FBI agent: Texts between Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell show the couple anticipating children’s deaths
On Aug. 10, 2019, Lori Vallow Daybell texted the man she would later marry.
“Do you think there is a perfectly orchestrated plan to take the children? And we just have to wait for it to be carried out?” she asked Chad Daybell. “I feel lost. Like I should be doing something to help.”
“There is a plan being orchestrated for the children,” Daybell responded.
Just weeks after the texts, prosecutors say Vallow Daybell’s two kids — 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow — were killed and buried in a shallow grave in the backyard of Daybell’s Rexburg home.
That’s just a window into the trove of text messages revealed Monday in the trial of Vallow Daybell, who is charged with murder, conspiracy and grand theft in connection to the deaths of her two children and Tammy Daybell, the spouse of Chad Daybell.
The texts were read aloud by former FBI Special Agent Douglas Hart, who reviewed Vallow Daybell’s iCloud account as part of his investigation. Hart took the stand in the 19th day of testimony in the high profile trial.
Over roughly eight hours, the jury was read multiple exchanges — most between Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell — that showed the couple anticipating what Hart said can be interpreted as the children’s impending death.
The texts also gave new insight into the couple’s affair, Vallow Daybell’s attempt to receive money from a life insurance policy belonging to her deceased husband, Charles Vallow, and their odd beliefs, shared by their friend group, that involved zombies, demonic possession and a scale that rated people either light or dark. The texts, which were presented in chronological order, showed how those beliefs at first appeared wacky yet somewhat benign, before descending into something far more sinister.
And some of the texts are hard to understand, emblematic of how obscure Daybell’s teachings were.
“I also decreased his pain tolerance to 1 percent and greatly increased his pain. His desire to depart is at 80 percent,” Daybell said over text in July, referring to a religious practice directed at the son of a family friend.
An ‘orchestrated plan to take the children’
July 18, 2019, started with a message from Chad to Lori where he says he has “been instructed to focus my efforts on Hillary so I will ... she is at 0.13. I turned up the pain to 10 and placed a spiritual virus in her.”
Hillary, Hart says, was the name used for the demon the couple claimed had possessed Tylee. The closer an individual was to zero, “the closer they were to their death,” the former FBI investigator said.
Eleven days later, Daybell messaged Vallow Daybell an unsettling question: “Do you want me to cause pain yet to those two 3s you’re riding with?” Hart told prosecutors the “3s” were Lori’s children.
“Probably hold off on then till we arrive. They will be (miserable) to deal with. But I’ll text you if they start acting up and we can zap them,” Vallow Daybell messages.
Daybell, in response, tells Lori Vallow Daybell: “Yes, if they are going to act up we’ll at least give them a reason to scream. I love, cherish, treasure and adore you.”
Hart told prosecutors this stood out in his investigation, particularly because it refers to causing the children pain — words like zapping and scream are relevant, he said.
Then, on Aug. 10, comes the text exchange between Vallow Daybell and Daybell where they refer to an “orchestrated plan to take the children.” It started with a message Vallow Daybell sent to Daybell, where she is concerned over the apparent possession of her 7-year-old autistic son. “He was just up talking nonsense for like 2 hours last night. I’m sure they were bugging him. Is he at zero yet? I miss you,” she says.
“Yes. He’s at zero,” Daybell says in response, which according to Hart essentially means close to death.
“You are doing everything right my love,” Daybell tells Vallow Daybell when she asks if there is anything she can do to help. Daybell says he had a conversation with “the Lord” who told him they are “right on track.”
Then, Daybell tells Vallow Daybell that he could sense JJ “was barely attached to his body.”
Hart’s interpretation of this belief, which he spelled out earlier in the day, is that “when someone’s body and spirit separate, they die.”
Then, just five days before police say the last known video showing Tylee alive is recorded, Vallow Daybell texts her brother Alex Cox, who prosecutors believe is an accomplice in the case. Cox would later die just weeks before police declared the two children missing.
Cox asks his sister what she’s doing. “Working on Zs,” Vallow Daybell says, “Z” presumably short for zombie, which according to the group’s fringe beliefs means someone has been possessed by an evil spirit.
The siblings chat, and Cox tells Vallow Daybell “I am proud of you. No more Zs.”
“We r (sic) trying to get to the bottom of what we need to do eliminate them completely. I’m sure you will be told also,” Vallow Daybell says.
Tammy Daybell’s ‘removal’
Not only were Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell anticipating the children’s death, but they were also seemingly eager about the imminent death of Tammy Daybell, according to the prosecution.
In early Oct. 2019, after when police say both Tylee and JJ were murdered, the couple laments over text that Vallow Daybell is “unencumbered and free” prosecutors said, but Daybell is not.
That’s when talk of Tammy Daybell’s death ramps up.
“Hello sweet angel. Big news about Tammy,” Daybell says early on Oct. 5, 2019. He goes on to describe a demon named “Viola” who has possessed his wife.
“Not fully sure of the timing for her removal but once her actions verify the difference, I don’t want to wait,” he says. Four days later on Oct. 9, Tammy Daybell was shot at by a masked man while standing in her driveway. On Oct. 19, she was killed in her sleep, according to the prosecution.
Just one day after her death, on Oct. 20, Vallow Daybell messages Daybell that she is sad, and misses him.
“I know exactly how you feel. I’m feeling sad, but it isn’t for the reason everyone thinks!” Daybell says in response.
Defense claims ‘fantasy’
Though his cross examination was short, Vallow Daybell’s defense attorney Jim Thomas frequently used the term “fantasy” when describing the text exchanges between her and Daybell.
“It was all fantasy, correct?” Thomas asked at one point, referring to Daybell’s “revelatory” predictions.
“Not everything was fantasy,” Hart said, seeming to refer to the couple’s anticipation of the children’s deaths.
Thomas also pointed out that the majority of messages, videos and pictures on Vallow Daybell’s iCloud were harmless — asking where to go for dinner, taking kids to school, scheduling doctors appointments. Things that Thomas said were “normal mom stuff.”
“Isn’t it true that Lori, for all intents and purposes, was a pretty good mother?” Thomas asked Hart.
“With the exception of what happened to her children, yes,” he said in response.