Inside The Case Of Chad Daybell, The ‘Doomsday Leader’ Who Allegedly Inspired His Girlfriend To Murder Her Children

Published January 31, 2022
Updated February 22, 2022

An apocalyptic author, Chad Daybell attracted the attention of an Idaho mom named Lori Vallow — who purportedly killed her kids because they were "zombies."

Chad Daybell was known for writing about several dark topics. He published 25 books about the apocalypse, near-death experiences, and his grave-digging work.

But no one ever expected that Chad Daybell would be linked to murder — until he met a woman named Lori Vallow.

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell first crossed paths in 2018. By that point, Vallow was obsessed with Daybell’s literature and eager to discuss religion on his podcast. Much like Daybell’s books, a lot of these podcasts focused on the end of the world. Though both Daybell and Vallow were married to other people, there was an obvious connection between them.

Their connection was largely based upon a set of bizarre shared beliefs, like that of “zombies,” or people whose souls had been replaced by dark spirits. Worryingly, Vallow soon began to refer to her husband Charles Vallow and her children Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow as “zombies.” And before long, a trail of unsettling deaths and disappearances would follow the couple.

Months after Charles Vallow filed for divorce, he was fatally shot by his former wife’s brother in July 2019. The brother later claimed to have been acting in “self-defense.” Lori Vallow backed up the self-defense claim — and then relocated from Arizona to Idaho to be closer to Daybell.

And then in September 2019, Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow vanished. Their remains were later found on Daybell’s Idaho property. In October 2019, Daybell’s wife would also be found dead under suspicious circumstances.

Now, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow are both behind bars, suspected of playing a role in all of these deaths. But who was Chad Daybell, and how did an apocalyptic author end up becoming an alleged murderer?

The Bizarre Rise Of Chad Daybell

Chad Daybell

Public Domain A mugshot of Chad Daybell, who was arrested after the remains of Lori Vallow’s children were found on his property.

Born on August 11, 1968, in Provo, Utah, Chad Guy Daybell grew up in the Mormon faith. His parents — Jack Daybell and Sheila Chesnut Daybell — were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like many other young Mormons, Chad Daybell attended Brigham Young University and graduated in 1992 with a degree in journalism.

Daybell briefly served as the managing editor for Cedar Fort, Inc. before starting his own publishing company called Spring Creek Book Company in 2004. Daybell often worked alongside his wife Tammy Daybell, whom he had married in 1990. And the couple eventually had five children together.

Slowly, Daybell began to make a name for himself among the Mormons as both a publisher and a writer. Still, that wasn’t enough to pay the bills, so he also worked as a gravedigger and a cemetery sexton to make ends meet.

Many authors who worked with Daybell in the early years described having a pleasant experience with a “humble” man. They also said that his religious views appeared to match the more mainstream teachings of the Mormon faith. But around 2014, one author named Suzanne Freeman, who had released three books with the help of Daybell, started noticing changes.

“He started publishing non-Mormon doctrine stories… and I just told him there’s something that’s not quite right,” Freeman said. “Plus, we were working on a book of mine together to take out… the LDS stuff, and I was kind of surprised by that because he was an LDS author.”

Daybell would indeed go on to publish 25 of his own books, some of which were stranger than others. While Living on the Edge of Heaven was based on two near-death experiences that he had, the Times of Turmoil series explored the idea of an apocalyptic America and other traumatic events that would supposedly happen before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

But while Daybell’s increasingly bizarre writings would alienate some of his loyal supporters — including Freeman, who soon parted ways with him — they would also attract a new audience of enthusiastic readers who took his books to heart. And his biggest fan was a woman named Lori Vallow.

Inside The Disturbing Relationship Between Chad Daybell And Lori Vallow

Lori Vallow And Chad Daybell

Rexburg Police DepartmentAfter Lori Vallow met “doomsday cult leader” Chad Daybell, she reportedly believed her kids were “possessed.”

It was around 2017 when Lori Vallow began reading Chad Daybell’s books. And according to Vallow’s loved ones, she soon became obsessed.

By that point, Vallow was already on husband number four, businessman Charles Vallow, whom she had married in 2006. She also had three children. Two of the children, Tylee Ryan and Colby Ryan, were from previous marriages. And one child, Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, had been adopted.

But none of this stopped Vallow from pursuing a relationship with Chad Daybell, whom she had first met in 2018. The two soon started doing podcasts together, where they discussed several apocalyptic topics. And notably, Daybell was just as attracted to Vallow as she was to him.

One friend of the couple, Melanie Gibb, said that Daybell told Vallow that they had married each other in previous lifetimes. And though Vallow lived in Arizona and Daybell lived in Idaho, the pair jumpstarted their relationship. Gibb said, “[Lori] had one special phone that her and Chad would communicate with, and he had a special phone outside of his cell phone number, so it was just for their personal communication.”

Considering Vallow and Daybell’s strange beliefs — which Gibb admitted she once shared — it was clear that this was no ordinary affair. According to Gibb, the two often discussed the topic of “zombies,” or people whose souls had been replaced by dark spirits. Gibb and other former friends of Vallow later said that she started calling her husband and children “zombies.”

Jj Vallow And Tylee Ryan

Public DomainLori Vallow’s children, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan, both disappeared in September 2019.

By January 2019, Charles Vallow was seriously concerned about his wife’s behavior and even went so far as to contact the police for help. He told them that his wife had threatened to kill him — and that she believed that she was a “god” preparing for the end of the world. In February of that same year, he filed for divorce, citing fears for his safety and that of the children.

Sadly, Charles Vallow’s fears were apparently not unfounded. On July 11, 2019, he was fatally shot by Lori Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox. The brother later claimed that he had fired the shot in “self-defense” to keep his sister safe during a fight with her ex. Lori Vallow, who said that she heard the shooting, backed up the self-defense claims, as did her daughter Tylee Ryan.

Shortly thereafter, Lori Vallow relocated her family from Arizona to Idaho to be closer to Chad Daybell, who by then was living in Rexburg. The story then took another grim turn when two of Vallow’s children vanished in September 2019. Tylee Ryan, who was 16 at the time, disappeared on September 8, and J.J. Vallow, who was 7 at the time, vanished on September 22.

And on October 19, 2019, Chad Daybell’s wife Tammy mysteriously died. Chad Daybell had been the one to call 911, saying that she had passed away in her sleep. At first, investigators believed that the death was natural, especially since Tammy Daybell had reportedly been suffering from “poor health” for a while. But it wasn’t long before that would be called into question.

While some might have expected Chad Daybell to be mourning his wife’s death and Lori Vallow to be desperately searching for her missing children, neither of those things happened. Instead, just weeks after these shocking incidents, Daybell and Vallow booked a trip to Hawaii to get married.

A Series Of Horrific Revelations

Hawaii Wedding

Fox 10 PhoenixChad Daybell and Lori Vallow married on November 5, 2019, shortly after Vallow’s children disappeared.

Many who knew Chad Daybell were stunned to hear that he had married Lori Vallow so quickly after his wife had died. “I thought, ‘Chad really loved his wife,'” said Suzanne Freeman, the author who used to work with Daybell. “Why would he marry that soon? This doesn’t make any sense. She’s not even cold in the grave.” Even more shocking was his choice of a new bride.

“Why would a man want to marry a woman that didn’t know where her children were?” Freeman said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell returned to Idaho, where witnesses heard them say that Lori had “no minor children.” (Her sole remaining son Colby Ryan is in his early 20s.) But authorities soon launched a national search for the missing kids. So Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell flew back to Hawaii in December 2019. It was also reported that Chad Daybell was booted from the Mormon Church for declaring himself to be a prophet.

As investigators looked for J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan, they also became suspicious about Tammy Daybell’s death. They even exhumed her body for an autopsy — which had not been conducted shortly after her death since her children were convinced that her demise had been natural.

By January 2020, authorities had formally ordered Lori Vallow Daybell to produce her children. Since she refused to do so, she was arrested in Hawaii on February 20, 2020. Shortly thereafter, she was extradited to Idaho. As the months dragged on, some of her former friends like Melanie Gibb began to reveal shocking details about her and her new husband.

For instance, Gibb revealed the couple’s view on “zombies.” She also said that they insisted that they couldn’t divorce their previous spouses because of information they were receiving “from the other side of the veil.” Perhaps most shocking, they believed that they were chosen to lead 144,000 people who were preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Doomsday Mom

Public DomainA mugshot of “doomsday mom” Lori Vallow Daybell, taken after she was extradited from Hawaii to Idaho.

According to Gibb, Chad Daybell insisted on meeting with people one-on-one to discuss religion and never held any official gatherings with people who shared his views. So it’s unclear how many people believed his claims. But there’s no doubt he had an influence on those who did, like Gibb, who said, “I often see [Chad] as the hand and [Lori] as the puppet on the hand.”

Despite these shocking revelations and his new wife’s arrest, Chad Daybell remained free — until the police and the FBI decided to search his Idaho property. On June 9, 2020, authorities found human remains, which were later revealed to belong to Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow. Tylee Ryan’s body had been dismembered and burned, and J.J. Vallow’s body was wrapped from head to toe in duct tape. Chad Daybell was promptly arrested.

Since that gruesome discovery, Chad Daybell has been charged in connection with the deaths of Tylee Ryan, J.J. Vallow, and Tammy Daybell. Meanwhile, Lori Vallow Daybell has been charged in connection with the deaths of Tylee Ryan, J.J. Vallow, Tammy Daybell, and Charles Vallow.

According to authorities, Lori Vallow Daybell’s brother Alex Cox would also be charged had he not already died of natural causes in December 2019. While it’s clear that Cox fired the shot that killed Charles Vallow, Cox’s cellphone GPS was also placed on Chad Daybell’s property the day after Tylee Ryan had disappeared and the day after J.J. Vallow had disappeared.

And just 10 days before Tammy Daybell died, she reported getting shot at in her driveway by a defective “paintball gun.” Now, investigators believe that it was an actual gun — and that Cox was once again behind the trigger.

A trial for Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell is set for January 23, 2023. One can only guess how many more twists in the case will emerge before then.


After reading about Chad Daybell, take a look at Mark Hofmann and the real story behind Murder Among the Mormons. Then, learn about Mary Bell, an 11-year-old girl who murdered two boys without provocation.

Bernadette Giacomazzo
Bernadette Giacomazzo is a NYC-based editor, writer, photographer, and publicist with a career spanning more than two decades in the entertainment industry. Her work has been featured in People, Teen Vogue, BET, HipHopDX, XXL Magazine, The Source, Vibe, The Los Angeles Times, and more. She is also the author of The Uprising Series and is the CEO of G-Force Marketing & Publicity, which has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter and has obtained film, television, radio, and print placements for blue-chip clients all over the world. She will release "In Living Color: A Cultural History" on Rowman & Littlefield Press in April 2022, and "The Golden Girls: A Cultural History" on Rowman & Littlefield Press in October 2022.