REXBURG, Idaho — Chad Daybell was back in an Idaho court on Monday in a preliminary hearing to decide whether his case will move to a state court. The proceedings provided new details in the disappearance and deaths of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
Daybell, 52, is charged with four felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, conspiracy to commit destruction and alteration or concealment of evidence.
Both the bodies of seven-year-old JJ Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan were found buried on Daybell’s property on June 9.
This was the first time that both the prosecution and defense had been in the same courtroom since Daybell’s arrest. Monday’s hearing allowed for both sides to make their arguments before Judge Faren Eddins, who will decide if this case moves forward into the state court system.
Also in attendance were JJ Vallow’s biological grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock.
Much of the questioning done by the prosecution was focused around the investigation performed by the lead investigator, Detective Ray Hermosillo.
During the questioning, Hermosillo described the investigation that led officers to the bodies of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
New evidence in the discovery of JJ Vallow
During the course of their investigation, Rexburg Police served a search warrant at Chad Daybell’s home, where he said they found the remains of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan in a “pet cemetery” on the property.
Hermosillo said they discovered a patch of what he described as “sod” that was much shorter than the surrounding weeds and grass.
Hermosillo said that as the Evidence Response Team (ERT) began to dig into the area, they found three large stones covering a number of boards.
“As soon as they removed the paneling, I could smell the odor of a decomposing body,” Hermosillo told the court.
He then said the ERT began removing the dirt around the area until they discovered a black trash bag with a round object protruding through the dirt.
” [The ERT] used a small, sharp instrument to cut through the black plastic … There was a white plastic underneath the black plastic and they also used the [sharp] instrument to cut through the white plastic,” he said.
After cutting through the second layer of plastic, Hermosillo said he could see brown human hair.
Hermosillo also said they found a melted green bucket with what was later discovered to be the burned remains of Tylee Ryan.
Hermosillo said that later that day, he accompanied the two sets of remains to the Ada County Coroner’s office in Boise for autopsy.
There, he said, the coroner removed the black plastic bag and found the remains of a small boy, in red pajamas and black socks, covered in a light blue blanket.
When asked if anything stood out to him, Hermosillo responded, “The amount of duct tape that was covering the body.”
Hermosillo said that the body, later identified as JJ Vallow, had what appeared to be a trash bag covering his head, wrapped tightly in several layers of duct tape from his chin to his forehead. After removing the tape and the bag, Hermosillo said there was an additional piece of tape covering Vallow’s mouth.
In addition to that, Hermosillo said Vallow’s body was also bound with several layers of duct tape around his arms, and legs.
The body camera footage
Rexburg Police Det. David Stubbs was called to the stand to testify about camera footage captured during a welfare check of JJ Vallow at Lori Vallow’s residence on Nov. 26, 2019.
The body cam video wasn’t shown to the media but the audio was available. During the welfare check, Lori Vallow told Det. Stubbs and Det. Ron Ball that JJ Vallow was in Arizona with her friend Melanie Gibb.
Lori Vallow mentioned that her brother had been trying to kill her, so she’d moved around a lot and because of that, JJ had had a hard time at school. She said she planned on moving back to Arizona so JJ could go to a school better suited for his behavioral issues.
Lori Vallow is heard asking “What is all of this?” referring to the police at her door. Ball said police were concerned and “had a bad vibe” about JJ Vallow.
The footage shows Lori Vallow claiming JJ’s biological grandparent, Kay Woodcock called the police because she’s been fighting with Vallow since her husband, Charles Vallow, died.
In a second visit to Lori Vallow’s home, body cam footage showed Det. Stubbs and Det. Balls asking Lori to have Melanie Gibb call them back.
Melanie Gibb takes the stand
Melanie Gibb, someone Lori Vallow called a friend, has played a vital role in the Daybell’s story regarding the whereabouts of JJ Vallow. Both Chad and Lori Daybell face charges of falsifying evidence which include persuading Gibb to lie to law enforcement.
On the stand, Melanie Gibb said she was in Utah with her boyfriend, David Warwick, on Nov. 26, 2019, when Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow contacted her about telling the police JJ Vallow was with her in Arizona. Gibb said Daybell told her not to answer the phone calls from the police. Later, Vallow called Gibb, asking her to tell the police JJ was with her.
“She [Lori] told police that I was with JJ and watching a movie called ‘Frozen 2’ and to take pictures of random kids running around to make it look like it was JJ,” testified Gibb.
When Gibb first received the call from Daybell, she said she was shocked at the request to lie to the police about watching JJ.
“I wasn’t okay with it because she [Lori] told something to law enforcement that was not true without my knowledge of it,” said Gibb. She said the request from the Daybells made her uneasy.
When contacted by police, Gibb said she initially ignored the phone calls as directed by Daybell. However, she later told Gilbert, Arizona Police Officer Ryan Pillar that JJ had been with her, but, at the the time she spoke with Pillar, JJ was back with his mother, Lori.
“Lori was misleading and manipulating me to believe s,he [Lori] and him [JJ] were in danger.” Gibb testified Lori told her Kay was trying to kidnap JJ.
A recorded conversation
During Monday’s hearing, Midson County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood submitted into evidence a recorded tape recording between Gibb, Lori and Chad Daybell.
Gibb said she called Officer Pillar back on Dec. 7 and 8, 2019 to provide additional details about what happened to JJ, Tylee, and Chad Daybell.
On Dec. 8, Gibbs recorded a phone call with Lori and Chad Daybell, under her own volition, about where JJ and Tylee were. She asked the Daybell’s why they asked her to lie to the police. They responded by saying they didn’t want anyone to know the location of JJ so the police wouldn’t tell Kay where he was. Vallow said JJ was happy and healthy.
In the conversation, Gibb pushed back on Lori Vallow about why she asked Gibb to tell the police JJ was with her. Vallow responded, “I was doing as the Lord directed me to.” Chad added that “they were just trying to protect their children.”
Gibb said in the phone call that the whole situation made her sick to her stomach. Gibb continued to ask where JJ was multiple times throughout the phone call.
The phone call abruptly ends and Gibb said the call lost connection.
The court hearing is expected to reconvene on Tuesday, August 4, at 9 a.m. MDT.
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