So-called cult mom Lori Vallow‘s murder trial is about “money, power and sex,” according to Idaho prosecutors.
The prosecution’s narrative diverged from the more popular media portrayal of Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, as religious extremists who allegedly killed Vallow’s children and Daybell’s ex-wife in accordance with their apocalyptic beliefs.
“Money, power and sex. That’s what this case is about,” Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake said in her opening statements Monday, according to FOX 10 reporter Justin Lum. “The defendant used money, power and sex for the promise of those things to get what she wanted.”
Blake alleged that Vallow wanted her daughter Tylee’s money and killed her to get the 17-year-old’s Social Security benefits moved to her own name. She then argued that J.J., who was autistic, had lost his father and “became that much … harder to care for.”
Lori Vallow is accused of killing her two children, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan; her husband’s ex-wife, Tammy Daybell; and her ex-husband, Charles Vallow. (Ada County Sheriff)
Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, are charged with murder and grand theft in the 2019 deaths of Vallow’s two children, 7-year-old J.J. Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, and Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy Daybell. They are also accused of stealing the children’s Social Security benefits after their murders.
Blake went on to accuse Vallow of killing Tammy Daybell because she wanted Chad Daybell, Tammy’s husband, “all to herself.”. Vallow ultimately married Chad Daybell after her children went missing and after Tammy Daybell died.
In September 2019, Tylee and J.J. went missing from their Idaho home for months. Authorities said Vallow and Daybell lied about the children’s whereabouts and then slipped away to Hawaii, where they got married in November 2019.
Lori and Chad Daybell are accused of killing 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old J.J. Vallow in 2019. (Rexberg Police Department)
Vallow’s late ex-husband, Charles Vallow, had noticed a shift in his wife’s behavior just before her kids disappeared, J.J.’s grandparents previously told Fox News Digital. She was embracing theories about the apocalypse and had started calling her children “zombies,” according to investigators.
Vallow first met Daybell at the Preparing A People conference in 2018, where they shared the belief that they had been married in a past life. They referred to each other as Biblical figures named James and Elena and discussed their beliefs that people can have light or dark spirits — some so dark that they could be considered zombies, prosecutors said, as Lum reported.
Investigators eventually found J.J. and Tylee’s bodies buried on Daybell’s property in rural Idaho in June 2020.
An ax found on Daybell’s property had Tylee’s blood on it, prosecutors said Monday, according to FOX 10.
An axe found on Daybell’s property had Tylee’s blood on it, prosecutors said Monday, according to FOX 10. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register )
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. Blake said in her opening statements that Vallow used the stolen benefits to fund her lifestyle.
Authorities arrested Vallow in February 2020 and Daybell in June 2020.
The couple was 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 Tammy Daybell, officials announced at the time. Arizona officials in June 2021 also indicted Vallow in the July 2019 murder of her ex-husband, Charles Vallow.
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. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register )
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. Vallow and Daybell bonded over their religious beliefs after initially meeting in 2018, when they appeared together for the first time on a podcast discussing theories about the end of the world.
The couple was initially scheduled to stand a joint trial in 2021, but proceedings were delayed due to Vallow’s competency examinations and an “exceptionally voluminous” collection of evidence, among other factors. Judge Steven Boyce ruled in February that their cases would be severed because Vallow has refused to waive her right to a speedy trial.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.