled him. JJ was never seen again.
'He's in the way of our mission'
More than seven months later, the FBI's multi-state investigation into JJ and Tylee's whereabouts continues. Police have repeatedly said Lori knows where the children are or what happened to them but has refused to tell authorities.
Lori is currently being held on $1 million bond at the jail in Rexburg and faces two counts of felony desertion of a child, misdemeanor charges of resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt, according to the Madison County, Idaho, prosecutor's office. Lori has pleaded not guilty and denies all allegations of wrongdoing.
Lori is due to appear in court on July 9 and 10 for a preliminary hearing. Her attorney, Mark Means, did not respond to InsideEdition.com's requests for comment about Gibb's claims.
But Gibb's interview sheds new light on the religious beliefs Lori and Chad allegedly hold and what they might have to do with the case. Gibb told EastIdahoNews.com she thinks it was Chad who told Lori that JJ had become "a zombie." But Gibb said during her visit, she wasn't worried about JJ's safety and said Lori had told her JJ was going to stay with his paternal grandmother, Kay Woodcock.
"She goes, 'Well, I need to, it's time for JJ to, I don't know how she worded it, but it was something to the effect, 'It's time for, he's in the way of our mission, so we need to send him to Kay's house,'" Gibb said.
After Gibb left Rexburg, she said she spoke to Lori on the phone a few times and Lori told her that JJ was staying with Kay. That would turn out to be untrue, however, because Kay asked Rexburg police for a welfare check on JJ at Lori's home on Nov. 26, and officers didn't find JJ there. Gibb said Chad called her.
Gibb said Chad was "very nervous, very scared, he did not sound himself" when he called her that day.
"I thought [JJ] was safe and I get a call from Chad two days before Thanksgiving, I still feel emotional about it," Gibb said. "He said, 'Melanie, it's Chad, when the police call, don't pick up the phone,' and my heart just dropped. I was so confused. I'm like, 'What?' He says, 'Yeah, the police are over at Lori's house, checking on JJ.' And I'm like, 'JJ's not with Kay?' 'No.' My heart dropped deeper, and I just knew something was wrong."
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Rexburg police in the case, Lori told police JJ was staying with Gibb. Gibb confirmed Lori had asked her to lie to police and say that JJ was with her.
Gibb said Lori told her at the time that JJ was in danger and she was trying to protect him, so she couldn't tell Gibb where he was.
"[Lori] said, 'I told the police that you were at 'Frozen 2' with JJ, and to get your cellphone out and just take a picture of random kids running around to make it look like you had him with you.' And I was thinking to myself, nah-ah, I don't make stuff up like that," Gibb said.
When Gilbert, Arizona, police questioned Gibb, she told them JJ "was not staying at her Arizona house and had not been there for several months," according to the affidavit.
'Everything closes in'
Gibb said she has been cooperating with investigators in the case for months but has been in hiding.
"When you realize that the people you know and you close to and love have been involved in something that has to do with kidnapping and people dying, you start to think, 'Oh my gosh, are they going to come after me?'" Gibb said. "Everything closes in and you start to think about your own safety and you start to think about what really happened, and could this really be true?"
Gibb said she chose to speak out now because she "decided the truth was more important than what I wanted, and I needed to do it for those that have passed on, that justice may be served. I think it's fair to Charles and JJ and Tammy and Tylee that someone is standing up for what happened to them."
Gibb is referring to Charles Vallow, Tammy Daybell, JJ and Tylee, all people close to Lori and Chad who have either died or gone missing over the past year.
'A fatal attraction'
In the interview, Gibb shed new light on when and how Chad and Lori met, calling the couple's relationship "a fatal attraction."
Gibb said she met Lori in October 2018 when Lori came to an evening class Gibb was teaching at her Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building in Gilbert, Arizona.
A few weeks later, Gibb and Lori attended the same conference in St. George, Utah, where Chad was a speaker, Gibb said, and Lori approached Chad and struck up a conversation. The two quickly became close.
Gibb said soon after they met, Chad told Lori they had been married in past lives. But in this life, Chad and Lori were also married — to different people.
Both Lori and Chad believed their spouses, Charles and Tammy, would die in car accidents, allowing them to be together, Gibb said. But while neither Charles nor Tammy died in a car accident, both passed away within months of each other.
Lori's fourth husband, Charles, was shot and killed by Lori's brother, Alex, while he was picking up JJ on July 11. Alex claimed he fired in self-defense and wasn't charged in the incident. Charles' death remains under investigation.
Chad's first wife, Tammy, was found dead in her home on Oct. 19. Chad and Lori wed weeks later in Hawaii. While Tammy's death was ruled to be from natural causes, her body was exhumed and the results of an autopsy are still pending, according to authorities. Tammy's death remains under investigation.
Alex died on Dec. 12, and an Arizona medical examiner recently ruled it was from natural causes. Police said Alex's death remains under investigation.
In the case of Tammy's death, the Idaho Attorney General's office said it is currently investigating Chad and Lori for "conspiracy, attempted murder and/or murder." Neither Chad nor Lori have been charged with any crime in connection to Tammy's death and both deny any wrongdoing.
Gibb is among the 48 witnesses the prosecution could call in Lori's case. The former friend of the couple said Chad and Lori's beliefs could play a role in in what has happened.
"I do feel sorrow for everybody involved, both sides, because everyone is hurting from this. [Lori's] in the jail now, she doesn't get to be with Chad, who she loves, that's what she wanted so badly, and now she can't even be with him," Gibb said. "It was a fatal attraction that led to their separation and people passing away. It's a tragic, tragic story."
The search for JJ and Tylee continues. The Rexburg Police Department asks anyone with information regarding the children's whereabouts or welfare to contact the department at 1-208-359-3000 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST.
JJ has brown hair and brown eyes, is 4 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds. He has autism and may be in need of medical attention, according to authorities. Tylee has blonde hair and blue eyes, is 5 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds.