Boise, Idaho • A judge on Friday reduced bail to $1 million for the mother of two missing children after he lawyer contended at her first hearing in Idaho that the amount had been set too high because of media attention.
Wearing faded orange-and-white striped jail garb and bright pink lipstick, Lori Vallow Daybell spoke little but nodded emphatically whenever her attorneys mentioned her desire to vigorously defend herself against the child abandonment charges.
She told the judge she preferred to use her new last name “Daybell” rather than Vallow, as she has been listed in some court documents. Her new husband, Chad Daybell, sat behind her in the small, packed courtroom.
On the other side of the room were Kay and Larry Woodcock, the grandparents of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow. He and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, were last seen in September and police in eastern Idaho say both Lori Daybell and her husband have lied about the children’s whereabouts.
The couple left Idaho the day after police came to question them about the children in late November, and Lori Daybell was arrested in Hawaii last month on an Idaho warrant. She waived extradition and made her first appearance in Idaho before Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins.
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Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood told the judge that Lori Daybell had already defied one court order when she refused to take her children to Idaho authorities in February. He also noted that she's continued to collect Social Security payments meant for both children, even though they haven't been seen for months.
"This case didn't start as a criminal case. It started as a report of two missing children, who are still missing," Wood said, detailing three mysterious deaths, Daybell's sudden move to Hawaii and her alleged efforts to convince a friend to lie to police about the whereabouts of the children.
"Since this last summer there has been an alarming pattern in the defendant's life," Wood said.
Daybell's attorney Edwina Elcox told the judge the $5 million bond initially set by a Hawaii judge before her extradition was excessively high. A recent murder case in the same area of Idaho only had bond set at $1 million, Elcox said.
"A bond set this high denies Lori due process," Elcox told the judge, suggesting the high amount was a reaction to the large amount of news coverage the case has generated. Child desertion charges are so rare in Idaho that she's never seen a case in a decade of practicing law, Elcox said.
"It is abundantly clear the prosecutor just needed to find a charge to fit this case because of all the media attention in this matter," she said.
The judge agreed that the bond should be reduced but also said he wanted Daybell closely monitored. If she posts bail, she will have to wear a GPS-tracking ankle bracelet, stay within the region and maintain regular contact with her attorneys, he said. He set a preliminary hearing for March 18.
Investigations have said the tangled case stretches across the Western U.S. and includes probes into three mysterious deaths. Lori Daybell's estranged late husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed by Lori's brother Alex Cox in Phoenix last July. Cox, who said the shooting was in self-defense, died of unknown causes several months later.
Lori Daybell’s new husband, meanwhile, became a widower just two weeks before he married Lori Daybell. Chad Daybell’s late wife Tammy died in October, and though her obituary said the death was from natural causes, law enforcement became suspicious when Daybell quickly remarried. Tammy Daybell’s remains have been exhumed but the autopsy report has not yet been released.