BOISE, Idaho — Idaho mother Lori Vallow Daybell has been sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday in the murders of her two youngest children and a romantic rival in a case that included bizarre claims that her son and daughter were zombies and that she was a goddess sent to usher in the Biblical apocalypse.
Vallow Daybell was found guilty in May of killing her two youngest children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, as well as conspiring to kill Tammy Daybell, her fifth husband’s previous wife. Vallow Daybell will serve three life sentences one after the other, the judge said.
The husband, Chad Daybell, is awaiting trial on the same murder charges. Vallow Daybell also faces two other cases in Arizona — one on a charge of conspiring with her brother to kill her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, and one of conspiring to kill her niece’s ex-husband. Charles Vallow was shot and killed in 2019, but her niece’s ex survived an attempt later that year.
At the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, Judge Steven W. Boyce said the search for the missing children, the discovery of their bodies and the evidence photos shown in court left law enforcement and jurors traumatized, and he would never be able to get images of the slain children out of his head.
Daybell Shows No Remorse: Judge
A parent killing their own children “is the most shocking thing really that I can imagine,” Boyce said.
Vallow Daybell justified the murders by “going down a bizarre religious rabbit hole, and clearly, you are still down there,” the judge said.
“I don’t think to this day you have any remorse for the effort and heartache you caused,” he said.
Boyce heard testimony from several representatives of the victims, including Vallow Daybell’s only surviving son, Colby Ryan.
“Tylee will never have the opportunity to become a mother, wife, or have the career she was destined to have. JJ will never be able to grow and spread his light with the world the way he did,” Ryan wrote in a statement read by prosecuting attorney Rob Wood. “My siblings and father deserve so much more than this. I want them to be remembered for who they were, not just a spectacle.”
Ryan also wrote about his own grief.
“I’ve lost the opportunity to share life with the people I love the most. I have lost my sister, father, brother, and my mother,” he wrote. “I pray for healing for everyone involved, including those who took the lives of everyone we loved.”
The murder scheme and Tammy Daybell’s death left a deep rift in her family, Tammy’s sister Samantha Gwilliam told the court.
“Why? Why plan something so heinous? You are not exalted beings, and your behavior makes you ineligible to be one,” Gwilliam said, referring to the unusual religious claims. “Because of the choices you made, my family lost a beloved mother, sister and daughter.”
Tammy Daybell’s mother was fighting cancer, and spent the last months of her life watching the murder trial, Gwilliam said. The family has also been hounded by media and others drawn by “all of the salacious scandal you stirred up,” Gwilliam told Vallow Daybell, who looked down as she sat between her defense attorneys.
“I miss my sister every day. I will grieve her, and the loss of my mother, every single day of my life,” Gwilliam said. “As for you, I choose to forget you and as I leave the courtroom here today, I choose to never think of you again.”
Boyce also heard from Vallow Daybell before handing down the sentence. She quoted Bible verses about how people should not judge each other. She said she too mourned the deaths of her children and Tammy Daybell but knew they would be together in the afterlife.
She claimed she is regularly visited by the spirits of her dead children, as well as the spirit of her “eternal friend,” Tammy Daybell, and suggested that the three weren’t murdered at all.
“Jesus Christ knows that no one was murdered in this case,” she said. “Accidental deaths happen. Suicides happen. Fatal side effects from medication happen.”