Chad and Lori Daybell used ‘castings’ to pray for spouses’ deaths, ex-friend testifies

Apr 18, 2024, 5:42 PM | Updated: Apr 23, 2024, 1:14 pm

BOISE — Melanie Gibb, the former best friend of Lori Vallow Daybell, testified Thursday about multiple disturbing conversations she had with Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell in the months before and during the murders of Vallow Daybell’s husband and children, and Daybell’s wife.

Those conversations included prayers for the deaths of their current spouses, lying about where Vallow Daybell’s missing children were, justifications for such lies, analyzing people as “dark” or “light” — including the children — descriptions of previous lives they claim they lived as biblical figures, and more.

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Gibb described the day Vallow Daybell met Daybell, a man she would marry just over a year later. “They seemed to be attracted to each other; that caught my attention,” she said.

Gibb said she can’t remember if she introduced then-Lori Vallow to Chad Daybell, or if Vallow Daybell introduced herself at a conference in St. George in 2018, but said they “communicated a lot” after that conference, and seemed to be attracted to each other.

Multiple lives and light and dark scale

Gibb said Vallow Daybell told her the two talked about “multiple lives” and described living many previous lives on Earth. Gibb testified that Vallow Daybell told her Daybell believed the two had been married to each other in a previous life.

The friend said Vallow Daybell told Gibb they would be married together again in this life. She also said Vallow Daybell felt it was her mission to gather women to the 144,000 — a number in the Bible representing people who would gather the righteous at the end of time — and Daybell himself shared this belief.

She said Vallow Daybell would seek advice from Daybell and then share the information he told her with Gibb and with others. She said Daybell would tell them whether certain people had lived previous lives or how “light” or “dark” those people were.

Gibb testified that there was a light and dark scale, and a person’s position on that scale was determined by contracts they had made before coming to Earth. Later, Vallow Daybell said a light person could become dark, and it wasn’t something set in stone.

Gibb said the first person who she was told went from light to dark was Charles Vallow, who was Vallow Daybell’s husband at the time. She said Daybell told Vallow Daybell her husband’s name was actually “Ned Schneider.”

She testified about “castings,” where the two would pray for an evil spirit to leave someone, including Charles Vallow. Gibb said if the casting was successful, either the person would die or a new spirit would enter their body. Gibb said although she understood a successful casting would cause a person to die, she did not have an understanding that there would be violence involved.

Gibb participated or was present for “castings” on Charles Vallow, Daybell’s wife Tammy Daybell, and Vallow Daybell’s nephew-in-law Brandon Boudreaux, but said she never participated in a casting for the children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan.

As Gibb talked about castings on the witness stand Thursday, Daybell sat in court and shook his head in a “no” motion to some of what she was recounting.

Gibb: Lori Daybell seemed ‘happy’ after husband’s death

Gibb said she had met Tylee, JJ, and Charles Vallow early in her friendship with Vallow Daybell. She said Tylee and her mother had a difficult relationship.

“They didn’t necessarily get along very well,” she said.

Gibb said she could tell that Vallow Daybell had an affectionate relationship with JJ, but he was autistic and “seemed to be very busy for her.”

Gibb testified about being woken up one day and told to leave Vallow Daybell’s home because Charles Vallow was coming home and Gibb was told that he was going to try to kill Vallow Daybell — but that Alex Cox, Vallow Daybell’s brother, would protect his sister.

About four days after Charles Vallow’s death, Gibb said Vallow Daybell told her that Cox had shot him in self-defense after he had threatened her.

She said Vallow Daybell showed no signs of sadness or grief about the death, saying she seemed “happy.”

Gibb said Cox told her a similar story about the shooting, and seemed “thoughtful” and “a little unsure of himself.”

While Charles Vallow was still living, Gibb said Vallow Daybell spoke with her about her love for Chad Daybell and said there was physical affection in their relationship and they had “missions” together. Gibb said Vallow Daybell would tell her she would ask Jesus how much physical affection was acceptable before meeting with Daybell in hotels.

Gibb testified that Vallow Daybell told her Daybell did not get a divorce because if he did, he would be “in trouble with Jesus” and would “lose his exaltation.” Charles Vallow, at the time, had started the process to divorce Vallow Daybell.

When Daybell visited after Charles Vallow’s death, Gibb said he and Vallow Daybell “seemed super excited to be together” and were “excited to share their future plans together,” although Daybell’s wife Tammy Daybell was still alive at the time.

Gibb listed multiple “positions” Vallow Daybell told her she had lived in previous lives that were related to people in scriptures, including once when she was Elena and was married to James, an apostle, who she said was Daybell.

She said Vallow Daybell moved to Idaho with her children because she wanted to be with Daybell and start their missions together.

Lori Daybell’s children ‘become dark’

Investigators believe JJ was killed during the night of Sept. 22 to Sept. 23, 2019. Gibb and her boyfriend were staying at Vallow Daybell’s Idaho townhome that night. During the visit, she said Chad and Lori “seemed to be a couple that was close,” and described hugging, singing and hand holding.

Gibb had been staying in Tylee’s room and said she was told that Tylee was staying with roommates at BYU-Idaho. She said there was no clothing in Tylee’s room, “just furniture.”

She said previously she was told Tylee was “dark,” and Vallow Daybell told her the day before she arrived that JJ had “become dark.” Gibb didn’t see any behaviors from JJ that caused her concern, but said Vallow Daybell seemed troubled about JJ.

“She said that he was acting out more,” Gibb recalled, of what she remembers Vallow Daybell telling her. “Acting like he was possessed.”

Gibb said Vallow Daybell wanted Kay Woodcock, JJ’s grandmother, to take over caring for him and mentioned various ideas to make that happen, like saying she had cancer.

Gibb said she was recording a podcast in Vallow Daybell’s house when Cox walked in the door with JJ asleep on his shoulder and then took him to bed. Gibb was in JJ’s bedroom that night, so JJ was sleeping in the room with his mother. She said that was the last time she saw JJ.

She said her boyfriend woke up that night in a panic after having a nightmare. Gibb said she and her boyfriend unsuccessfully tried calling the phones of both Vallow Daybell and Daybell and knocked on Vallow Daybell’s bedroom door, which Gibb said was locked.

After that night, Gibb said she was led to believe that JJ was with his grandparents.

In November 2019, she testified she received a call from Daybell who sounded “nervous.” She said he told her not to answer the phone from Rexburg police, who would ask her about JJ. When Vallow Daybell then called soon after, Gibb said she sounded “very positive and upbeat as if everyone was OK.”

She asked Gibb to go to a children’s movie and take a photo to show that the children were with her, and said she was protecting JJ from Woodcock and from law enforcement who Gibb said were considered “dark.”

At first, Gibb said she told police that she had been with JJ. Later, she admitted that he had never been with her.

‘I have done nothing wrong’

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Gibb said she asked Cox if he wanted to know where JJ was, and his response was, “No.”

A few weeks later on Dec. 8, 2019, Gibb called Daybell’s phone and spoke with the couple on speaker phone.

The phone call was played in court and admitted into evidence for jurors.

At first, the now newlywed couple sounded chipper answering the phone.

Gibb asks where they are and Daybell replies with a chuckle, “We’re just hanging out.” When Gibb asks if they’re in Idaho, Daybell again laughs while saying they’re not in Idaho.

The one of the phone call begins to shift as Gibb brings up how the couple asked her to lie to police, and her wondering where JJ really is.

Vallow Daybell answered Gibb about why they asked her to lie to police, saying, “I just needed to use… have somebody to that I wouldn’t have to tell them where he really is.”

Vallow Daybell claims she “had to move (JJ) somewhere else” because of Woodcock’s actions. Vallow Daybell is heard assuring Gibb that JJ was “safe and happy” and “perfectly fine,” and that she wasn’t telling anyone where he was.

“I don’t want anybody to know so that nobody has to be worried about it; I mean nobody has to be questioned about it so he can be safe,” Vallow Daybell said in the call.

Daybell and Vallow Daybell quoted scripture stories during the phone conversation, citing prophets who had been told to hide during dangerous circumstances.

“I promise you that I have done nothing wrong in this case, but sometimes you have to hide in a cavity of a rock for your own life safety, and that’s what the Lord requires of you sometimes. And that’s how it is, and I’m sorry that’s how it is because there’s a lot of darkness on the earth,” Vallow Daybell said.

Gibb told her friend that if she actually loved her, she would not have told police that she had JJ.

“That just makes me look weird, and it’s not safe for me,” Gibb said in the call.

Vallow Daybell responded that she was doing what she felt instructed by the Lord to do, and she told Gibb she believed she had been deceived, citing the deaths of both of their spouses.

“It gives me a gut feeling, like in my gut it feels weird — it doesn’t feel right. I don’t have peace about it,” Gibb said.

In response, Vallow Daybell told her she was influenced by something dark. Daybell also responded that Tammy Daybell was just sick, that her heart was failing and she wouldn’t go to a doctor.

“She just passed away, and that’s how it happened. … My kids were at the house within 20 minutes of her passing. … All these conspiracy theories just make me sick to my stomach, just absolutely sick,” Daybell said in the phone call.

He brings up how is sister-in-law is behind the suspicions that something else happened.

“I know Tammy’s on a special mission and she’s with my kids, she’s visited them. There’s so much, Melanie, you just have to have faith,” Daybell tells her. “And this is not some sort of master plan. There’s no way Lori and I could ever come up with this.”

During the playing of the phone call, most jurors were quickly taking notes, which for much of Gibb’s testimony. Some jurors raised their eyebrows and expressed visible facial reactions to what Daybell and Vallow Daybell said during the call, particularly when it came to what Vallow Daybell said about JJ being “safe.”

One juror cracked a smile when Gibb was heard on the call making a quip about Vallow Daybell’s affair.

‘If Chad is Satan, he sure is a good one.’

After listening to the phone call in court, Gibb said she never believed 100% what Daybell was saying. She said when she had asked Vallow Daybell earlier if she believed everything, Vallow Daybell’s response was, “If Chad is Satan, he sure is a good one.” Gibb said when she asked Cox, he said he believed everything.

During cross examination, defense attorney John Prior reminded Gibb that she previously said she didn’t remember all of the details in the case clearly and was unsure about when certain things happened.

He questioned whether her testimony Thursday was completely accurate.

The cross-examination became a tennis match of sorts as Prior fired off questions at Gibb, and she responded. At some points, Gibb was quick to point out Prior’s inaccuracies with his questioning.

The prosecution often objected to Prior’s approach; many times sustained by Judge Steven Boyce.

Prior asked Gibb if it was possible that Vallow Daybell was lying when she said Daybell was the one who was giving her information on the concepts of “light” and “dark,” and other beliefs. Gibb said that it was.

He addressed the recorded phone call, turning things back on Vallow Daybell.

“Lori Vallow’s comments were not, ‘We will,’ or, ‘They will.’ It was, ‘I will,’ in the singular. Do you recall that?” He asked Gibb, referring to Vallow Daybell talking about the whereabouts of JJ.

“It sounds familiar,” Gibb responded.

“Well do you need to listen to it again, or are you pretty clear?” Prior pressed.

Gibb said she did not need to listen to the recording again.

She is expected to return to the witness stand Friday morning to continue with cross-examination.

Chad Daybell is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of JJ, Tylee and Tammy Daybell. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft of JJ and Tylee, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder of Tammy, and two counts of insurance fraud on Tammy’s life insurance.

Lori Vallow Daybell was found guilty of her role in the three deaths in a trial last year and was given five sentences of life in prison without parole. If he is found guilty, Chad Daybell could potentially face the death penalty.

Contributing: Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV

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Chad and Lori Daybell used ‘castings’ to pray for spouses’ deaths, ex-friend testifies