Authorities said they uncovered human remains at an Idaho man’s home Tuesday as they investigated the disappearance of his new wife's two children — a case that's drawn global attention for its ties to two other mysterious deaths and the couple's doomsday beliefs.
Chad Daybell, who married the children’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, was arrested on suspicion of concealing or destroying evidence after local and federal investigators searched his property, according to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office. He has not yet been formally charged, and his attorney, Mark Means, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Joshua “JJ” Vallow, who was 7 when he vanished, and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan haven’t been seen since September, and police say Chad and Lori Daybell lied to investigators about the children's whereabouts before quietly leaving Idaho. They were found in Hawaii months later. Besides the missing children, the couple has been under scrutiny following the deaths of both of their former spouses.
Police from the small town of Rexburg, the FBI and sheriff's investigators searched Chad Daybell’s home in the eastern Idaho town of Salem for the second time, bringing in backhoes and setting up tents in a nearby field. The search warrant is sealed, and Rexburg Assistant Police Chief Gary Hagan said he couldn't reveal details other than the search is linked to the children's disappearance.
“Throughout the investigation, detectives and investigators have recovered what’s believed to be human remains that have not been identified at this time,” Hagan said in a news conference.
Lori Daybell has been charged with child abandonment and obstructing the investigation and is in jail on $1 million bond. She's pleaded not guilty. The Idaho attorney general's office has said it was investigating Chad Daybell in the death of his first wife, Tammy Daybell.
The complicated case began last summer, when Lori Daybell's brother shot and killed her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, in Phoenix. Her brother, Alex Cox, said the shooting was in self-defense. Charles Vallow had filed for divorce, claiming Lori believed she had become a god-like figure who was responsible for ushering in the biblical end times. Cox died in December of an apparent blood clot in his lung.
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Shortly after Charles Vallow's death, Lori and her children moved to Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived. He ran a small publishing company, where he published many of his own fiction books that centered on apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on Mormon theology. He also participated in podcasts about preparing for biblical end times, and friends said he claimed to be able to receive visions from “beyond the veil.”
Tylee was last seen in September headed into Yellowstone National Park with her mom and other family for a day trip, and JJ was last seen by school officials several days later.
Police began investigating the children's whereabouts after relatives raised concerns. Investigators have said both Chad and Lori Daybell claimed the children were staying with friends.
Tammy Daybell died in her sleep last October of what her obituary said were natural causes. Authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell married Lori just two weeks later, and they had Tammy Daybell's body exhumed in December. The results of that autopsy have not been released.
Law enforcement officers searched Chad Daybell's home initially on Jan. 3 in connection with his first wife's death, removing more than 40 items including several pieces of computer equipment.
A few days later, JJ's grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock, announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the kids. They later asked a judge to give them custody of JJ, who was still missing. And they have pushed to keep a spotlight on the search, posting billboards and updating social media on the case.
The children were still nowhere to be found when JJ's birthday arrived in late May.
“Our feelings of extreme anguish and despondency were prevalent throughout the period approaching JJ’s 8th birthday,” Kay Woodcock wrote in a Facebook post. “Our Rexburg family hosted a poignant vigil on Monday 5/25 in honor of our little man. ... We are comforted knowing their commitment is as strong as ours.”
Their attorney in the custody case didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.