Doomsday ‘cult mom’ Lori Vallow puts on smiley show during court hearing on charges for killing her children

·3 min read

Doomsday “cult mom” Lori Vallow put on an unusually smiley show during her latest court hearing on charges for killing her children.

Ms Vallow, who is accused of conspiring to murder her children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, to collect their social security benefits, appeared in Idaho’s Fremont County Court on Tuesday for the first time since a judge ruled she is mentally fit to stand trial.

With her hair meticulously styled, the 49-year-old mother filtered through a range of facial expressions from giggles to scowls as her defence team asked a judge to send the case back to the grand jury because they claim the wording in her indictment is confusing.

“The conspiracy to commit murder and the conspiracy to commit grand theft are two separate conspiracies,” defence attorney John Thomas told the court. “We believe it would be confusing to a jury to be able to figure out what elements were met, when the elements were met and to what extent the elements were met.”

Mr Thomas asserted that allowing the current indictment to proceed to trial would be “fundamentally unfair”.

“I’m not saying that the jury isn’t sophisticated enough to sort through that, but I’ve been practicing law for 20 years and this particular charge baffled me,” he said.

Lori Vallow Daybell and her attorney in court on Tuesday (AP)
Lori Vallow Daybell and her attorney in court on Tuesday (AP)

She appeared to scoff as prosecutor Rob Wood pushed back at the defence arguments, insisting that the conspiracy charges were not confusing and simply detail a “criminal agreement”.

“One was to murder Tylee Ryan and to steal the social security money that was allotted to her, and one was to kill JJ Vallow and steal and collect the social security funds that were allotted to him,” Mr Wood said. “We believe the jury will find that there was this agreement, that they agreed to commit these two crimes.”

Ms Vallow has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to commit grand theft charges over an alleged plot to kill her children in order to claim social security benefits paid to them following the death of her fourth husband Charles Vallow - who was Tylee’s biological father and JJ’s adoptive father.

Lori Vallow is seen leaving the Fremont County Courthouse in Idaho on Tuesday (AP)
Lori Vallow is seen leaving the Fremont County Courthouse in Idaho on Tuesday (AP)

JJ and Tylee were last seen in September 2019, weeks after the family moved to Rexburg, Idaho, following Charles Vallow’s death. Ms Vallow is believed to have moved to be closer to Chad Daybell, an alleged doomsday cult leader she married in November of that year.

While the children were never reported missing by their mother, police began investigating their whereabouts in late November 2019 after a family member raised concerns.

JJ and Tylee were ultimately found buried on Mr Daybell’s property in Salem, Idaho, in June 2020. They are believed to have been killed in the days after they went missing.

Mr Daybell is also charged with murder and conspiracy in the children’s deaths and has pleaded not guilty.

The couple are scheduled to face trial together in January 2023 following a series of delays after Ms Vallow was deemed mentally unfit and committed to a treatment facility in June 2021. A judge ruled she is fit to face trial earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Ms Vallow and Ms Daybell are facing separate charges related to the deaths of their former spouses.

Ms Vallow is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the July 2019 death of her fourth husband Charles Vallow, who was shot dead by her brother Alex Cox during what she described as a custody dispute at her home in Arizona. Cox claimed he acted in self-defence before his death in December 2019.

Mr Daybell’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, was found dead at their Idaho home in October 2019, weeks before he married Ms Vallow.

Tammy Daybell was initially ruled to have died of natural causes after her husband declined an autopsy.

The case was then reopened amid the search for JJ and Tylee, paving the way for conspiracy charges Mr Daybell and Ms Vallow now face in her death.