Tammy Daybell’s Funeral Occurred So Quickly, Family Members Were Unable to Attend, Her Sister Says
Chad Daybell’s sister-in-law Samantha Gwilliam said said her sister Tammy Daybell was not sick in the weeks before she died, even though she was found dead in her bed.
Lori Vallow Daybell’s murder trial is underway. Vallow Daybell, who some have dubbed the “Doomsday Cult Mom,” is facing charges of murder, conspiracy and grand theft in relation to the deaths of her children, 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan.
Her fifth husband Chad Daybell is facing the same charges and remains behind bars at the Fremont County Jail.
JJ and Ryan’s bodies were found buried in the yard of Daybell's home in June 2020, months after the children were first reported missing in December 2019, which was weeks after the kids were reportedly last seen alive.
Vallow Daybell and Daybell are also charged with the death of Daybell's ex-wife Tammy Daybell. They have both pleaded not guilty to all charges.
No cameras are allowed in the courtroom, which means Daybell will not be able to watch the proceedings of his wife’s trial from behind bars.
Vallow Daybell will not face the death penalty in her current murder trial if convicted. If found guilty, Vallow Daybell will face life in prison.
April 28: “You Don’t Get Married 4 Weeks After You Just Buried Your Wife.”
Samantha Gwilliam, Chad Daybell’s sister-in-law, returned to the stand Friday morning. She said her sister Tammy Daybell had been battling depression for years but “Tammy looked very healthy. She did not look sick at all,” in the weeks before she died.
Gwilliam said her sister’s funeral was scheduled just four days after her death, and she recalled asking Daybell why the funeral was happening so quickly, and some family members were unable to attend.
When Gwilliam learned Daybell remarried shortly after her sister’s death, she recalled being “devastated,” testifying, “you don’t get married four weeks after you just buried your wife of almost 30 years. You just don’t do that.”
Daybell told Gwilliam that he and his new wife were grieving, Gwilliam said, and that Vallow Daybell’s husband died of a heart attack. Gwilliam said she did further research, and discovered an article about Charles Vallow being shot in his own home by his brother-in-law.
Daybell’s relationship with Gwilliam and his wife's side of the family tapered off after Tammy’s death.
Jurors heard 911 audio of a call Tammy Daybell made in October 2019. She reported a man had been in her driveway who pointed a gun at her.
The audio from the 911 call Tammy’s son and Chad Daybell made when they discovered Tammy “on the ground frozen” was played in court.
Rexburg Police Officer Alyssa Greenhalgh, who formerly worked for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, was dispatched to the Daybell home after the call. She spoke to Daybell, who she said told her Tammy had woken up coughing and vomiting, and then the next time he awoke, Tammy’s head and torso were partially on the floor and it seemed to him she was dead.
Photos of the scene, depicting Tammy’s body and what appeared to be foam coming out of her mouth, were shown in court. Cammy Willmore, an advanced EMT who responded to the scene, said it was “odd” there had been so much foam coming from her mouth. He believed by her body temperature and stiffness that she had been dead for a while.
Fremont County Coroner Brenda Dye was next on the scene, and she said there had been blood-tinged sputum coming from Tammy’s mouth. Because she believed there was nothing suspicious about the scene and because Daybell did not want an autopsy, Dye said she decided not to perform an autopsy on Tammy’s body at the time.
Kelseyn Harris, Tammy’s clogging teacher, and Shanna Miller, who attended a Zumba class with Tammy and her daughter twice a week, both testified about Tammy’s health prior to her death.
“That class is very high intensity,” Harris said about a fitness class she took alongside Tammy in September 2019. She said Tammy was able to keep up.
April 27: Samples From Pick Axe and Shovel a Match For Tylee’s DNA
Samantha Gwilliam, Chad Daybell’s sister-in-law, took the stand toward the end of the court day. That day in court was the first time Gwilliam had seen Vallow Daybell in person, EastIdahoNews.com reported.
Gwilliam met Chad, who had been working with a cemetery grounds crew and dug graves for work, when he began dating her sister Tammy Daybell. The morning of Tammy’s death, Gwilliam said Daybell called her and said that Tammy had been really sick and that he awakened that morning to Tammy rolling out of bed, dead.
Earlier in the day, FBI forensic anthropologist Angi Christensen returned to the stand and discussed six areas of sharp trauma revealed during Tylee Ryan’s autopsy inconsistent with dismemberment. It had taken her nearly a month to complete Tylee’s autopsy, she testified.
FBI forensic examiner Douglas Halepaska, who specializes in identifying tool markings, also testified about his examination of Tylee’s remains and the injuries she likely suffered.
Former Idaho State Police analytical chemist David Sincerbeaux testified about his examination of a pint-sized can containing decomposing flesh and gasoline, and other items collected from Daybell’s property.
Idaho State Police Forensic Department lab manager Rylene Nowlin testified about the DNA analysis of molars and a section of rib, said to be collected from the remains of Tylee and JJ.
Idaho State Police forensic biologist Katherine Dace said she received samples from JJ’s autopsy, including the duct tape around his hand, ankles and mouth, plastics from the burial site and 18 hand tools from the Daybell property. She said there was blood “all over everything,” including samples of what appeared to be charred flesh on the tools.
Dace also testified that the samples from a shovel and a pick axe were matches for Tylee’s DNA.
Idaho State Police forensic scientist Martinez said during her testimony that her examination of a body bag revealed prints matching Alex Cox’s finger and palm.
Satellite images of Daybell’s backyard from the date Tylee was killed were shown during Rexburg Police Detective Chuck Kunsaitis’ testimony.
April 26: Cause of Death Revealed
It was revealed to court that JJ died of asphyxiation by a plastic bag and duct tape. Tylee’s cause of death was revealed as “homicide by unspecified means” and she experienced “sharp trauma” in the pelvic region and her remains were burned. Tylee’s remains arrived for autopsy in three separate bags, instead of as a whole body.
FBI forensic anthropologist Angi Christensen testified that one of Tylee’s bones had “carnivore activity,” meaning a meat-eating animal had chewed at her remains at some point.
April 25: “Lori, You Let That Happen to Them.”
Summer Shiflet, Vallow Daybell’s sister, took the stand and bombshell audio of a phone call she had with a jailed Vallow Daybell was played in court.
"I don't understand. I don't understand. I want to believe the best in you. I love you. They were just little kids. I don't understand!” Summer could be heard saying. "Lori, you let that happen to them and then put them in the ground like a piece of trash … you were dancing on the beach having a great time! Getting married!"
April 24: Texts and Google Searches
Court testimony centered around internet searches associated with Vallow Daybell’s accounts and texts she exchanged with Chad Daybell.
Shortly after Charles Vallow’s death and before the death of Tammy Daybell, Vallow Daybell and Daybell exchanged messages detailing their love for each other.
On the last day Tylee and JJ were believed to be alive, cell records showed Alex Cox’s phone had been in Daybell’s yard, where the kids’ bodies were found, and multiple calls were made between Vallow Daybell and Vallow early that morning.
Day 12: Details of Family Financials revealed
Rexburg Police Detective Chuck Kunsaitis opened the day in court and continued detailing some of the family’s financial history, including Tylee’s lease payments for a Jeep, Venmo transactions to brother Colby Ryan from Tylee’s account after the last day she was confirmed alive, and an email Lori Vallow Daybell allegedly sent to her accountant shortly after Tylee’s death.
FBI forensic accountant Mike Douglass was next to take the stand, and he detailed movements in various bank accounts held by members of the family, including transactions made to Vallow Daybell after the deaths of JJ and Tylee.
Scott Cowden, with the Chandler Fire Department in Arizona testified about the day Charles Vallow was fatally shot. Cowden was one of the first responders on the scene and said he did not believe Alex Cox started CPR before they arrived, even though first responders were told they had.
Det. Ariel Werther and Det. Sandra Ynclan of the Chandler Police Department were part of the initial investigation of Vallow’s death, and testified to the events of that day. Ynclan said Vallow Daybell recalled during her interview moments in their relationship where Vallow was “extremely angry.”
Day 11: Colby Ryan Takes the Stand Against His Mom
Zulema Pastenes, Alex Cox’s wife and Vallow Daybell’s former best friend, resumed her testimony Tuesday morning, after court did not convene Monday.
She and Cox were married within months of their first date in August 2019, Pastenes said. She said through tears that on Dec. 12, 2019, Alex was fine when she left for work, but was laying in the bathroom dead when she returned.
While Cox was alive, “Whenever he wanted to do anything, he had to have Lori or Chad’s permission,” Pastenes said.
Colby Ryan, Vallow Daybell’s son, took the stand next. He said he learned of his stepfather Charles Vallow’s death when Vallow Daybell called him and said Vallow died of a heart attack, though he learned that evening when he went home that Vallow had actually been shot to death by Cox.
The last time he spoke to Tylee, who had sporadically been sending him money at that point, was on Sept. 8, 2019 when she was at Yellowstone National Park.
He continued to receive text messages from Tylee but said they were “in a different language than how Tylee would talk and type. It was just different.”
Authorities spoke to Ryan in November 2019 about Tylee and JJ, he said, and said he told his mom right after. She did not tell him where she was living at the time, just that it was “somewhere cold and it was dangerous for her to tell anybody where she had gone.”
Ryan said he was not involved in the religion Vallow Daybell and Daybell were involved in, and did not know very much about it.
A jail phone call between Ryan and Vallow Daybell was played in court, during which Ryan accused his mom of having “murdered my siblings.” She denied the claim in the call.
Special Agent Mark Saari of the Social Security Administration and Rexburg Police Detective Chuck Kunsaitis took the stand later that day, walking the jury through the family’s financials, including payments made to Tylee and JJ after Vallow’s death.
April 13, 2023: Alex Cox, the 'Fall Guy'
The court began with emails and text messages Charles Vallow sent in June 2019 regarding Vallow Daybell’s affair with Chad Daybell.
One correspondence was to his wife, Vallow Daybell, confronting her about her affair. “It keeps killing me, but maybe that’s your goal … You have destroyed me. I have never been lower in my life,” an excerpt of the text messages read.
Another was to Daybell’s wife, Tammy, letting her know about the affair.
An email was sent to Daybell around the same time: “Either you or Lori need to tell me what’s going on, or this will be exposed for all to see.”
Text messages sent from Vallow Daybell to Daybell shortly after Charles Vallow’s death told him that she is not the beneficiary to his life insurance policy. “Wow, that’s terrible,” Daybell responded.
Vallow Daybell’s sister-in-law and Alex Cox’s wife Zulema Pastenes took the stand. She discussed their time together in the church, and the story Vallow Daybell told her about her husband’s death at the hands of Cox.
Pastenes said Cox once told her that he believed he was “being their fall guy” in December 2019, when the news of their kids’ disappearance started gaining traction.
Pastenes said Lori once told her that Rexburg, Idaho would be protected by soldiers and warriors when other countries invade the United States.
April 13, 2023: Lori Vallow Daybell’s Best Friend Melanie Gibbs Takes the Stand
Melanie Gibbs, who met Vallow Daybell at church in 2018, was first to take the stand. The women lived only 20 or 25 minutes away from each other and were close friends immediately.
Gibbs met Chad Daybell a few years prior, she told the court, and that she, Daybell and Vallow Daybell attended the same Utah church retreat. That was their first meeting, she testified.
Daybell and Vallow Daybell were both married to other people at the time, but Gibbs recalled there was “definitely an attraction” between the two. Gibbs testified that Vallow Daybell had confided in her feelings for Chad Daybell to Gibbs, and Gibbs said the two eventually became intimate on the belief that they were married to each other in a past life, and were given a mission from God to lead 144,000 people during the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Gibbs spoke about Vallow and Vallow Daybell’s religion and beliefs, and said they believed that people were “light,” meaning they signed a contract with God, or “dark,” meaning they signed a contract with Satan.
Tylee had a tense relationship with her mom, Gibbs said, and Vallow Daybell eventually determined she was “dark.” Vallow Daybell, who mentioned at various points that JJ was becoming more difficult with a “negative type of demeanor,” also eventually dubbed JJ “dark,” Gibbs said.
After JJ and Tylee were killed, Gibbs said she thought Tylee was at college at BYU-Idaho, while JJ was staying with Kay Woodcock.
Eventually, both Vallow Daybell and Daybell started asking her to cover for them when authorities began searching for JJ and Tylee, Gibbs said. Gibbs said Vallow Daybell asked her to take photos of random kids to send to authorities, presumably as if Gibbs was watching JJ.
Chandler Police Detective Nathan Duncan also took the stand, and said he was the one to respond to Charles Vallow’s shooting.
Duncan said there were various things about the crime scene that appeared “odd,” including the lack of blood and the location of the bullet.
The audio from a phone call Daybell made to the mortuary the evening after Charles Vallow’s death was played to the jury. In it, Daybell could be heard requesting Charles Vallow’s remains be cremated.
April 12, 2023: Police Testimony
Rexburg Police Det. Ray Hermosillo returned to the stand to complete cross-examination.
He said there was no evidence to suggest JJ was alive after Sept. 22 or Sept 23, 2019. A photo taken of JJ that day showed him sitting on the couch in red pajamas, which appeared similar to the red pajamas found on his body when authorities uncovered his remains.
Hermosillo said there was no evidence to suggest Tylee was alive after Sept. 8 or Sept. 9, 2019. A photo was taken that day of her at Yellowstone National Park with JJ, Alex Cox and Vallow Daybell.
Madison County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jared Willmore was next to take the stand. He is the captain of the Madison County Jail and oversees the phone system inmates use. He spoke about a call Daybell Vallow had with Chad Daybell on June 9, 2020 as authorities searched his property and ultimately found the bodies of JJ and Tylee buried in the backyard.
During the call, which was played for court, Chad said he spoke to Mark Means, his previous lawyer, and advised her to “maybe” call him as well. When asked what she could do for him, Chad responded, “pray.”
At the end of the call, Vallow Daybell could be heard asking whether she should try to call him later, to which he responded, “I don’t know. I’ll answer if I can. I love you and I’ll talk soon.”
Fremont County Sheriff’s Office’s Lt. Joe Powell was called to the stand shortly after and discussed the cross-jurisdictional investigation into Tammy Daybell’s death, with which Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell are now charged.
The court was dismissed after only two hours due to “a death in the family of one of the prosecutor’s lead attorneys,” according to a statement.
April 11, 2023: Lori Vallow Daybell’s First Public Tears
Hermosillo was the only person to take the stand and his testimony lasted the full court session.
He first became involved in the case after being contacted by the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office about a Jeep that was possibly involved in a homicide.
He was involved in the search for Vallow Daybell when a search warrant allowed authorities to break down the front door of her home. He said everything appeared normal in the apartment, but there were no clothes on the hangers.
“Normally when people go on trips and plan to come home, they don’t take all their belongings from their closet,” he said during the testimony. “This caught our attention because there was nothing in the closet other than empty hangers.”
He also noticed seeing “a lot of ammunition” in a tub inside the garage alongside camouflage suits, gun magazines, silencers knives, rope and duct tape and firearms.
Hermosillo said Daybell was still asleep when they arrived at his home with a search warrant on the morning of June 9, 2020. They found what was later determined to be JJ’s body after a search in his backyard. “There was a strong odor that, through my training, I knew was a decomposing body,” he said.
The search team then discovered Tylee’s remains. “We started finding burnt flesh, decomposing bones,” he said. “There were pieces of bone, charred flesh, just globs of flesh that were falling apart.”
Photos of both bodies as they were found were shown to the jury, which included JJ’s legs, feet, arms and head wrapped in duct tape in various stages of decomposition. JJ was still wearing pajamas in the photos, according to East Idaho News.
“His pajamas were soaked with body decomposition, he still had on his pull-up nighttime diaper,” Hermosillo said.
The court took a lunch break halfway through his testimony, and extended the one-hour break by an extra hour, presumably due to Vallow Daybell’s reaction to the graphic descriptions as her attorney asked if she could waive her right to be present during the trial when she returned from break.
Her face appeared red, as if she had been crying, which East Idaho News reported was presumably due to.
April 10, 2023: Kay Woodcock Testifies
Every seat in the courtroom is filled as the courtroom prepares for opening statements to begin, according to East Idaho News.
In attendance are JJ’s grandmother Kay alongside her husband Larry, according to East Idaho News. Tylee’s aunt Annie Cushing and other extended family members are also in attendance, East Idaho News reported.
Daybell’s attorney Prior is also in attendance, alongside authorities from Fremont County Sheriff's Department and Rexburg Police Department, the outlet reported.
The jurors chosen appear to be around 40 years old, with the youngest juror appearing to be in her 20s and the oldest in her 60s or 70s, East Idaho News reported. They will be paid $10 a day, per Idaho law.
Fremont County prosecutor Lindsay Blake’s opening statement on behalf of the state began by characterizing the case as one that is about “money, power and sex,” implying certain murders may have been over life insurance policies and social security benefits.
Kay could be seen crying as Tylee’s remains, described as “a mass of bones and tissue,” the black plastic bag that allegedly contained JJ’s remains and an autopsy photo of Tammy were shown to the jury.
The jury also saw photos of JJ’s arm wrapped in duct tape after his death, and a picture of Chad and Lori holding hands on the beach.
Blake introduced the Daybell’s alleged beliefs, telling the jury they called themselves “James and Elaina” and believed they were religious figures.
Defense attorney Jim Archibald painted Vallow Daybell as a responsible mother and warned jurors that publicity and media coverage should not be considered evidence.
JJ’s grandmother Kay was called upon as the state’s first witness. Her testimony lasted one hour and 15 minutes, with about an hour break in the middle. Kay said she helped Charles with his business in early 2019, and had access to his emails and passwords. In November 2019, she searched through his emails and Amazon account and forwarded the information to a private investigator.
Brandon Bordeaux, who was married to Vallow Daybell’s niece Melani Pawlowski for about 10 years, delivered his testimony after, during which he discussed the shooting in front of his house in October 2019, shortly after he and Pawlowski were divorced.
Bordeaux’s testimony lasted about 90 minutes, and the court was dismissed after his testimony.
April 3-7, 2023: Jury Selection
Following days of vetting, 10 men and eight women were selected to serve on the 18-person jury. The group consists of 12 trial jurors and six alternates, who will not be revealed until the end of the trial.
Judge Steven Boyce, who is presiding over the case, said he has no plans to sequester the jury during the trial, and has not decided whether the jury will be sequestered during verdict deliberations.
Vallow Daybell arrived in the courtroom wearing normal clothes and glasses, and appeared to take notes during jury selection proceedings.
As the prosecution and defense question groups of potential jurors, one topic of contention among possible jurors is that the case involves what prosecuting attorney Rob Wood called “emotionally charged” images of kids. At least two mothers of young kids mentioned discomfort around the issue.
Potential jury members were also asked if they followed the trial in the news, whether they have seen any true crime documentary discussing the case, and whether they believe everything they read on the internet.
After much debate as to whether or not JJ Vallow’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, can attend the trial, a decision was made Thursday morning that Kay would be able to attend, and her husband Larry only be able to watch after he testifies, according to the judge’s Thursday ruling.
Boyce wrote in the ruling that Larry can “observe all proceedings where testimony is not being offered, and upon the completion of his testimony, he would be permitted to observe the remainder of the trial,” though it has not been determined when he will be called to testify, the decision stated.
Witnesses are prohibited from observing other testimony during trial per Idaho state law, but some exceptions can be made for victims who are immediate family members and immediate family members who are designated as representatives of victims.
JJ lived with the Woodcocks for almost a year after he was born, and Tylee lived with them for several years, KSLTV reported. Neither of the Woodcocks meet the legal definition of “immediate family member,” the decision stated. In the same ruling, Lori’s sister Summer Shiflet and JJ and Tylee’s brother Colby Ryan were also permitted to attend the murder trial.
Daybell's attorney John Prior was in attendance for some of the jury selection proceedings, East Idaho News reported. News crews were not allowed to in the courtroom during jury selection proceedings and instead watched a live feed from the overflow room.
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