As Lori Vallow displayed a new look in court on Thursday, her defense team said they “don’t believe Lori actually participated” in the September 2019 murders of her two children, J.J. and Tylee, according to a local report.
Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, allegedly killed the two children, seven-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, in September 2019, as well as Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy Daybell, in October 2019.
“We don’t believe the state is going to be able to prove Lori was a major contributor to the crime,” public defender John Thomas said during a Thursday hearing in Fremont County, according to East Idaho News director Nate Eaton. “We don’t believe Lori actually participated in any of these events or that she even knew about them. She didn’t anticipate them happening [and] certainly was not a participant.”
Thomas made the comment while Vallow’s team argued against the death penalty for the so-called “cult mom” — who wore red blush and had her hair styled in ringlet curls from the Madison County Jail — on Thursday. Vallow reportedly tried to make eye contact with her husband through the hearing, but he did not once glance in her direction, according to Eaton.
Fremont County Judge Steven Boyce said he would take the teams’ death penalty arguments under consideration and issue a written order, according to Eaton. Boyce also ruled against a request from Vallow to meet with Daybell ahead of their April trial during Thursday’s hearing. Their trial has been delayed several times since it was initially scheduled for 2021.
Prosecuting attorney Rob Wood argued that the state will “prove” that Vallow “intended for her children and Tammy Daybell to die.”
“I’m not going to get into the evidence of the case. Sufficient to say, a grand jury has found probable cause that she did commit these crimes,” he said, according to Eaton.
Daybell’s defense team again argued in favor of delaying the trial to allow more time for analyzing evidence in the case. Vallow has not waived her rights to a speedy trial, meaning she would like the trial to move forward as soon as possible. Boyce ultimately said that he would not “force” Daybell into an April trial date if he is not prepared for it, Eaton reported.
Vallow and Daybell allegedly collected J.J.’s and Tylee’s Social Security benefits between Oct. 1, 2019, and Jan. 22, 2020, after their murders.
The children were missing for several months — when police say the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts and then slipped away to Hawaii — before their bodies were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.
The couple were indicted in late May 2021 on multiple counts each of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception, first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder related to the deaths of Tylee, J.J. and Chad Daybell’s ex-wife, officials announced at the time. In June 2021, Arizona officials also indicted Vallow in the July 2019 murder of her ex-husband, Charles Vallow.
The case has garnered national attention and inspired various crime television episodes and documentaries. Netflix most recently released the documentary series “Sins of our Mother” about Vallow and her life before the alleged crimes on Sept. 14.
Daybell has written several apocalyptic novels based loosely on Mormon theology. Both were involved in a group that promotes preparedness for the biblical end times. Meanwhile, Vallow reportedly believed that she was “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020,” according to divorce documents that her late ex-husband, Charles Vallow, filed before his death.