East Idaho News reporter shares how covering Lori Vallow Daybell case changed his life
Apr 3, 2023, 10:25 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2023, 1:56 pm
BOISE, Idaho — One reporter who’s been with the Lori Vallow Daybell case since the very beginning is Nate Eaton with East Idaho News — a small town reporter covering one of the biggest stories in the country.
KSL TV’s Mike Headrick got a chance to sit down with him about the day his entire life changed.
EATON: “I remember him telling me, picture the craziest story you’ve done times 100.”
HEADRICK: “Did it seem like it was anything out of the ordinary in the beginning?”
EATON: “It was a few days before Christmas 2019. We get a news release from the Rexburg Police Department, and it was a different type of news release. It was like two pages long. It said that there were some missing kids from Rexburg and that the parents were not cooperating with the police. And then, we started to make calls, knock on doors, and nobody knew who these kids were and nobody knew who the parents were. So it was all, it was all a little odd.”
“And then the beginning of 2020 is when it really all hit. We got a tip that Chad and Lori were in Hawaii. Someone actually sent us a GPS point and said, ‘This is where they are.'”
“It’s a three minute video that has changed my career, my life. I mean, like I said, it wasn’t planned that way. But that’s just what happened.”
HEADRICK: “During those three minutes, what was that like for you? What’s going through your head? What are you thinking?
EATON: “And one of the detectives there said to me, ‘I would sure like to know why they’re on the beach when their kids are missing.’ And so I asked that, and the only response I got out of her at one point was when I said, ‘There’s people all over the world that are praying for you and they’re praying for your kids.’ And she said, ‘That’s great.'”
HEADRICK: “Where do you go from there? Is this all you just start covering then? You put all resources into this one story?”
EATON: “Somebody sent me her flight plans when the police were bringing her back, somebody not in law enforcement. But somebody who was able to get her the flight plan. People were sending us photos of Chad and Lori shopping at Costco, of them hopping on another plane a few days later and going to another island and coming back. It was like, there were all these citizen journalists that were sending these tips to us.”
“We have seven people in our newsroom. We’re tiny. We don’t do big stories like this, and so, it was overwhelming at first.”
HEADRICK: “So this case literally has changed your life.”
EATON: “Oh, this case has changed my life, has changed East Idaho News. I think if you ask people in eastern Idaho, maybe the entire state, they will say it’s been the biggest case East Idaho has ever seen. I can’t recall any case that beats it.”
HEADRICK: “There’s a need for local journalists.”
EATON: “Absolutely, there is a need for local journalists. We’re the ones that are on the ground. I know these prosecutors. I know these defense attorneys. Fifteen years ago, when I was a young cub reporter in TV, I worked with them. I worked with the police. As the detectives are out at Chad Daybell’s house sifting through dirt, looking for bone fragments of these children, I know these guys, like, and I know the toll it’s taking on them.”