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‘Money, power and sex’ dominate opening statements as Lori Vallow’s murder trial kicks off

The prosecution in the Vallow murder case set the stage on Monday for what is gearing up to be a lengthy murder trial by characterizing it as a case all about “money, power and sex” and a mother who would stop at nothing to gain them.

BOISE, Idaho (CN) — The murder trial for the Idaho mother accused of killing two of her youngest children and her husband’s late wife officially began on Monday with impassioned opening statements from prosecutors who say the “doomsday mom” used religious convictions to kill three people.

Proceedings in what could be a two-month long trial started with Judge Steven Boyce presenting the jury with a summary of the charges brought against Lori Vallow by Idaho prosecutors. Vallow is being accused of murdering her 17-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan, adopted 7-year-old son JJ Vallow, and her husband’s former wife Tammy Daybell. The myriad of charges range from murder to conspiracy to commit murder, as well as a grand theft charge stemming from social security benefits from her daughter.

Each charge was read in detail to Lori Vallow before opening arguments commenced. Seated between her two defense attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, and dressed in a black and white suit, Vallow remained silent during the day's proceedings.

Vallow’s husband Chad Daybell is also being charged in connection with the murders of Vallow’s children, but is being tried separately from his wife. His trial date has not yet been set.

The floor was then turned over to prosecutors who began their case against Vallow by characterizing her as a mother who was willing to "remove any obstacle" in her way to get what she wanted — including her own children.

“Money, power, and sex is what this case is about,” Fremont County prosecuting attorney Lindsey Blake told the jury during her opening arguments. “Tylee had money, Lori wanted it, Tylee’s gone. The defendant didn’t want to have to take care of JJ anymore, JJ had money, JJ is gone. . . Tammy had a life insurance policy and Lori wanted Chad all to herself. Tammy’s gone.”

Prosecutors presented the jury with photo evidence of the charred remains of Tylee Ryan and JJ that were found buried on Chad Daybell’s Idaho property. Tylee’s remains were described as a “mass of bone and tissue” while JJ’s were shown to be wrapped in black plastic and tape. A photo was also shown of JJ’s hands bound by duct tape after his death before cutting to a photo of Lori and Chad holding hands on the beach in Hawaii. They also found JJ’s DNA on a pick axe and shovel at Daybell’s property.

Lori and Chad fled to Hawaii to get married in November 2019 shortly after Tammy died and while a massive search for the children was underway. Prosecutors described the pair as “dancing and celebrating” while they knew that the two children were cold in the ground.

Daybell and Vallow were shown to have bonded very quickly over similar religious beliefs when they first met and were both married to other people, believing that they were together in a previous life, according to prosecutors. Lori became very interested in a religious belief system where she felt she could rate people on a spiritual scale of light and dark. Vallow, according to prosecutors, became interested in a casting system where they would try to expel evil spirits from people and that, if their casting ritual did not work, a person could become a “zombie.” Once that happened, the only remedy was for the person’s body to be destroyed.

Prosecutors said Lori believed that both her daughter and son were possessed by a “dark” spirit that Vallow reportedly spoke about on numerous occasions. But while she spoke at length about the “dark” spirits of her children, after both Tylee and JJ went missing, prosecutors said Vallow did not send any messages or file any kind of missing person’s report.


The dark spirits were not just inside her children, Vallow believed. Prosecutors say she believed a dark spirit named Viola was trapped inside Chad Daybell’s former wife Tammy. After Tammy died and was laid to rest, officials conducted an examination of Tammy and determined she died by the hands of another through asphyxiation. Photos of her autopsy were shown to the jury as well.  

Defense attorney Jim Archibald focused much of his opening on portraying Lori as a beautician by trade, and a woman with a “pretty smile” that people were drawn to and yearned to be around. He described her as a “kind and loving mother to her children,” adding that the massive publicity around the case “tainted so many people” in how they viewed her. He asked the jury to look at her with a clean slate as they navigate the next few months in court.

Vallow's defense team is relying on an alibi that was submitted to the court in just the last few months. They say she was at her Rexburg apartment around the time that the children were believed to have been killed.

“Vallow believes in the afterlife, so she believes that she will see her lost family, including her children, again. Thankfully in this country, we get to worship how we chose,” Archibald said.

He then stressed the jury is here only to judge the actions of Lori Vallow and no one else, including the actions potentially carried out by her now-dead brother Alex Cox, who has been described as a brother who would do anything for his sister.  

“You’re here to focus on what she did — not what Chad Daybell did or what Alex Cox did. You’re not here to determine if there even was a conspiracy.”

After both sides had concluded their opening salvos, two witnesses took the stand for the remainder of the day. Kay Woodcock, JJ Vallow's grandmother, and Brandon Boudreaux, who was married to one of Lori Vallow's nieces, Melani Pawlowski.

Prosecutor Rob Wood questioned Woodcock on several aspects of their life leading up to the murders, such as how JJ came to be adopted by Vallow and her late husband Charles. Charles would later be shot and killed by Vallow’s brother Alex, who died shortly after under mysterious circumstances.

According to Woodcock, Charles was preparing to divorce Lori in their final year together and had her removed from a life insurance policy. Money from that life insurance policy would go to Woodcock, something Lori reportedly pressed her on.

Woodcock testified the last time she spoke with JJ was in August 2019 in a short Facetime call. She said she and her husband tried to call, text and email JJ after that but never spoke with him again. She tried to arrange to have JJ go to the memorial service after Charles died, but said Lori did not answer any of her messages or follow up on arrangements to have JJ attend. Lori didn’t attend the service either.

After Charles died, Woodcock said she became concerned about JJ’s whereabouts. When asked why, she responded, “Because she (Vallow) did not want him anymore.” Shortly after Charles death, Woodcock contacted law enforcement to voice concerns over where JJ was and even hired a private investigator in October 2019 to find him.

Toward the end of her testimony, Woodcock spoke about finding an email from Amazon that she said led her to discover that Vallow was searching for wedding rings, a beach wedding dress and other wedding-related items. This occurred immediately after the deaths of Tammy and Charles.

Brandon Boudreaux took the stand next, with his testimony focusing on the relationship between his family and the Vallows. They reportedly were close at one point and spent holidays and even a Christmas together. They were also bonded by their relationship to the Mormon church and would do religious activities together.

But Boudreaux said things took a bizarre turn when Lori suddenly accused Charles of cheating on her and Brandon’s now ex-wife told him he shouldn’t spend time with Charles anymore.

This culminated in an incident when someone pulled up to Boudreaux’s car and shot at the window, shattering it. The Jeep the shots came from looked exactly like a Jeep bought by Charles for Tylee Ryan, Boudreaux told police. He said he had just moved, and that the only people who knew where he lived were his neighbors and his ex-wife, Lori Vallow's niece.

Before wrapping up the first day of trial, Boyce reminded the jury once more about how important it was that they not discuss the case with anyone or digest any media over the trial as they gear up for what could be a long and grueling spring in court.

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Categories / Criminal, Law, National, Trials

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