Autopsies offer clues about killing, burial of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow

Apr 26, 2023, 5:23 PM | Updated: 5:55 pm

JJ Vallow sits in Tylee Ryan's lap...

Murder victims JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan. (Family photo)

(Family photo)

Editor’s note: this story contains graphic descriptions of autopsies and killing. Read at your discretion.

BOISE, Idaho — Jurors heard more testimony in the murder trial of Lori Vallow Daybell on Wednesday, focused on the autopsy results for victims JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.

Observers said a larger than usual crowd filled the courtroom on Wednesday — most of them women and several of them who seemed to be true crime fans. Some family made their way into the courtroom too, but Kay and Larry Woodcock, JJ’s grandparents, didn’t sit in until after the court’s lunch break.

Vallow Daybell is charged with the murders of her two children, Tylee and JJ. She faces an additional charge of conspiring to murder her husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Vallow Daybell, who married Chad Daybell weeks after Tammy’s death, pleaded not guilty to her charges.

Chad Daybell arrested after human remains found on property, police say

In total Vallow Daybell faces charges of:

  • First-degree murder for the death of Tylee Ryan.
  • First-degree murder for the death of J.J. Vallow.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception for the death of Tylee Ryan.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception for the death of J.J. Vallow.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the death of Tammy Daybell.
  • Grand theft, related to Social Security survivor benefits for JJ and Tylee

Coroner: JJ Vallow was killed by asphyxiation

Finding JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan’s remains

Wednesday’s testimony opened with FBI special agent Steve Daniels, as he took the stand for the second day in a row.

On Tuesday, Daniels took the jury through a detailed story of how investigators found Tylee’s body buried on Chad Daybell‘s property. An attentive jury heard about the gruesome state Tylee’s remains were found in and the discovery of JJ’s burial site.

Unlike Tylee, JJ was found bound and covered. Jurors saw photos from the burial site showing his small body wrapped in plastic and duct tape.

JJ’s autopsy and cause of death

Next, testimony from a forensic pathologist, Dr. Garth Warren, revealed that 7-year-old JJ died of asphyxiation caused by a plastic bag taped over his head.

He was bound with duct tape and had layers of plastic covering the red pajamas he was wearing. Bruises and scrapes laid beneath duct tape on his mouth, neck and arms. The bruising on JJ’s arms happened before his death, Warren said.

Jury hears of disturbing moment police discovered Tylee and JJ’s remains

At one point during cross-examination, defense attorney John Thomas questioned Warren’s findings on JJ’s cause of death. Thomas pointed to the fact that Warren found no microplastics inside JJ’s nose.

“He was found with a plastic bag over his head, it was tight and there were signs of a struggle,” Warren responded. He said deaths like JJ’s don’t usually require testing inside the victim’s nose.

Following Warren’s testimony, the prosecution gave jurors and the defense photos from JJ’s autopsy.

Tylee’s autopsy and cause of death

During testimony, Warren stated Tylee’s cause of death was “homicide” but the manner of her death was “by unspecified means.”

From the autopsy Warren said he wasn’t able to pinpoint how it was done. It was here that Kay and Larry Woodcock stepped into the courtroom for the first time on Wednesday.

Coroner could not pinpoint manner of Tylee Ryan’s killing from destroyed remains

Warren said Tylee’s autopsy was very differently than JJ’s because of the state her remains were in. As the prosecution showed photos and Warren described Tylee’s remains, Larry Woodcock rocked gently back and forth on his seat.

Tylee’s body had been so damaged from burning and dismemberment that her remains were visually unidentifiable.

A deeper dive

The state next called Dr. Angi Christensen, a forensic anthropologist with the FBI. Her job, she explained, is to take a closer look at bones and remains.

Investigators gave Christensen about 100 to 150 bones from Tylee’s remains. Burn marks showed up on several. On others, something sharp marked them.

Christensen’s testimony ended with a CT scan of a sharp trauma mark. Testimony continues Thursday.

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Autopsies offer clues about killing, burial of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow