First two witnesses take stand and cry in Vallow murder trial: a recap

Apr 10, 2023, 5:49 PM | Updated: May 17, 2023, 6:47 pm

BOISE, Idaho — Opening arguments from both the prosecution and the defense began the day in the Lori Vallow Daybell trial. Shortly after, the first two witnesses were called to the stand.

Vallow Daybell is charged with seven felonies — six in Idaho, one in Arizona. She and her husband Chad Daybell are accused of murdering her two children, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Vallow Daybell is also accused of conspiring to murder Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Click here for complete coverage of the Lori Vallow Daybell trial

Opening arguments for the prosecution

The prosecution, led by Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey A. Blake, said Vallow Daybell’s actions were all about “money, power and sex.” They argued Vallow Daybell removed any obstacles, including people, to obtain those things.

Blake introduced the three victims: JJ Vallow, Tylee Ryan, and Tammy Daybell. Vallow Daybell is accused of involvement in each of their deaths.

Images of Tylee’s charred remains, JJ’s body, and Tammy Daybell’s body were all shown to the jury and onlookers in the courtroom.

The prosecution said JJ was found in a garbage bag with his arms and legs duct-taped. Tylee’s DNA was found on a pick axe and shovel in a shed on Chad Daybell‘s property.


Besides the murder of the pair, the defendant faces grand theft charges. Both JJ and Tylee had Social Security benefits and the prosecution says she took them.

“The defendant didn’t want to take care of JJ anymore, wanted the money, and now JJ is gone,” Blake told the jury.

Blake released the autopsy results of Tammy Daybell, revealing the cause of death to be asphyxiation and not a heart attack as originally believed.

“They were getting married on a sunny beach in Hawaii dancing and celebrating their life together, while Tylee and JJ were dead in the ground.

Blake admonished the jury to be attentive, apply common sense, and give every piece of evidence the weight “you think it is due.”
Full descriptions of the opening statements can be found here.

Opening arguments for the defense

The Defense, led by R. James (Jim) Archibald, spoke of Daybell Vallow’s “pretty smile” and “fun-loving, happy-go-lucky personality.”

“She believes in life after death, and believes she will see her deceased family again,” Archibald said.

Archibald argued that Vallow Daybell was “such a good mom,” that Kay Woodcock asked her to adopt JJ in 2014.


Archibald claimed Vallow Daybell was in her own apartment in Rexburg when JJ and Tylee died in the apartment of Alex Cox in Rexburg. Vallow Daybell was in Hawaii when Tammy Daybell died at the home of Chad Daybell in Salem, Idaho.

Archibald read the charges to the courtroom again and reminded the jury that Chad Daybell and Alex Cox are not on trial. The charge is “did she assist, encourage, or command.”

Archibald explained to the jury that if, after considering evidence, or lack of evidence, “you have a reasonable doubt about Lori’s guilt, you must find her not guilty.”

Kay Woodcock testifies

Following the defense, Kay Woodcock was called to the stand as a witness.

Larry and Kay Woodcock are the grandparents of JJ Vallow, one of the two children Vallow Daybell is accused of killing.

Kay Woodcock was questioned by prosecutor, Rob Wood and identified the accused in the courtroom.

JJ was born under the name Cainan, and then his name was changed after he was adopted to Joshua Jackson Vallow. Woodcock said one condition of his adoption was that she and Larry Woodcock would maintain access and maintain their role as grandparents.

They saw JJ, “every chance they could.”

Kay Woodcock got along with Charles Vallow, her brother. And Vallow Daybell “was just a doll…when we saw each other it was like we hadn’t missed a day.”

Kay Woodcock said things began to change in 2019.

She said she went to visit JJ in Chandler, Arizona around Feb. 1 of that year because Charles Vallow had reached out saying he and his then wife had split up, and she was gone. During that time, Kay didn’t see Vallow Daybell at all. Vallow Daybell was gone for 58 days according to Kay.

“She never reached out to JJ, she never reached out to Charles,” Woodcock said from the witness stand.

She said by June, her brother was planning for divorce.

Kay Woodcock said after her brother’s death, she had contact with JJ on three occasions but said something “was off” about the calls. Usually JJ held the iPad or device in his own hands and would talk, while in these three calls, it was evident someone was holding it for him. Each of these calls was very short.

The last call was on Aug. 10, 2019.

“He again was not holding the iPad or the device and he just said ‘hi mama, hi papa,’ then he looked up at whoever was holding the device, and said, ‘gotta go,’ then that was it,” Kay said.

After that, they were unable to ever get in contact with JJ and never heard from Vallow Daybell, according to Woodcock.

Prosecutors shows a photo of JJ and Woodcock broke down into tears.

The prosecutor asked if Woodcock “concerned about the whereabouts of JJ?”

“Yes, because Lori didn’t want him anymore,” she said.

She was asked if anything happened that alerted her to Lori’s whereabouts.

Kay explained on Nov. 8, she noticed Charles’ gmail icon on the computer screen. She singed into the gmail account using a password she knew and found an email from Amazon confirming a delivery to Vallow Daybell’s apartment in Rexburg a few days prior.

“I was shocked at what I found,” she said.

The browsing history showed a beach wedding dress, a bathing suit, a men’s large linen top and pants, and malachite wedding rings – all dated Oct. 2, 2019.

“I had learned before that Tammy Daybell had passed away on Oct. 19, and this was her (Vallow Daybell) looking at wedding rings and wedding stuff,” KayvWoodcock said.

Defense attorney, John Thomas, asked why Woodcock didn’t want to adopt JJ.

“We really wanted to adopt JJ and we could have provided him a good home. But speaking with Charles and Lori, they just had.. their atmosphere was a lot more conducive to a baby,” she said. “He had issues…in Lake Charles, there were no special schools for children with disabilities and we knew that was going to be a concern at some point.”

Brandon Boudreaux testifies

Brandon Boudreaux is the ex-husband of Melani Boudreaux, now Melani Pawlowski, who is a niece of Vallow Daybell.

He was questioned by Rachel Smith for the prosecution.

Boudreaux said he got to know Charles and Lori “very well,” and “spent a lot of time together.”

Tears sprang up and Boudreaux choked up as he described the friendship between his oldest son, Braxton, and JJ.

“I think JJ looked up to him a lot and they spent a lot of time together,” Boudreaux said. “JJ wasn’t super interactive, he had autism, so he wasn’t always incredibly interactive but he seemed to love hanging out with my kids.”

Boudreaux knew Tylee as well. When she turned 8, she decided to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Charles wasn’t comfortable performing the baptism so Boudreaux said he was ask and honored to do it.

“I spent a lot of time with Tylee as well. I watched her grow up…I watched her grow into a teenager,” he said.

Brandon Boudreaux and his former wife, Melani Bourdreaux got along well with Chad and Vallow Daybell.

“Melani, she kind of had an affinity towards Lori. She looked at her less like an aunt figure and more like a mom figure,” Brandon Boudreaux said. “Charles and I both had a passion for sales in business. We both just loved our families so it was easy to spend time together.”

He said that relationship began to change in 2018.

“We just didn’t feel close,” he said.

Around this same time, Melani Boudreaux’s interest and dedication to her religion increased. Boudreaux called her beliefs, “extreme” and said they even had a disagreement at one point about buying thousands in food storage right away.

“It just kind of got more bizarre,” he said.

Over the next few months, Melani Boudreaux and Brandon Boudreaux fought over her new beliefs.

After a fight on June 25-26, Brandon Boudreaux talked to Charles.

“I kinda felt like he was the only person who knew what I was going through, because he had also gone through those things,” he said from the witness stand.

It was the last time the two spoke.

The Boudreaux began the divorce process in July.

Then, in October 2019, when Brandon Boudreaux arrived home — someone in a car in front of his house, shot at him.

At the time, he had only lived there a few days and only five people knew he lived there — his neighbors, and his estranged wife.

Brandon Bardeaux heard the bang and his window shattered at which point he pushed on the gas and drove around the corner while calling 911. Boudreaux met with law enforcement and a detective.

“As I was thinking about it, I realized Tylee had a jeep that Charles had bought her,” he said. 

After the shooting, Boudreaux began to dig for information. He remembered some things Charles Vallow had emailed him and found information on the religious “fireside” groups that would meet. Some info was from Chad Daybell so Boudreaux googled his name. That’s when he found an obituary for Tammy Daybell.

“It made me really nervous,” he said. “Because of how I was feeling, my nervousness, I reported it to law enforcement because in my gut something felt wrong.”

At the same time he began to look into the case of Tylee and JJ and realized no one had seen them.

A photo of Tylee was shown. Vallow Daybell looked up at the photo of Tylee and looked away.

Boudreaux still remembers the moment he heard JJ and Tylee were found.

“I was in my parents’ home in the garage,” he said twice for the court to hear him clearly, choked up up. “It was the day before my wedding.”

He went to Rexburg; he said he felt he needed to be with the Woodcocks. Because it was overwhelming for them to identify JJ, he volunteered to do and said he knew him well.

Defense attorney John Thomas cross examined Boudreaux.

Thomas asked about the shooting incident and how far his car was from the jeep when the shot went off.

Brandon Boudreaux said the car was parked approximately 20 to 30 feet away but said he is positive that the shot came from the Jeep, not a stray. He did not see a muzzle flash but did see a silencer.

“It’s not possible the shot came from somewhere else though,” Brandon Boudreaux said.

The trial will continue Tuesday.

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First two witnesses take stand and cry in Vallow murder trial: a recap