Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow face murder charges in deaths of children and a former spouse

(John Roark | The Idaho Post-Register via AP) A boy looks at a memorial for Tylee Ryan, 17, and Joshua "JJ" Vallow, 7, at Porter Park in Rexburg, Idaho, June 11, 2020.

Headlines refer to them as the “doomsday couple,” a pair who have drawn international attention for their so-called “apocalyptic” religious beliefs and the demises of their immediate family members under questionable circumstances.

Lifetime television network even made a movie about them.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Idaho announced that the husband and wife, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow, had been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two of Vallow’s children. Daybell was also charged with first-degree murder in the death of his previous spouse, a case that received renewed attention after the disappearance of Vallow’s children.

The couple, who were indicted by a grand jury in Fremont County, Idaho, on Monday, could face the death penalty, prosecutors said.

“Members of the grand jury deliberated and determined there is probable cause to believe the Daybells willfully and knowingly conspired to commit several crimes that led to the death of three innocent people,” Lindsey Blake, the Fremont County prosecutor, said at a news conference.

The couple’s indictment came nearly a year after investigators found the remains of Vallow’s children Tylee Ryan, 17, and Joshua Vallow, 7, last June, buried at the home of Daybell, who was their stepfather.

(National Center for Missing & Exploited Children via AP) Joshua Vallow, left, and Tylee Ryan.

Prosecutors did not say how the children had been killed, but the couple’s religious beliefs played a role, according to the indictment. Daybell and Vallow “did endorse and teach religious beliefs for the purpose of justifying” the murders, the indictment said.

Daybell’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, was found dead in October 2019 in her home in Idaho. Her death was initially attributed to natural causes, but authorities ordered that her remains be exhumed, suspecting that her death might have been connected to those of Vallow’s missing children.

According to the indictment, Chad Daybell and Vallow said in a text message exchange that Tammy Daybell had been in “limbo” and was “being possessed by a spirit named Viola.” Chad Daybell had increased the amount of coverage in a life insurance policy for Tammy Daybell in September 2019, a little more than a month before her death.

Chad Daybell, 52, and Vallow, 47, married shortly after their previous spouses had died.

A lawyer for Daybell did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Vallow’s lawyer said in a text message Tuesday that he was not immediately prepared to comment.

Daybell and Vallow have been in custody since last year, when Vallow was arrested in Hawaii on charges that included two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. Daybell was arrested last June on felony charges related to the disappearance of his stepchildren. He and Vallow have pleaded not guilty to those earlier charges.

In yet another layer of the story, Lori Vallow’s previous husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed in Arizona in July 2019 by her brother, Alexander Cox, who told the police that his brother-in-law had hit him in the head with a baseball bat and that the shooting was a case of self-defense. Lori Vallow was estranged from her first husband at the time, and Cox has since died.

The religious views of Daybell and Vallow have drawn international attention to the case.

Daybell has written several novels with recurring doomsday themes. In divorce records obtained by the Phoenix television station Fox 10, Vallow’s previous husband said that she had told him that she believed she was “receiving spiritual revelations and visions to help her gather and prepare those chosen to live in the new Jerusalem after the great war as prophesied in the book of Revelations.”

Daybell and Vallow have been linked to an entity called Preparing People, which aims to help prepare people for the second coming of Jesus Christ, according to its website.

In addition to the murder charges, Daybell and Vallow were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception in connection with the children’s deaths, and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder that stemmed from Tammy Daybell’s death.

The indictment said that Vallow had continued to collect several months’ worth of Social Security survivor benefits for both children and Social Security child care payments for one of them after their deaths.

Daybell was also charged with two counts of insurance fraud, and Vallow was charged with one count of grand theft.

In a news release last month, Lifetime announced that Vallow would be portrayed in a movie called “Doomsday Mom: The Lori Vallow Story” that is scheduled to be broadcast June 26. A spokesperson for Lifetime said in an email Tuesday night that the movie would still be broadcast and that the producers had been closely monitoring the developments in the case. An update will appear at the end of the movie, she said.