By: Andrea Cipriano, MAFP
This is Part 3 in a 3-part series diving into Lori’s psychological profile, the deaths connected to her, and a timeline reconstruction of what happened to Lori’s children, JJ and Tylee.
Warning: This post discusses graphic content that some may find emotionally difficult to read.
On May 12, 2023, a jury found Lori Vallow Daybell guilty on all counts of killing her two children and conspiring in the murder of her husband’s ex-wife.
On July 31, 2023, Lori was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In a dramatic reading before her sentencing, Lori read bible verses, shared stories of her near-death experience, and said she communicates with her spirit children.
“Jesus knows me, and Jesus understands me… Jesus Christ knows that no one was murdered in this case,” Lori said.
Reconstructing the crime scenes of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan was by-far the most difficult part of this research — emotionally, and practically. Considering investigators and prosecutors are trying to keep their cases against Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell air-tight, I can see why information has been slow to get to the public.
But, this case is so extreme, I feel like it’s only natural to want to rationalize and understand something that feels so impossible to even occur in the first place.
September 8, 2019
It had been about a week since Lori, JJ, Tylee, and Alex Cox all moved into a townhouse complex in Rexburg, Idaho, Alex drove the whole family for a Yellowstone National Park day trip.
These photos from the park are the last pics ever taken of Tylee, and it’s the last time she’s ever seen alive. The boy is JJ, and the man in the gray is Alex Cox.
During that evening, Alex’s released cell phone records indicate that his phone pings at Lori’s townhouse, which is just a 2-minute walk from his townhouse within the same complex.
His cell phone pings at her townhouse between 10:44 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. Now, this doesn’t seem all that concerning — after all, they do live so close to one another, and after spending the entire day as a group at Yellowstone, it’s rational to believe maybe someone forgot something in Alex’s car and he was walking over to return it — something like that.
But, what is strange is that Alex’s cell phone location is at Lori’s house on Sept 9 between 2:42 a.m. and 3:37 a.m. This is a total of roughly 57 minutes, and it’s the only time Alex is at Lori’s house between midnight and 6:00 a.m. during the whole month of September 2019.
What was he doing there at that hour?
Then, the next time his phone pings are from 4:37 a.m. and 8:59 a.m. when he’s back at his apartment down the road.
The red pin in the map above indicates the address of Alex Cox’s townhouse. The green pin is where Lori Vallow’s townhouse would eventually be built.
As the morning of September 9 goes by, Alex’s location moves to Chad Daybell’s property from 9:21 a.m. to 10:39 a.m. – located at 202 N 1900 E, Rexburg, Idaho.
Alex Cox’s movement to the Daybell property might not mean much at first glance, but after learning that it’s where JJ and Tylee’s bodies would eventually be found — the events become much more chilling. Is this when prosecutors argue that Alex took Tylee, dead or alive, to the Daybell property to be dismembered, burned, and buried? Time will tell.
Prosecutors may have some help crafting this theory, thanks to text messages Chad sent Tammy on September 9 — the day after Tylee is last seen alive.
Chad (11:53 a.m) – “Well, I’ve had an interesting morning! felt should burn all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms. While did so, spotted big raccoon along the fence. hurried and got my gun, and he was still walking along. got close enough that one shot did the trick. He is now in our pet cemetery. Fun times!”
Chad (11:56 a.m) – “Gonna shower now and then go write for while at BYU. Love you!”
Tammy (2:47 p.m) – “Good for you!”
Chad (2:48 p.m.) – “I’m back home now”
Mark McClish, a federal expert on statement analysis and deceptive language, says in his teachings that you should believe and trust everything someone says because people don’t like to lie. McClish says a liar will always reveal their secrets; it’s just a matter of listening. So, Chad is telling the truth here, but it’s not about a raccoon — it’s about Tylee.
Chad tells Tammy that he buried a raccoon so she wouldn’t be suspicious of the used firepit and newly unearthed dirt in the pet cemetery.
September 19, 2019 — 10 Days Later
Melanie Gibb sits down for a tell-all 2-hour interview with Nate Eaton from East Idaho News to explain what she personally witnessed over the few days when JJ was last seen alive.
Melanie and her boyfriend travel to Rexburg, Idaho, to stay with Lori and her family for a long weekend at the end of September 2019. Upon arrival, Melanie immediately notices that Tylee is missing, but Lori quickly diverts the conversation by saying that Tylee is away at Brigham Young University.
Then, Lori confides in Melanie that JJ has been “acting like a zombie” and that his behavior has changed.
September 22 — 23, 2019
On the evening of Sunday, September 22, Lori tells Melanie that she believes JJ is acting up, so she asks Alex to take him to his townhouse down the block to “cool down.”
Melanie says they were gone for some time, but when they returned, JJ appeared to be asleep, resting his head on Alex’s shoulder, and he carried JJ. She says she remembers that moment particularly because she believed it was a sweet and innocent thing to witness.
However, that may not be the case in hindsight, considering when Melanie woke up at Lori’s house on the morning of September 23, JJ was nowhere to be found.
Melanie asked Lori where he was — considering it was a school morning — and Lori responded that JJ was acting like a zombie last night, so he spent the night with Alex. She further alleges that JJ had climbed up on the kitchen counter and knocked a fridge magnet depicting Jesus onto the floor the night before. Lori also shared that JJ is going to be away with his Grandma Kay until Chad and Lori can “complete their mission.”
While Melanie and her boyfriend finish their stay at Lori’s house on the Monday morning of September 23, Alex Cox is already across town at Chad Daybell’s property from 9:55 a.m. until 10:12 a.m. Could he have been there to bring JJ’s body over?
In total, cell phone records tell us Alex Cox made 4 trips to Chad Daybell’s property during the month of September:
September 6 — Alex is at the Daybell’s for 12 minutes.
September 9 — Alex is at the Daybell’s for 2.5 hours.
September 23 — Alex is at the Daybell’s for 17 minutes.
September 25 — Alex is at the Daybell’s for 17 minutes.
I personally believe these trips are most likely a mix of set-up, burning and burying evidence in Tylee’s murder, the hand-off of JJ’s remains, and a final check-up.
The Aftermath & the Daybell Backyard
On November 26, 2019, Rexburg police learned Tylee and JJ were missing after following up on a wellness check to Lori’s townhouse. No children were to be found.
Lori and Chad fled to Hawaii the next day, celebrating their new marriage. They weren’t away for long. Lori was extradited back to Rexburg, Idaho in March of 2020. Chad moved back to the Rexburg area at the same time.
On June 9, 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant on Chad’s property.
Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed when the children’s remains were discovered in his backyard.
They first searched a pond near where Alex’s cellphone had pinged back on September 23rd. They found “disturbed ground” and dug up “a round object covered in black plastic…and secured with gray duct tape.” It turned out to be JJ’s remains.
Law enforcement then dug into the pet cemetery where Alex’s phone pinged on September 9, and they unearthed dismembered tissue and charred bone. It turned out to be Tylee’s remains.
During the search, Chad Daybell was present. After investigators found JJ, Chad began driving off the property — but officers stopped him, and he was arrested.
Why were their cases so different?
Experts have theorized that the differences in methodology and level of gore in the deaths of her children relate to Lori’s fear of the kids turning into zombies.
Rationally, Lori could’ve thought to end Tylee’s life first because she was older, and she would ask more questions if JJ disappeared, whereas JJ was younger and on the autism spectrum. Lori most likely believed she could tell him any story she wanted to protect herself from getting caught.
Or, if Lori’s belief that zombies were the root cause of her motives, is it possible she believed the post-mortem overkill would stop “bad spirits” from inhabiting their bodies? Only time will tell with the trial.
I must be honest — doing this research was not easy, particularly emotionally. I’ve fallen down nearly every rabbit hole, and every time I tripped into another one, a part of me said, “I don’t want to try and understand this case anymore because it’s just too painful.”
But then I remember what JJ and Tylee’s innocent families are going through. With days before the trial, Lori’s defense team tried to get JJ Vallow’s grandparents excluded from the courtroom, claiming “they are not victims.” This helps me to realize that details about this case are important to share because JJ and Tylee’s lives, and all the other lives of the people caught up in this death web, matter.
Love this post? Meet the Author.
Andrea Cipriano is the Digital Content Specialist at Uncovered, where she writes for the twice-weekly true crime newsletter, The Citizen Detective. Andrea graduated with a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she focused on researching and peeling back the criminal mind. Andrea believes that it’s never too late for justice.
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