CRIME

Unsealed court document details final days of Vallow children

Jun 19, 2020, 10:32 PM | Updated: Jun 20, 2020, 12:16 am
final days of Vallow children...
Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell

REXBURG, Idaho — A police probable cause affidavit unsealed in Idaho late Friday provided the most detailed accounting yet of the final days and presumed deaths of Lori Vallow’s children, Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow.

The statement, dated June 10, 2020, comes from Lt. Ron Ball of the Rexburg, Idaho police department. In it, Ball details the actions of several people connected to the investigation, culminating in the discovery of the children’s remains on property belonging to Chad Daybell in rural Fremont County, Idaho on June 9, 2020.

The suspected role of Alex Cox

Much of the focus of the probable cause statement falls not on Daybell, but instead on a man named Alex Cox.

Cox was Lori Vallow’s brother. He died on Dec. 12, 2019 in Arizona from what a medical examiner later determined were natural causes. However, on Sept. 8, 2019 he had accompanied Vallow and her children on a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

When Tylee and JJ were later determined to be missing, police and FBI agents determined Tylee had last been seen at the park. They then made a public request for people who were also at Yellowstone that day to share photographs, in the hopes of identifying where else the family might have traveled.

However, Lt. Ball wrote in the probable cause statement that investigators used a combination of cell phone tracking techniques, including cell tower triangulation, GPS fixes and wifi signals, to plot Cox’s movements upon leaving the park.

“The Cellular Analysis Survey Team (hereinafter CAST), is an FBI unit that provides analyses of cellphone records and presents the information to law enforcement,” Ball wrote.

CAST reportedly determined Cox’s cell phone left Yellowstone’s west gate at 6:40 p.m. on Sept. 8. It stopped briefly at a barbecue restaurant in West Yellowstone, Montana before arriving in Rexburg at 8:37 p.m.

At that time, both Cox and Vallow lived in separate apartments at a complex in Rexburg. The cell phone data showed that Cox spent nearly an hour at his sister’s unit the following morning, from 2:42 a.m. to 3:37 a.m.

“This is significant, not only because he is there in the middle of the night, but also because this is the only time in September he appears to go over to Lori’s between midnight and 6 am,” Ball wrote.

Later that same morning, the cell phone data showed Cox visiting Chad Daybell’s property. Police believe he was there from 9:21 a.m. to 11:39 a.m., spending most of that time near where Tylee’s remains were later found.

Alex Cox phone timeline

Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019:
6:40 p.m. — Alex Cox leaves west gate of Yellowstone National Park
6:45 p.m. to 7:02 p.m. — Alex Cox is at Buckaroo Bill’s BBQ in West Yellowstone
8:37 p.m. — Alex Cox arrives in Rexburg
9:35 p.m. — Alex Cox leaves his sister Lori Vallow’s apartment
9:43 p.m. to 9:53 p.m. — Alex Cox visits the Maverik gas station on Main Street in Rexburg
10:44 p.m. 50 11:15 p.m. — Alex Cox is at Lori Vallow’s apartment
11:44 p.m. — Alex Cox is at his apartment
Monday, Sept. 9, 2019:
12:00 a.m. to 12:44 a.m. — Alex Cox is at his apartment
2:42 a.m. to 3:37 a.m. — Alex Cox is at Lori Vallow’s apartment
4:37 a.m. to 8:59 a.m. — Alex Cox is at his apartment
9:21 a.m. — Alex Cox is at Chad Daybell’s property, behind the house near east end of the barn
10:39 a.m. — Alex Cox remains at Chad Daybell’s property
10:47 a.m. — Possible erroneous ping show Alex Cox’s phone in St. Anthony
10:57 a.m. to 11:39 a.m. — Alex Cox is at Chad Daybell’s property
11:52 a.m. to 12:02 p.m. — Alex Cox is at the Dell Taco in Rexburg
11:53 a.m. — Chad Daybell texts his wife Tammy Daybell saying he’s just buried a raccoon in their “pet cemetery”
Alex Cox is at his apartment most the rest of the day

Chad Daybell’s text messages

In the probable cause statement, Ball wrote that the FBI had examined a cell phone belonging to Chad Daybell’s wife Tammy prior to her death on Oct. 19, 2019. An agent informed him at the beginning of June that the FBI had located a text message thread between the Daybells from Sept. 9, 2019, the same day Alex Cox visited Chad Daybell’s property.

At 11:53 a.m., minutes after Alex Cox is believed to have left the area, Chad reportedly sent a text message to his wife.

“Well, I’ve had an interesting morning! I felt I should burn all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms,” Daybell reportedly wrote. “While I did so, I spotted a big raccoon along the fence. I hurried and got my gun, and he was still walking along. I got close enough that one shot did the trick. He is now in our pet cemetery. Fun times!”

Ball noted this was odd, as raccoons are typically nocturnal. Police also said neighbors of Chad Daybell had heard a gunshot during the summer of 2019, but Daybell’s son explained it away by saying his father had shot a raccoon out of a tree during the daytime.

One of those neighbors also told Rexburg police they’d seen a recent increase in the number of bonfires occurring on the property.

“Reegan [Price] informed me that there appeared to be frequent bonfires in the pit on the Daybell property over the last few months and the first one she noticed was soon after Tammy’s death on October 19, 2019,” Ball wrote.

JJ and talk of zombies

The probable cause statement included several references to “zombies.”

Ball wrote that on June 3, 2020, he spoke with Lori Vallow’s close personal friend Melanie Gibb. She described visiting Lori Vallow’s apartment on Sept. 19, 2019.

“Soon after she arrived Lori Vallow informed Gibb that JJ had become a ‘zombie’ and pointed out behaviors such as sitting still and watching tv, claiming JJ said he loved Satan, and an increased vocabulary as evidence that JJ was now a zombie,” Ball wrote. “Gibb observed JJ’s behavior and felt it to be the same as she had always observed it.”

Gibb’s boyfriend David Warwick also described another encounter from the night of Sept. 22, 2019. Warwick reportedly told police he and Daybell were preparing to record a podcast together but JJ was acting up. Alex Cox then took JJ to his apartment.

“When Alex returned later that night he was carrying JJ who appeared to be asleep with his head on Alex’s shoulder,” Ball wrote. “Warwick specifically remembered this because he saw it as a tender moment.”

The following morning, Warwick reportedly asked Lori Vallow where JJ was.

“Lori informed Warwick and Gibb that JJ had been acting like a zombie and had been crawling on the kitchen cabinetry and had gotten on top of the cabinetry in the space between the cabinetry and the ceiling,” Ball wrote. “She informed Warwick and Gibb that when JJ had climbed upon the cabinetry that he had knocked a picture of Jesus off the refrigerator. Vallow then informed Warwick and Gibb that Alex had come and taken JJ.”

JJ Vallow was not seen alive after Sept. 23, 2019.

The discovery

Ball’s account in the probable cause statement provided additional detail regarding the discovery of the children’s bodies.

Once again, investigators looked at the data from Alex Cox’s cell phone, focusing on his movements on the morning of Sept. 23.

“At 09:55 Alex is again on Chad Daybell’s property,” Ball wrote. “He was there until 10:12. The pings on his phone locate Alex near the pond on Chad’s property at the northern edge of his property.”

When police served a search warrant at the property on June 9, 2020, they reported finding multiple sites of interest.

“The first site of interest was located on the north side of the pond near the north edge of the property. This site corresponded with the two GPS pings from Alex Cox’s phone on September 23, 2019,” Ball wrote.

Investigators exhumed an area of disturbed ground and located human remains, later confirmed to be JJ, wrapped in plastic and bound with duct tape.

They reportedly identified a second set of remains in the area where Daybell’s neighbors had reported seeing the bonfires.

“Methodically, the dirt in this area was searched and several other items of interest were found including other bones, charred tissue and charred bones,” Ball wrote. “[Boise State University associate professor of anthropology] Cheryl Anderson indicated these additional bones, both charred and uncharred and tissue found were human remains.”

Chad Daybell’s arrest

Finally, Ball described the circumstances surrounding Chad Daybell’s arrest on the same day police were searching his property.

“Daybell was observed by officers to be continuously watching where officers were searching,” Ball wrote. “He was observed watching officers while sitting in his vehicle in his front driveway and while sitting in his vehicle across the street at his daughter’s residence.”

Ball wrote that when the investigators first uncovered the site where JJ was buried, Daybell drove away from the scene.

“I and other officers pursued him in police vehicles, conducted a traffic stop and detained him due to the fact that human remains were discovered on his property,” Ball wrote.

Chad Daybell remains in jail after pleading not guilty to two felony counts of concealment or destruction of evidence.

Lori Vallow Daybell, who Daybell married just two weeks following his wife Tammy’s death, is also being held on suspicion of two counts of felony child abandonment, misdemeanor resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt of court.

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Unsealed court document details final days of Vallow children