In a shocking turn of events, the legal team for Doomsday mom Lori Vallow decided to rest their case on Tuesday without mounting a defense of their client, whom they say is innocent of murdering her two children and conspiring to murder her husband’s ex-wife. They also declined to put Vallow or any other witnesses on the stand to testify on her behalf.
But while Vallow’s team claims they “don’t believe the state has proven its case,” the prosecution has been relentless—its case has included 60 witnesses, harrowing physical evidence, and the recitation of dozens of graphic text messages from Vallow to her paramour.
After 25 days, Idaho prosecutors rested their murder case against Vallow on Tuesday afternoon, arguing that the Doomsday mom, fueled by her extreme religious beliefs, murdered her two children in September 2019 with her new husband, Chad Daybell. A month later, the couple allegedly conspired to murder Daybell’s first wife, Tammy, for an insurance payout before they fled to Hawaii to start a new life. When authorities finally learned the children were missing, Vallow suddenly stopped communicating with police until her arrest months later.
To prove their case, prosecutors subjected jurors to hours of testimony about the couple’s adherence to a renegade branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Vallow believing that her children had “dark” spirits and had become zombies. Law enforcement experts also walked jurors through cell phone data, autopsy reports, and other evidence to showcase the grisly deaths and burials of Vallow’s two children, 7-year-old JJ and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan.
They also detailed the dozens of salacious text messages between Vallow and Daybell, a former gravedigger who had written several Mormon apocalyptic novels, where the couple graphically talked about their love affair and attempts to remove “evil spirits” from several people.
Closing arguments will take place on Thursday, where Vallow’s defense team will need to address the following issues if they hope to see the mother-of-three evade a prison sentence for life.
A Previous Death Threat
One of Vallow’s former friends broke down on the stand as she detailed how the mother of three threatened to “cut” and kill her—and then bury her body in a “place nobody would ever find her.” Audrey Barattiero said she was having a normal conversation with Vallow, whom she met through the LDS church, when she asked her friend if something “weird was going on with her.” Without warning, Barattiero said, that Vallow “started laughing—like if you were laughing at someone”—and then Vallow berated her.
“The pair quickly believed they had been married in a past life and were meant to be together.”
“You’re so naive and too trusting. You’re like a little child. You think the world is all unicorns and rainbows. You go around helping people and serving them,” Vallow allegedly told her friend, according to East Idaho News. “Well, I’ve got news for you. Not everyone is a good person and not everyone can be so kind.”
“She said she would cut me up and wasn’t in the mental place to do it but would get herself in a place to do it,” Barattiero added. “There would be blood and bleach and something about trash bags. She would bury me in a place nobody would ever find me.”
Barattiero said her friendship with Vallow ended after the conversation.
Plastic Bags, Duct Tape, and Restraints
For days, jurors were subjected to brutal details of how Vallow allegedly murdered and buried her two children—before hiding their bodies in Daybell’s Idaho backyard.
Dr. Garth Warren, who works for the Ada County Coroner’s Office, detailed how JJ was smothered with a white plastic bag that was duct-taped shut over his head. The child was still in his red pajamas when he was found in a pet cemetery in June 2020—tightly bound in a garbage bag tightly and with duct tape. Warren added that a toxicology report also concluded that JJ was found with low levels of ethanol, caffeine, and the date-rape drug GHB. (It is not immediately clear, Warren said, if the GHB was given to JJ or if it was a naturally occurring product.)
“There is a plan being orchestrated for the children.”
Warren added that while he determined that Tylee was murdered, he could only determine she died of unspecified means because of the buried and dismembered state of her body. He added that Tylee was found buried in a fire pit nearby her younger brother. Douglas Halepaska, who works for the FBI lab in the firearms and tool marks division, testified that he examined several sharp trauma areas on Tylee’s bones that he believed came from a machete, hatchet, or cleaver. Another witness told jurors that gasoline was found on Tylee’s flesh.
Prosecutors also shared awful details of Tammy Daybell’s October 2019 death with the jury. While authorities initially did not deem Tammy’s death suspicious, a Utah medical examiner testified that her body was exhumed months later. During that examination, Dr. Erik Christensen said, he determined that Tammy may have been restrained for hours when she died from asphyxiation. He added that Tammy likely sustained bruising on her arms and chest in the few hours before her death.
Vallow’s Hair Found On Duct Tape
In what could be the most damning piece of evidence against the Doomsday mom, a DNA expert revealed last week that a piece of Vallow’s hair was found stuck on duct tape that was used to wrap JJ’s body before he was buried.
Keeley Coleman, a senior DNA analyst at Bode Technology in Virginia, testified that she tested three DNA profiles in connection with the tape, including Lori, Tylee Ryan, and family friend Melanie Gibb. But she only found a match for Vallow on a piece of hair that was attached to an adhesive.
“The partial DNA profile matched the DNA profile provided from Lori Vallow Daybell,” Coleman said of the hair. “The probability of randomly selecting a random individual in relation to that profile is 1 in 71 billion.”
Vallow’s Doomsday Beliefs
From the start of their case, prosecutors have stressed to jurors that Vallow’s beliefs fueled her murderous spree in 2019. But to prove the lengths Vallow was willing to go for her faith, prosecutors called several of the closest former friends and allies to the stand to explain her religion—and Daybell’s prominence in it.
Melanie Gibb detailed to jurors how she met Vallow at a church event in 2018 and how they became fast friends, ultimately starting a religious podcast together. Gibb was with Vallow when she met Daybell in Utah that same year; she said the pair quickly believed they had been married in a past life and were meant to be together.
“She said she would cut me up and wasn’t in the mental place to do it but would get herself in a place to do it.”
The initial meeting spurred a love affair, Gibb said, and fueled Vallow’s outlandish beliefs. Gibb said that Vallow believed she and Daybell were among 144,000 people who would be on Earth for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Vallow also preached about a light and dark scale, Gibb said, and explained that if a person had turned “dark” they would become a “zombie.”’
Among the people Vallow said were considered “dark” were her former husband, Charles, one of her brothers, and her two children, Gibb said.
Zulema Pastenes, who used to be briefly married to Vallow’s brother, also detailed to the jury how the couple taught her about “castings” that would be used to expel evil spirits from “dark” people. Both Pastenes and Gibb testified about several “castings” they performed as a group, most of which they said were unsuccessful.
Chad and Lori’s Explicit Text Messages
After weeks of salacious and gruesome testimony, prosecutors called an FBI witness who allowed Daybell and Vallow to speak for themselves. FBI Special Agent Doug Hart read aloud dozens of text messages between Daybell and Vallow to the jury, which graphically detailed their intimate moments, religious beliefs, and a romance novel the author had written for his paramour.
“I love you Elena, what wonderful chemistry we have,” Daybell texted Vallow in 2019, according to East Idaho News. Vallow responded: “I love you more, that’s so hot. I just need you now more than ever.”
The text messages also reveal the couple’s more sinister side, including how they seemed to anticipate JJ and Tylee’s death. In August 2019, Vallow asked Daybell if there he thought there was “a perfectly orchestrated plan to take the children” and if they “just have to wait for it to be carried out.”
“I feel lost. Like I should be doing something to help,” she added, to which Daybell responded,
“There is a plan being orchestrated for the children.”
Hart noted that Daybell and Vallow also texted about his first wife, Tammy, and discussed how a demon named “Viola” had possessed her just days before her murder. The day after Tammy’s death—after Daybell insisted to authorities the family did not want an autopsy—Vallow sent a text about how she was sad and missed him.
“I know exactly how you feel,” Daybell says in response. “I’m feeling sad, but it isn’t for the reason everyone thinks!”