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Tammy Daybell murder revealed as asphyxiation in Lori Vallow trial

Tammy died ‘at the hands of another and died of asphyxiation,’ prosecutors said during opening statements in Lori Vallow’s murder trial

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 11 April 2023 10:26 BST
Lori Vallow's murdered daughter talks to police in newly unearthed video

The cause of death of Chad Daybell’s first wife Tammy has finally been revealed as “cult mom” Lori Vallow’s high-profile murder trial gets underway in Idaho.

In opening statements in Ada County Courthouse on Monday morning, Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake told jurors that Tammy, 49, died by asphyxiation – and not peacefully in her sleep as was originally claimed.

Tammy died “at the hands of another and died of asphyxiation,” she said, citing the Utah medical examiner.

Tammy, an otherwise healthy 49-year-old, died suddenly in her sleep on 19 October 2019 – just one month after Ms Vallow’s two children JJ and Tylee disappeared without a trace.

Despite the mysterious circumstances, her family declined an autopsy and Tammy’s death was ruled to be from natural causes.

Less than a month later, Mr Daybell and Ms Vallow married on a beach in Hawaii.

It was only after the two children were reported missing – and authorities began delving into Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell and their bizarre cult beliefs – that questions began being asked about Tammy’s death too.

In December 2019, investigators exhumed her body and carried out an autopsy.

Following this autopsy, Mr Daybell and Ms Vallow were charged with her murder but, until now, officials have remained tightlipped about how exactly Tammy died.

In court on Monday, the prosecutor said that 10 days before her death, Tammy had called 911 to report that someone had taken a shot at her in the driveway of her home.

After she escaped unscathed, Ms Vallow allegedly sent a message to someone saying that her brother Alex Cox “can’t do anything wrong”.

Tammy and Chad Daybell were married in 1990. He is now accused of conspiring with Lori Vallow to kill her (Facebook)

When Tammy was later killed by asphyxiation, Cox raised concerns about being made to be the “fall guy” for her death, prosecutors said, according to East Idaho News journalist Nate Eaton.

Ms Vallow’s brother Alex Cox had spoken of his concerns about being made to be the “fall guy” for her death.

“I hope I’m not their fall guy,” he allegedly said in reference to the doomsday couple.

One day after he made that comment – on 11 December 2019 – Cox also 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.

Doomsday writer Mr Daybell and Tammy married in 1990 and had five children together. They also founded a publishing company together – the company that released his doomsday books.

But, in October 2018, Mr Daybell and Ms Vallow met at a religious conference in Utah and began a romance.

Prosecutors allege that the couple then conspired with Cox to murder Tammy, JJ and Tylee as part of their doomsday 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.

JJ and Tylee were last seen alive in September 2019 – not long after Ms Vallow had moved the two children from Arizona to Idaho, allegedly to be close to Mr Daybell.

Chilling photos captured a smiling JJ, Tylee and Cox on a visit to Yellowstone National Park on 8 September.

The photo is now believed to be the last proof of life of 16-year-old Tylee.

Lori Vallow during a 2020 court appearance (Post Register no sales no mags)

After that day, she was never seen or heard from again.

Days later, on 22 September, JJ was also seen for the last time – at his school in Rexburg and by his mother’s friends at her apartment that night. By the next morning, the seven-year-old had also vanished.

Before their disappearance, Ms Vallow’s had reportedly told friends that her children were “zombies” and that the only way to free someone’s soul from evil spirits was to kill them.

JJ’s grandparents alerted authorities after they were unable to get in touch with their grandson but Ms Vallow refused to reveal where either of the children were.

In June 2020, JJ and Tylee’s remains were discovered buried in Mr Daybell’s backyard. JJ’s body was found in a black plastic bag wrapped in duct tape while Tylee’s body had been dismembered and burned in a fire pit, before being buried in the pet cemetery.

The children’s disappearance and deaths led to a renewed focus on the deaths of the doomsday couple’s respective spouses.

As well as the sudden death of Mr Daybell’s first wife Tammy, Ms Vallow’s fourth husband Charles Vallow had been shot dead by Cox in July 2019.

At the time, Cox claimed Vallow attacked him with a baseball bat and it was ruled self-defence.

Yet, a new investigation was later opened into his death.

Separate to her Idaho trial, Ms Vallow is also facing charges in Arizona of conspiring with Cox to murder Vallow.

In the Idaho case, the mother-of-three is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and grand theft in connection with the deaths of JJ and Tylee and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Tammy.

She is also charged with related financial crimes and is facing life in prison after the death penalty was taken off the table.

Mr Daybell is also charged with the murders of JJ, Tylee and Tammy and the couple had been due to stand trial together – before the judge severed the two cases last month.

Now, his trial will take place on a later, unspecified date.

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