Napping in court, three words and typing too loudly: Bizarre moments from Lori Vallow’s murder trial

Bizarre details about the cult beliefs which led to murder came to light at trial. But, beyond the testimony, some bizarre happenings took place inside the courtroom, Rachel Sharp reports

Tuesday 01 August 2023 11:30 BST
(The Idaho Post-Register/AP/The Independent)

Ever since authorities began searching for Lori Vallow’s children in late 2019, the case of the doomsday “cult mom” has captivated – and horrified – the nation.

Four people close to Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell have been murdered.

Others are also now mysteriously dead.

And beliefs about “zombies”, “dark spirits” and the apocalypse have come to light.

The bizarre and tragic case came to a head in a courtroom in Boise, Idaho, where Vallow was convicted of all charges in the murders of her children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, seven; Tylee Ryan, 16; and Mr Daybell’s first wife Tammy Daybell.

On 12 May, the jury took less than seven hours to find Vallow guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft over the deaths of Tylee and JJ.

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

Vallow was sentenced to life in prison without parole on 31 July.

JJ and Tylee vanished without a trace back in September 2019, with their mother refusing to reveal their whereabouts to authorities for many months.

One month after they were last seen alive, Tammy – an otherwise healthy 49-year-old – died suddenly. Her cause of death has since been ruled asphyxiation.

Vallow and Mr Daybell soon jetted off to Hawaii to get married on the beach.

In June 2020, the remains of JJ and Tylee were found buried on the grounds of Mr Daybell’s property in Rexburg, Idaho, and the doomsday cult couple were eventually charged with murder.

Prosecutors alleged that Vallow and Mr Daybell conspired with Vallow’s brother Alex Cox to murder Tammy, JJ and Tylee as part of their bizarre cult beliefs – but also for financial purposes so that they could collect Tammy’s life insurance money and the children’s social security and survivor benefits.

New harrowing and bizarre details about the cult beliefs which drove – or excused – the 49-year-old came to light during her murder trial in Ada County Courthouse.

But, beyond the trial testimony, there was also some bizarre happenings taking place inside the courtroom.

Lori Vallow ‘falls asleep’

During a harrowing day of testimony on 11 April, the woman on trial for murder raised eyebrows when she appeared to fall asleep in the middle of proceedings.

That day, the court heard harrowing testimony about the state of JJ and Tylee’s remains when they were found buried on Mr Daybell’s property.

While jurors gasped and the victims’ families sobbed, Vallow asked to waive her right to be present in the courtroom, citing her mental state.

The judge denied the request and Vallow had to attend the remainder of the day – where jurors were shown graphic images of the children’s remains.

She appeared to try to avoid looking at the photos, casting her head down most of the time, reporters in the courtroom said.

Then – at one point – she appeared to fall asleep.

Gigi McKelvey, a Law & Crime journalist, told NewsNation that Vallow seemed to be asleep “for a solid 30 minutes”.

She speculated that Ms Vallow may have been medicated after her apparent distress over the harrowing testimony.

Lori Vallow’s three words to her surviving son

Mother-of-three Vallow was spotted mouthing three words to her only surviving son as he took the witness stand to testify against her at her murder trial.

Colby Ryan, 27, testified about his sister Tylee and brother JJ and how his mother had lied to him about their whereabouts.

Jurors heard a phone call where Mr Ryan confronted his mother about killing his siblings and posing as Tylee on her cellphone.

When he took the stand, Vallow was seen mouthing “oh my baby” to her son.

Confiscated phones and noise complaints

On multiple occasions, the court bailiff aired issues with noises – from reporters typing too loudly to spectators rustling candy wrappers.

On 13 April, at least three people had their phones confiscated, including one for an alarm sounding, reported The New York Post‘s Stephanie Pagones.

She revealed that members of the media had also been told off for typing too loudly in the courtroom.

On 20 April, East Idaho News reporter Nate Eaton tweeted that the bailiff reminded everyone about courtroom conduct including saving any whispering for breaks and to “minimize candy wrapper crinkling”.

“If you have a Lifesaver fetish, please open your candy now,” the bailiff said.

But the bailiff seemed to win over the courtroom.

By the end of the trial, he had earned the nickname of “courtroom daddy”.

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