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‘Cult mom’ Lori Vallow is convicted of murders of children and Chad Daybell’s wife in doomsday plot

“Cult mom” Lori Vallow has been convicted of murdering her two youngest children and conspiring to murder her new husband Chad Daybell’s first wife in a shocking doomsday plot that has horrified the nation for the last three years.

The 49-year-old mother-of-three was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft over the deaths of her daughter Tylee Ryan, 16, and son Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, in Ada County Court in Boise, Idaho, on Friday.

She was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Mr Daybell’s first wife Tammy Daybell, 49.

Dressed in a black suit, with her blonde hair down in waves around her shoulders, Vallow stood between her two attorneys as the verdict was read out.

She showed no reaction as she learned that the jury had returned a verdict of guilty on all charges.

JJ and Tylee vanished without a trace back in September 2019, with their mother refusing to reveal their whereabouts to both authorities and the children’s desperate family members.

One month later, Tammy – an otherwise healthy 49-year-old – also died suddenly. Her death was initially ruled natural causes.

This bizarre spate of disappearances and death came just months after Vallow’s fourth husband Charles Vallow was shot dead by Vallow’s brother Alex Cox in Arizona in July 2019.

With Vallow’s children and both of their spouses then out of the way, she and Mr Daybell embarked on a new life together – flying to Hawaii to get married in a fairytale wedding on the beach.

But, with months passing since the last signs of life of Vallow’s children, concerns continued to grow, prompting authorities to exhume Tammy’s body. A subsequent autopsy revealed that she had died by asphyxiation.

In June 2020 – nine months after they were last seen alive – Tylee and JJ’s remains were found buried on the grounds of Mr Daybell’s property in Rexburg, Idaho.

JJ, who had autism, had been smothered with a plastic bag taped over his face, his little body still dressed in a pair of red pyjamas. Tylee’s cause of death meanwhile has been impossible to establish as the teenager’s dismembered, charred bones and body parts were found scattered in the ground on Mr Daybell’s pet cemetery.

Lori Vallow appears in court in 2020 (AP)
Lori Vallow appears in court in 2020 (AP)

Jurors in Ada County Court in Boise, Idaho, took almost seven hours to find Vallow guilty on all charges over the three murders after a grueling 27-day trial where the panel heard harrowing details about the doomsday mom’s path of deadly destruction and were shown graphic images of the murdered children’s remains.

The state called over 60 witnesses to lay out its case that Vallow was motivated by both her doomsday cult beliefs but also lust for Mr Daybell and financial greed when she conspired with him and her brother Cox to kill the three victims.

In a bombshell move – that may now have proven fatal – the defence shocked the court on Tuesday when Vallow’s attorneys announced that they would not present any defence case or call any witnesses, paving the way for closing arguments to begin earlier than anticipated.

During closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutors argued that Ms Vallow had been driven by “money, power and sex” to kill the three victims.

Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell met at a religious conference in October 2018 when they were both married and began an affair.

As their romance grew, so too did their cult beliefs and conspiracy to kill.

Jurors heard how the doomsday couple believed that they were on a religious mission to gather the 144,000 and that there was a “rating system of light and dark” for the spirits of the people around them.

In the weeks and months before the murders, Ms Vallow allegedly told friends that JJ and Tylee had become “demons”.

Prosecutors said that Ms Vallow used these beliefs to “justify” the murders of her children and love rival.

The state argued that the murders were “premeditated” and “planned” – pointing to evidence including the stash of burner phones the three alleged accomplices had, Cox’s practice at a shooting range prior to a botched attempt on Tammy’s life and a deliberate plan for Ms Vallow to be in Hawaii at the time of Tammy’s murder.

Days before each child was killed, Ms Vallow then allegedly altered their Social Security payments so that the money would be paid directly into her account.

Prosecutor Rob Wood told jurors that Ms Vallow was the ringleader of the murderous plot, and that she “groomed” and “manipulated” both Mr Daybell and Cox to commit the murders.

“They used religion as a tool to manipulate others. Lori manipulated Alex Cox through religion,” he said.

“She manipulated Chad through emotional and sexual control.”

Ms Vallow was the “one common thread” tying all the suspects and killings together, he said.

Meanwhile, in the defence’s closing statement, Ms Vallow’s attorneys flipped the narrative, arguing that – instead of being the leader – Ms Vallow was the “follower” of her new lover Mr Daybell.

In what marked the first time Ms Vallow has turned on her lover in the almost three years for the case to go to trial, her attorney Jim Archibald sought to paint her as a hardworking “good mom” whose life suddenly unraveled when she met Mr Daybell.

“One year after meeting Chad, four people are dead,” said Mr Archibald.

The defence attorney argued that Ms Vallow was “under the control” of the doomsday author, under the spell of the “craziness” of his cult beliefs.

The defence attorney went on to blame the murders of Tylee and JJ squarely on Mr Daybell and Cox saying that there was no evidence placing Ms Vallow on the scene of the three murders or on Mr Daybell’s property when the children were buried there.

Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow (Family handout)
Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow (Family handout)

Ultimately, the panel of 12 jurors disagreed and found the evidence showed, beyond reasonable doubt, that Vallow murdered her children and conspired to murder her love rival.

Vallow’s alleged co-conspirators are yet to face justice over the killings.

Mr Daybell was due to stand trial with Vallow but the cases were severed weeks before her day in court.

He is now due to stand trial in 2024 over the three murders.

Meanwhile, the third person accused by state prosecutors as a co-conspirator in the case won’t ever be have his day in court.

On 11 December 2019 – hours after Tammy’s body was exhumed – Cox died suddenly at the age of 51. His death was also ruled natural causes, with indications of a blood clot wedged in the arteries of his lungs. However the overdose drug Narcan was also found in his system.

Vallow’s own legal troubles are also far from over as she is still facing trial in Arizona on charges of conspiring with Cox to murder Charles Vallow.