Widow describes fringe religious teachings from Chad and Lori Daybell surrounding 3 deaths

May 7, 2024, 3:56 PM | Updated: 6:48 pm

BOISE — One of the women who listened to what Chad Daybell taught to his followers testified in court Tuesday that he believed some people had been “exalted” and did not need to repent of any wrongdoing, including himself and Lori Vallow Daybell.

“Lori used to say all the time, ‘It doesn’t count for me’ or ‘It doesn’t count for you either.’ … She would do it in such a way where she would hit something and she would say, ‘Doesn’t count for me,'” Zulema Pastenes said.

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She said this concept of things not counting because Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were already righteous and exalted was brought up frequently — including when she asked Chad Daybell and Lori Daybell why they were acting like they were in a physical relationship right after Charles Vallow, then Lori Vallow’s husband, was killed and while Chad Daybell was still married to Tammy Daybell.

Pastenes, who was a close friend of Lori Daybell before marrying the woman’s brother, Alex Cox, about two weeks before he died, explained the light and dark scale of rating people, as well as other fringe religious beliefs she was taught by the couple. Previous witnesses have testified that Chad Daybell would label people light and dark, based on how much he believed a person had been taken over by evil.

Pastenes said Chad Daybell would teach a group of women about such concepts at Lori Daybell’s home.

Sister-in-law of Vallow Daybell recalls events leading up to deaths, disappearances


Chad Daybell is on trial for first-degree murder in the deaths of Lori Daybell’s children — 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan — and his former wife, Tammy Daybell. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder of each of the victims, grand theft, and two counts of insurance fraud.

Defense attorney John Prior has asked multiple witnesses during the trial about the “seven gatherers,” and each has said they are not familiar with the group. But Pastenes was able to offer an explanation when asked by prosecutor Lindsey Blake. Pastenes said it was a group of seven women, including herself and Lori Daybell, and they would get together to “share information.” They also had a shared email and would do “castings” together, sometimes virtually by Zoom.

“Castings,” according to previous testimony, meant prayers for an evil spirit to leave someone. One woman testified that if a casting was successful, either the person would die or a new spirit would enter their body.

Pastenes said the group would go to Lori Daybell for answers to their religious questions, most of which would come through Chad Daybell.

‘He was a zombie’

Pastenes also told the court she received multiple religious “blessings” from Chad Daybell, and they were different than what she was used to. During such blessings, he told her how special she was.

“It was almost as if Chad was looking into the future for me. … There was a lot of praise during the blessing,” she said about the first one she received.

She said the teachings from Chad and Lori Daybell evolved. She talked about diagrams for the teachings written on pages of her journal and on a receipt from a lunch with Lori Daybell. Pastenes said she was “somehow” open to Chad Daybell’s teaching — that a demon could occupy a body shortly before someone’s death, moving a person’s original spirit into limbo.

The first person this happened with, she testified, was Lori Daybell’s then-husband Charles Vallow. She said they performed multiple “castings” on Vallow that were successful and the demon left, according to Chad Daybell. But then he told the group that a third demon had taken over Charles Vallow’s body, which was a more powerful demon and they were not able to cast that demon out.

She testified about going over to Lori Daybell’s home the day after Cox shot and killed Charles Vallow. She was told that Lori Daybell and her husband had been arguing over his phone when Tylee brought a bat in, and Charles Vallow took the bat and hit Cox on the back of the head before Cox pulled out a gun and shot him.

Pastenes testified that Lori Daybell did not seem sad about the death, but “quiet, perhaps a little somber.” She said Cox seemed “normal,” and when she asked him if he was OK, Cox asked her why. She said to him, “Because you shot somebody.” She said her husband responded: “He was a zombie.”

She said Cox told her that if he ever became a zombie, to “just shoot me in the face.” Pastenes said Cox “100% believed” what Chad Daybell was teaching.

She said Chad Daybell taught that a person’s spirit would start at a “1” rating on the light and dark scale before coming to the world, and when they came to the world for the first time, they would have a “2” rating. Pastenes said she was told her “4.2 rating” meant she had come to the earth before and had been “exalted.”

Pastenes said, initially, Chad Daybell said Cox was a “first creation,” meaning this was his first time in the world, so he had a lower light rating, around a 2. But later “they found out Alex … had been exalted in other worlds before” and his “spiritual standing had changed.”

Pastenes was told a casting caused Tammy Daybell’s death

Printed sheets of paper with ratings from Chad Daybell’s computer were shown to the jury Tuesday that depicted family members of both Chad and Lori Daybell.

“All of Chad’s family was light, and it seems like so many of Lori’s family was dark,” Pastenes said.

She said Chad Daybell told them he had access to the “book of life” and could read about anyone’s past, present or future.

Eventually, Pastenes said Tammy Daybell was rated as “dark.” She said she was told that Tammy Daybell had been “possessed by a demon and … that she had also become a zombie.”

Pasetnes said she participated in a casting for Tammy Daybell on Oct. 9, 2019, and later realized that was the same day that a man confronted Tammy Daybell in her driveway and pointed a gun at her.

After the casting that night, which she said was unsuccessful, she said Lori Daybell was on the phone with someone and was “extremely angry” and “irate” and was calling the person names, and said, “Idiot can’t do anything by himself.”

“I had never seen her that upset … scary angry,” Pastenes said.

Tammy Daybell died shortly thereafter, and Pastenes said Lori Daybell told her Chad Daybell had received “new information” from angels that taught them how to make a casting successful. She was told that Tammy Daybell died because they had used this new method to successfully cast out the evil spirit.

She said they understood that if a casting was successful, the body would die.

Tylee ‘had to be free’

Pastenes testified that in August 2019, Chad Daybell told her JJ was going to die young and “that he was probably going to die soon and that he was going to come right back to Earth as Colby (Ryan)’s son.” Ryan is the older son of Lori Daybell.

Before Lori Daybell moved with her children to Rexburg, she indicated to Pastenes that Tylee was possessed by a dark spirit. Pastenes visited Rexburg and stayed in Cox’s home in mid-September 2019 and asked Lori Daybell where Tylee was.

“She said, ‘Um well, she had to be free,’ meaning Tylee had to be free. And when I went to ask her to explain what that meant … she put her hand against my face and said, ‘Don’t ask,'” Pastenes testified.

She said she never received another explanation for where Tylee was. During the same trip, Pastenes said she was told JJ was “being attacked by dark spirits,” but that the spirits could not get to him and, instead, got to his dog. She said Melanie Gibb — who at the time was Lori Daybell’s best friend — visited Rexburg shortly after her and told Pastenes that JJ had become a zombie.

Investigators believe Tylee and JJ were both killed in September 2019, and JJ was killed the weekend that Gibb visited Rexburg.

Pastenes said Chad and Lori Daybell were not around when she became engaged to Cox on Nov. 7, 2019, and she did not know where they were. She said she later received photos of them getting married in Hawaii around that time.

She said when she saw them on a layover in Arizona after their wedding, and drove them to the airport, they were “acting like newlyweds” and could not keep their hands away from each other. She said they were giggly and happy.

“I asked if they were in Hawaii, where was JJ at? And she told me that she had given JJ to Kay (Woodcock) to take care of him,” Pastenes testified.

‘I think I’m going to be their fall guy’

Shortly after their wedding, Pastenes testified that Cox stopped hearing from Chad and Lori Daybell and they did not answer his texts or calls. She said Cox told her, “Can you believe that they’re being such jerks … after I helped them? Now, they don’t even want to talk to me.”

Pastenes testified that on Dec. 7, 2019, Cox felt fine in the morning but was sick by the evening. On Dec. 11, 2019, he received a call from Chad and Lori Daybell saying that Tammy Daybell’s body was going to be exhumed.

She said this seemed strange so she asked Cox if he was tied to what happened to Tammy Daybell. She said he told her he was not, but she noticed a marked change in his demeanor after the phone call.

“I think I’m going to be their fall guy,” Pastenes said her then-husband told her.

She said she was frustrated because he would not give her any clarification for that comment. Eventually, Pastenes said he told her “Zulema, either I am a man of God or I am not.”

Cox died one day later — on Dec. 12, 2019 — of what police determined to be natural causes.

The children’s autopsies

Larry Woodcock, JJ’s grandfather, dried his eyes as he listened to Dr. Garth Warren describe JJ’s body being brought into the coroner’s office for an autopsy. He left the courtroom shortly before court adjourned for the day.

Warren, a forensic pathologist with Ada County, testified that JJ’s cause of death was asphyxia from having his mouth duct taped and a plastic bag over his head.

He said the boy was wearing red pajamas, a disposable diaper and black socks, and his skin was decomposing. He said his organs were “remarkably intact” and there was no evidence of natural diseases.

While JJ’s autopsy lasted about four hours, Warren said Tylee’s autopsy took about a week.

He said her body was brought in for the autopsy “in multiple bags” and there was a combination of bones, tissue, organs, mud and other debris.

Warren said her official cause of death is “homicide by unspecified means” and that her body was dismembered and set on fire.

He said they found she had a history of some medical issues, but he does not believe any of them contributed to her death.

Warren will be back on the stand Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. MDT. is streaming the trial each day.

Daniel Woodruff contributed to this story.

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Widow describes fringe religious teachings from Chad and Lori Daybell surrounding 3 deaths