Analyst: Hair on duct tape matches Lori Vallow Daybell’s DNA

Posted at 2:02 PM, May 1, 2023 and last updated 7:37 PM, May 1, 2023


ADA COUNTY, Idaho (Court TV) – The third week in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell began with testimony that directly linked her to evidence found buried with her dead children on her husband’s property.

Lori is charged in the murders of her children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and accused of conspiring to kill her fifth husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.

Testimony began on Monday with brief testimony from a DNA analyst, who testified that she tested a hair attached to a piece of duct tape. The hair matched the DNA profile for Lori Vallow Daybell, and both Tylee Ryan and Melanie Gibb were excluded from being matches to the hair.

MORE: ID v. Lori Vallow Daybell: Daily Trial Updates

Rick Wright, a special investigator with the FBI, was next to take the stand. Wright became involved in the investigation on November 27, 2019, when JJ Vallow had been reported missing but his body had not yet been found. Wright testified that he collected information from devices associated with Alex Cox to map his movements.

Courtroom sketch of Keely Coleman and Rick Wright testifying.

Keely Coleman and Rick Wright testified in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell on May 1, 2023. (Sketch by Lisa Cheney)

Wright testified that he asked Ian Pawlowski, who married Lori Vallow Daybell’s niece, Melani, to record conversations he was party to that involved Melani, Lori, Alex and Chad.

Wright examined cellphone data for Alex Cox dating back to September 2019, and determined that the device was used to take a photograph of Tylee Ryan at Yellowstone National Park on September 8. The device was used again to take a photo of Tylee, JJ and Alex together at Yellowstone. That photo is the last known photo of Tylee while she was alive.

JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan

This photo provided by the FBI shows Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow. (FBI)

Wright testified that based on the photo and the data points available, they were confident that Tylee returned home that evening, but then had no further information indicating she was alive.

Data recovered from Alex’s phone showed that the device left the apartment complex where Lori and Alex lived on September 9 and traveled to Chad Daybell’s home in Rexburg. Similarly, on September 22 and 23, the device was allegedly at Lori’s home and Alex’s home before it traveled to Chad’s residence.

Wright testified that data points from the phone specifically place it on the Daybell property near the garage and near the pond, where JJ and Tylee’s remains were later found.

Wright also testified to data from a Jeep that belonged to Tylee Ryan, which prosecutors have argued was used in the attempted shooting of Brandon Boudreaux. When detectives searched the Jeep on December 19, they found receipts from a restaurant in Mesa, Arizona, from October 1, 2019. The attempted shooting was the morning of October 2, 2019, in Gilbert, Arizona.

On October 9, there was an attempted shooting at Chad Daybell’s residence and Tammy reported someone with a mask pointed a weapon at her as she was unloading groceries from the car. Wright testified that in September and October, data showed Alex visiting a number of gun ranges. Other receipts seized from the Jeep were for a ski mask and clothing.

Another receipt entered into evidence from the Jeep was dated October 18, 2019, from a Chick-fil-A in Idaho at 8:05 p.m. Prosecutors noted that Tammy Daybell passed away that night.

Location data from Alex’s phone indicated that on October 18, the device left his home and drove south to Idaho Falls where it stopped at the Chick-fil-A. The phone then continued north to Rexburg and on to the Daybell residence. The device then appears to go near an LDS chapel approximately 2.5 miles away from the Daybell residence and stays in the area for nearly an hour.

During cross-examination, Wright testified that Alex’s phone was at Chad’s house from 9:55-10:12 a.m. He testified that while that would likely not be enough time for one person to dig a grave, if more people or equipment was involved the job could have been done faster.

Sketch of Erik Christensen testifying

Dr. Erik Christensen testifies in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell on May 1, 2023. (Sketch by Lisa Cheney)

Dr. Erik Christensen, the pathologist who conducted Tammy Daybell’s autopsy, was the next witness to testify. Christensen testified that he examined Tammy on December 11. Christensen testified that Tammy’s cause of death was asphyxia. He testified that he did not see any external injuries that would have led to her death, and said that asphyxiation is a diagnosis of exclusion and applied when other causes of death have been ruled out.

Christensen testified that when he examined Tammy he saw bruising on her arms and chest, which he believed to be acute injuries inflicted at the time of her death. He said the injuries were consistent with asphyxia and someone being restrained.

On Friday, the deputy coroner and first responders testified that when they responded to the Daybell residence, they saw Tammy on the bed with what appeared to be pink foam coming from her mouth. On Monday, Christensen testified that the pink foam is leaked from capillaries in the lungs and is a manifestation of pulmonary edema. He specified that pulmonary edema is not in itself a cause of death, but rather a physical manifestation of an underlying pathologic process.

While Chad told first responders and investigators that Tammy had died and then fell to the ground at approximately 5:30 a.m., Christensen testified that because Tammy’s body was already described as stiff and cold when emergency crews arrived, her time of death was most likely one or two hours earlier.