This grave digger and prepper is now a man accused of murder

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By Usa Express Daily

BOISE, Idaho — Lori Vallow packed her bags for a weekend trip to St. George in late October 2018. She and a few friends were traveling north from Arizona to attend a weekend preppers conference held at a local high school.

At the time, Vallow was married to her fourth husband and had two children and adopted another. But that didn’t stop her from catching the eye of the author and seminar speaker she was there to see. Chad Daybell had already built a reputation, the former Utahn whose apparent near-death experiences had prompted his foray into the world of preppers — those preparing for catastrophe, if not the many end-of-days scenarios that fill the internet. By this time, Daybell was known in his field as an author with apocalyptic stories to tell. One of his early books published in 2001 titled, “One Foot in the Grave,” is described as “a collection of true graveyard stories” from his time working as a sexton — a fancy word for gravedigger, among other things.

Vallow was attracted to the world of preppers, as she read some of Daybell’s doomsday-themed books, including a series about the end of the world. It brought an instant connection on that fall weekend in St. George.

Though they were both married to other people, this conference marked the beginning of their months-long affair. Vallow later told her best friend Melanie Gibb that during her initial conversation with Daybell, they spoke about how they believed they were married in a previous time period, a belief or delusion that would lead to an insidious outcome.

Over the next few months, Vallow’s husband, Charles, was dead. So was Daybell’s wife, Tammy. Both deaths were ruled a homicide — Tammy Daybell was originally believed to have died of natural causes, but her body was later exhumed. Then the children went missing. Week after week, questions mounted: Where are the children?

Family and authorities demanded that Vallow bring them forward and prove that they were OK.

Tylee Ryan, 16, Vallow’s daughter, hadn’t been seen since a trip to Yellowstone in September 2019, and J.J. Vallow, 7, was last spotted in September of the same year in Rexburg, Idaho.

Two weeks before Tammy Daybell died, in October 2019, Lori Vallow placed an order on Amazon for a size four malachite ring — the same ring that would be seen on her hand as her wedding ring. Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow were married in Hawaii, set to live a life together. They returned to Rexburg after their Nov. 5 nuptials.

Rexburg Police Department reached out to J.J. Vallow’s grandparents Larry and Kay Woodcock, who said they hadn’t spoken to him in months. Vallow said her son was with Gibb, but police found out that wasn’t the case. When police went to serve a search warrant at Vallow’s Rexburg townhouse, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow were not there. A couple of days later, on Dec. 1, they went back on a plane to Hawaii without J.J. and Tylee.

On Dec 20, 2019, the police announced the children were missing. Hundreds of tips poured in as investigators tried to track the whereabouts of the children. They couldn’t find them.

A memorial to Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow is set up on a neighbor’s fence just across the street from Chad Daybell’s property in Salem, Idaho, on March 29.
A memorial to Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow is set up on a neighbor’s fence just across the street from Chad Daybell’s property in Salem, Idaho, on March 29. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell stayed in Hawaii as family members around them, including Chad Daybell’s brother Matt Daybell and J.J. Vallow’s grandparents pleaded with the couple to cooperate with the investigation. Police in Kauai, Hawaii, served Lori Vallow with a notice on Jan. 25 requiring her to bring her children before the Rexburg Police Department or the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare within five days. reporter Nate Eaton had gotten a tip telling him to go to Hawaii, and when he was there, he coordinated with a source to arrive at the scene right as Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell had their vehicle seized. Eaton’s pace was a near jog as he sped alongside the couple repeatedly asking them where J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan were. It was captured on video that went viral.

Neither Lori Vallow nor Chad Daybell answered his questions. Vallow failed to meet the Jan. 30 deadline.

Kauai police arrested Lori Vallow on Feb. 20, 2020, on two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. She was soon extradited back to Idaho. reported on a letter from the Idaho Attorney General revealing that Vallow and Chad Daybell were being investigated for murder.

Then, on June 9, 2020, the Rexburg Police Department, FBI and Fremont County Sheriff’s Office descended on Chad Daybell’s Salem, Idaho, home to serve a search warrant. Investigators spent hours combing through the home and searching the exterior, where they found human remains. Daybell was booked into Fremont County Jail on two felony charges of concealment, distribution or alteration of evidence.

A couple of days later, officials identified the remains found on his property as those of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan.

Lori Vallow stood trial for the murder of her children and conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the death of Tammy Daybell. She was convicted. She’s sentenced to life in prison without parole and was extradited to Arizona where she’s expected to stand trial on charges that she conspired to kill Brandon Boudreaux, her niece’s ex-husband, who is still alive, and that she conspired to kill her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, who died on July 11, 2019.

Chad Daybell’s trial for the murder of his wife Tammy Daybell and Lori Vallow’s children begins on Monday. He has pleaded not guilty. Over the next eight weeks, Daybell will face a jury who will determine if he’s guilty. The possibility of a death sentence will hang over the trial that promises again to grip the nation.

From Springville to Salem

Chad Daybell spent his childhood in Springville, Utah. It’s a city on the outskirts of Provo known for its art museum and provincial feel. It’s also produced its share of athletes, including former University of Utah and later NFL quarterback Scott Mitchell. He shared the same halls with Daybell.

“He was invisible,” Mitchell said in an interview with the Deseret News.

Daybell and Mitchell would connect later in life when Daybell edited Mitchell’s autobiography. But growing up, Mitchell said the two weren’t exactly friends. It wasn’t until Mitchell found a photograph of the high school basketball team that he even remembered Daybell was the team manager. Mitchell said he could name everyone who he played basketball with, but he had just forgotten about Daybell.

After graduating from high school, Daybell attended Brigham Young University and studied journalism. It would lead to newspaper editing jobs, the work for Mitchell, and eventually the young journalist would try his hand at books.

While many students take on-campus jobs working in the cafeteria or as a research assistant to pay for school, Daybell dug graves at a cemetery in Springville, leading to that early book. But first there was marriage to Tammy Daybell while at BYU, a graduation and a job as a copy editor in Ogden at the Standard-Examiner.

There Daybell kept his head down, said Randy Hollis, one of his former colleagues at the Standard-Examiner who later worked at the Deseret News. Daybell didn’t say much, let alone talk about near-death experiences (Daybell later claimed he had a near-death experience when he was 17 and again in his early 20s).

“I read about that later on when all this other crazy stuff came out,” Hollis said. “I was not aware of that.”

Hollis couldn’t recall any red flags that came up when Daybell worked at the paper in Ogden, but he did remember something he called “bizarre.”

“We all thought it was kind of weird when he got the job working at the cemetery down there at Springville,” Hollis said. After just a couple years at the paper, Daybell returned to the Springville cemetery for work again from 1995 to 1999. Though, Daybell left the job at the Springville cemetery, he returned to the publishing industry — this time publishing and writing fiction. But, as a KSL-TV investigation discovered, he would work in cemeteries again twice.

Chad Daybell wrote a book about strange and funny stories about being a sexton at the Springville Cemetery.
Chad Daybell wrote a book about strange and funny stories about being a sexton at the Springville Cemetery. (Photo: Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)

Daybell also self-published several books through the company he founded called Spring Creek Book Company.

“Chad was also a publisher who focused on the niche of near-death experiences and end-times visions,” Christopher Blythe, folklore professor at BYU, told Religion News Service. “He discovered a woman named Julie Rowe, who was very popular for a time, until she faced backlash after some began to question the accuracy of her visions.”

Daybell first published one of Rowe’s books on May 16, 2014. It was around this time, Blythe said, that Daybell “revealed that his novels were based on events he had seen in his own visions.” Then, he found a community of preppers.

The next year in 2015, Daybell showed up at Mitchell’s house and encouraged him to write a book. The two hadn’t stayed in contact much except for the occasional hello at class reunions. Mitchell, a former NFL star, had just gone on “The Biggest Loser” television reality show, and he was ready to tell his story.

But as Mitchell put it, “there were red flags that flew up.”

Mitchell said Daybell had a strange relationship with his wife Tammy. “There was a weird dynamic between him and his wife,” he said. “It was odd to me, in the dynamic, she never said a single word.”

Though Mitchell and Daybell spent a considerable amount of time together, Mitchell said Daybell never mentioned having a near-death experience. Instead, he spoke a lot about what it was like to work at the cemetery.

It was around the time Daybell and Rowe grew closer in the mid to late 2010s that Daybell apparently developed doomsday beliefs. Mitchell said that before then, “he was a little weird,” but something happened around that time and “you could see that weirdness really took a dark curve.”

Soon after the book was finished, Daybell came to Mitchell with a peculiar announcement. “He was in the middle of promoting my book and he just goes, ‘Hey sir, I’m going to shut down my publishing company and I am moving to Idaho,'” Mitchell said.

Mitchell asked Daybell why he would move to Idaho. He didn’t get the real answer, at least not then. While Mitchell would hear that Daybell claimed he received revelations to move to Idaho to prepare for the end times, he didn’t tell Mitchell that.

“He was trying to hide all of that from me,” Mitchell said.

Chad and Tammy Daybell uprooted their family in 2015 and moved from Utah to Salem, Idaho. Tammy Daybell took a job as an assistant librarian, and the couple moved their publishing company to Idaho.

It was in that very area where four years later, Tammy Daybell, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan were murdered.

Lori Vallow has already stood trial and been convicted for the murder of her children. “You chose the most evil and destructive path possible,” Judge Steven Boyce said when sentencing Vallow to multiple life sentences in prison without possibility of parole.

Daybell’s trial is next.

The trial

Jury selection for Chad Daybell’s trial takes place starting Monday. The trial is expected to run for around eight weeks. While he was originally going to stand trial alongside Lori Vallow, Vallow did not waive her right to a speedy trial and Daybell did. The cases were severed and since Vallow’s trial has already occurred, the public court records already present witness testimony and evidence about the sequence of events.

Neither the state’s prosecution nor Daybell’s defense would talk to the Deseret News for this story. After the Deseret News requested interviews, a judge imposed a gag order on the case until after opening statements.

Greg Skordas, legal analyst for KSL, said it’s important to watch what happens in opening statements as that’ll be where the prosecution and defense first lay out their arguments. “His attorneys and the prosecutors have a snapshot of what happened at the other court,” Skordas said.

In Vallow’s case, the prosecution argued that she “used money, power and sex, or the promise of those things, to get what she wanted. … It didn’t matter what obstacle she had to remove to get what she wanted … , if it was a person, it didn’t matter who.”

Investigators in Idaho said June 9, 2020, they recovered human remains in the backyard of Chad Daybell’s home in Salem. The remains were later determined to be those of Lori Vallow's children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and his sister, Tylee Ryan, 17, who hadn't been seen since September 2019.
Investigators in Idaho said June 9, 2020, they recovered human remains in the backyard of Chad Daybell’s home in Salem. The remains were later determined to be those of Lori Vallow’s children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and his sister, Tylee Ryan, 17, who hadn’t been seen since September 2019. (Photo: John Wilson, KSL-TV)

It’s expected that the cases will have some overlap when it comes to presentation of evidence, but there’s also a significant difference. Unlike Vallow’s case where the state removed the possibility of the death penalty, if Daybell is convicted, his life could be on the line.

The case will unfold in two phases. If the jury finds Daybell guilty on the murder charges, Skordas explained, a penalty phase will follow. During the guilt phase, the prosecution and the defense will present their evidence and witnesses and argue their case. In the case of convictions, the jury will hear about aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances before making their determination on Daybell’s sentence.

Mitigating circumstances generally includes factors like remorse and anything positive family and friends have to say about the person who was convicted. Aggravating factors include any murder that’s especially cruel or heinous or if the person convicted of murder showed a disregard for human life.

“I can’t say I’m surprised by Chad just because there’s a lot of crazy things that happen in the world today,” Mitchell, Daybell’s former friend, said. “I just think, for me, growing up in a small community like I did, we never thought it would be someone you know. You never thought it would be your neighbor.”

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