Lori Vallow, the Idaho mother convicted in May of the shocking murders of her 7-year-old son “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan, will spend the rest of her life in prison, with no possibility of parole, a judge ruled Monday.
All told, Vallow received five life sentences — including one for conspiring to murder her husband Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell — and 10 additional years for grand theft. The death penalty had been ruled out by the court in March, prior to her trial.
Handing down the sentence, Judge Steven Boyce condemned Vallow for her apparent lack of remorse, according to Nate Eaton of East Idaho News, noting, “I don’t believe a God in any religion would want to have […] what happened here.” During the trial, a jury heard how Vallow’s extremist religious ideas — which led her to regard her own children as “zombies” — served as a pretext for killing them. Prosecutors said she was influenced by Daybell, an author of Mormon-themed apocalyptic fiction she met through connections in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Entering into a relationship, the pair came to believe they had been together in a past life and shared spiritual powers.
Reporter Leah Sottile, whose book When the Moon Turns to Blood delves into the bizarre fundamentalism that led to the murders, noted that while Vallow has not spoken in previous court appearances, she used this occasion to insist again that she can speak to the dead — including her children. She reportedly told the court that Tylee and JJ had visited her and absolved her of wrongdoing.
Although he declined to deliver comments in person, Vallow’s surviving 27-year-old son, Colby Ryan, had an impact statement read in court by a representative at the sentencing hearing.
“This has affected me personally more than I can ever possibly put into words,” it said in part. “I’ve lost my entire family in life. I lost the opportunity to share life with the people I love the most. I’ve watched everything crumble and be shredded to pieces.” Ryan gave testimony during the trial, and prosecutors introduced as evidence a recording of a dramatic phone call between him and his mother in jail after JJ’s and Tylee’s remains had been found on Chad Daybell’s property in Rexburg, Idaho. The pair had been missing for months by that point. “You ripped my heart out,” Ryan told Vallow on that call.
Similar to when she heard the verdicts in her case — guilty on all counts — Vallow apparently displayed no emotion as she learned she would never walk free again, Eaton reported from the St. Anthony, Idaho courthouse on Monday. It is unclear whether she intends to appeal the sentence.
Daybell, whose charges were separated from Vallow’s, continues to await his own trial, currently scheduled to begin in Boise on April 1, 2024. Boyce will also serve as the judge in those proceedings. Daybell faces three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for JJ, Tylee, and Tammy. He still has the option to plead guilty. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.