By: Christine Coates
The first witness to testify today in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell was Rexburg police detective Ray Hermosillo. Hermosillo is a 22-year veteran of the department and has been a detective for four years. Hermosillo had been contacted by Kay Woodcock to conduct a welfare check on JJ on November 26, 2019.
The prosecution asked many questions relating to his initial visit to the apartments in Rexburg and contact with Alex Cox and Chad Daybell. Cox first told the detective that JJ was with his grandmother, Kay Woodcock, in Louisiana. Cox also told the detective they didn’t have Lori’s phone number, and Chad attempted to leave.
The detective stopped Chad and asked him when was the last time he had seen JJ, he responded in October in apartment 107. He claimed to have only met Lori a few times, though the detective knew he and Lori had been married in Hawaii two weeks earlier.
Detectives also called Melanie Gibb, a friend of Lori Vallow Daybell, in Arizona to check if JJ was with her. She said he was not.
Although Lori was not present, they eventually got in touch with her via phone and were granted entry into the apartment to search for JJ.
The next day, the police obtained search warrants for three apartments to be searched. Apartment 175 – Lori’s apartment, Apartment 174 – the apartment of Melani Boudreaux, Lori’s niece, and Apartment 107.
Hermosillo testified that he found it odd that there were empty hangers in the apartment, and Cox’s belongings inclusive of a valid passport were in a tub.
Photographs of items found in the apartment searches were entered into evidence. They showed several kids’ toys, believed to belong to JJ. They also found Army-style knives and ammunition. They found several rifles, two silencers, and a handgun. They found two Haz-mat-typeArmy-type-mat type suits and a Ghilli (camouflage) suit, and a plastic bag that contained duct tape and rope with a Halloween mask on the top. Apartment 107, the location where Chad Daybell had claimed to have last seen JJ, was completely vacant.
As the investigation continued, another search warrant was obtained for the storage unit rented by Lori. Inside they found many kids’ items, books written by Chad Daybell, along with many documents and e-mails.
Hermosillo testified that the Rexburg Police Department contacted the FBI trying to locate Lori and Chad. He stated that Lori’s and Chad’s cell phones had been turned off and they were not able to locate them. The detective also states that Lori Vallow had not contacted police about her children missing.
Police had also contacted Colby Ryan, Lori Vallow Daybell’s son, who told them he had not spoken with his sister, Tylee Ryan, for some time. The search was then expanded to include finding Tylee as well as JJ.
In December, the police set up a tipline and issued a news release about the missing children.
Cell phone data and tips to a hotline enabled police to locate Chad and Lori in Kauai. Hermosillo went to Kauai to assist in for issuing a court order and search warrant for the Daybell’s rental vehicle and condo in late January 2020. Upon searching, there was no evidence that any children had been living there.
The detective testified that the last proof of life they had for Tylee Ryan was a photograph taken in Yellowstone on Sept 8, 2019. The last proof of life they had for JJ was a photograph taken of him on a couch in Lori’s apartment on Sept. 22, 2019.
After a short recess, prosecutors picked back up showing photographs of the vehicle believed to be involved in the shooting of Lori’s nephew (by marriage), Brandon Boudreaux and admitted them into evidence.
Testimony resumed surrounding the events of June 9, 2020, when detectives and the FBI delivered a search warrant for Chad Daybell’s property. Hermosillo testified that Chad Daybell while sitting in his vehicle, he was looking at a specific area on the property toward a tree, a pond, and a fire pit. Investigators began searching the area. Photos of the area were admitted into evidence.
Particular attention was paid to an area where the grass was different levels. That spot was excavated and exposed three large white rocks and what looked to be a black, round object starting to come through the dirt. Further digging revealed a small decomposing body wrapped in plastic.
During the time police were digging, Chad Daybell had been seated in his vehicle. Upon police uncovering the body, they observed Chad leaving his daughter’s house across the street “at a high rate of speed”. Officers followed him and he was taken into custody.
The body found in plastic was transported to the local morgue.
Further investigation of the area disclosed what appeared to be burnt flesh and recovered bits of bones and flesh in what was believed to be the remains of Tylee Ryan.
Investigators secured the scene overnight and continued digging the following day. They uncovered and collected more body parts and they were taken to the morgue.
The remains of both bodies were then transferred to the Ada County Coroners’ office.
Photos of the area and discoveries were submitted into evidence, with warning of their gruesome nature.
Kay Woodcock did not attend this morning’s proceedings.
Upon returning to the courtroom after the lunch break, Lori Vallow Daybell was visibly upset and her attorney’s were asking for some extra time with her, they retreated to the hallway.
The prosecution team and the Judge joined them in the hallway.
Another recess has been called, court to resume at 1:35p.
After a one-hour delay, Lori Vallow Daybell has requested to be dismissed from the courtroom for the remainder of the afternoon, as she appears visibly upset about the impending graphic evidence that will be shown.
The state argues that the State of Idaho deserves her presence. Prosecution says if Lori is allowed to leave, the state would be allowed to comment to the jury during closing arguments that she was not present during this portion of the trial.
The judge cites Idaho Criminal Rule 43 saying presence is required at defendant’s trial during every stage but part of the law says the defendant can waive their right under certain circumstances.
The judge denies her request and orders that Lori stays in the courtroom.
Upon resuming the afternoon session, Detective Hermosillo is back on the stand.
The prosecution admits documentation provided by Hermosillo including photos and names of key figures in the case and another showing key timeline dates, including Charles’ death, the date Brandon Boudreaux was shot at, and date of Tammy’s death.
The prosecution continued to admit more photographs of property and areas where the remains of Tylee and JJ were found. Hermosillo confirms these were the areas he saw on June 9-10, 2020.
They continued to admit graphic photographs into evidence of the buried and charred remains found on Chad Daybell’s property. Lori Vallow Daybell kept her head down and would not look at the photographs as the detective verified what was discovered.
Hermosillo testified about what he observed at the coroners’ office, identifying a little boy in red pajamas with his face, hands, and feet duct taped and bound as JJ Vallow. Larry Woodcock, JJ’s grandfather, was bent over crying during the detective’s testimony.
Ada County officials determined there was not much to ID with Tylee’s remains.
The prosecution has completed their questioning for Hermosillo. The Judge gives a 15 min. break “due to the evidence just published”.
Court resumes and the defense begins cross-examination of Det. Hermosillo.
The defense is asking questions about the timeline, including contact between Arizona police and the Fremont County Sheriff’s office. They are curious as to the intermittent surveillance that was conducted on Lori and Chad Daybell. Hermosillo confirms almost 15 hours over two weeks in November 2019, during which time they only were in front of Lori’s home and only saw Chad and Lori at the apartment on Nov. 1.
Hermosillo states they were originally there to confirm information about the Jeep suspected to be used in the shooting attempt on Brandon Boudreaux, and only learned of JJ on Nov. 18. When officers determined JJ was not with Melanie Gibb, as told by Lori Vallow Daybell, they applied for a search warrant.
In reviewing the items found in the searches, the defense asked if the detective assumed the firearms were owned by Lori. The detective responded that he did not.
Hermosillo testified that he was aware of Lori Vallow Daybell being in Hawaii on Oct. 19, the day of Tammy Daybell’s (Chad’s former wife) death.
Questioning then pivoted to June 9, 2020, the day the FBI and police searched the Daybell property. Hermosillo testified the date had been planned weeks in advance. He also stated that Boise City Police were set up on the highway in eastern Idaho that day “in case somebody needed to be followed.”
As questions began about the physical property and search, Judge Boyce reminded the defense that it was 3:30pm and court was adjourned for the day.
The defense will resume cross-examination of Hermosillo tomorrow morning.
This story was originally published April 11 by KIVI in Boise, an E.W. Scripps Company.