Forensic pathologist identifies cause of death for JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan

Posted at 2:53 PM, April 26, 2023 and last updated 4:41 PM, January 23, 2024

***Warning: This story contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some readers.***

ADA COUNTY, Idaho (Court TV) – The discovery of the remains of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan on Chad Daybell’s property remains a focus as testimony resumed Wednesday in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell.

Lori is charged with killing her two youngest children, Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, and conspiring to kill her husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.

courtroom sketch of steve daniels on the witness stand

FBI special agent Steve Daniels testified about the burial site investigators found on Chad Daybell’s property. (4/25/23)

Wednesday’s testimony began with FBI special agent Steve Daniels returning to the stand. Daniels was the senior team leader for the evidence response team and was at Chad Daybell’s property when the remains of JJ and Tylee were found.

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Daniels says the rocks found at the burial sites were laid out precisely, possibly to prevent wildlife or neighbors from finding the remains.

Agents found what was later identified as JJ’s remains wrapped in white and black plastic, as well as duct tape, at what Daniels deemed the first burial site. After finding JJ’s remains, Daniels said the team expanded the search area on the assumption that Tylee’s body would be nearby.

Daniels testified that when they found Tylee’s remains, agents initially were unable to identify them as human due to the extent of burning and charring. Daniels described Tylee’s remains to appear like crumbly cement and melted together.

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Forensic pathologist Dr. Garth Warren, who performed JJ’s autopsy, took the stand. Warren determined that JJ’s cause of death was asphyxia, and he said JJ was killed with a plastic bag over his head and duct tape over his mouth. Dr. Warren described a white plastic bag as having been wrapped around JJ’s face multiple times, with duct tape all the way down to his neck.

JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan

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

Warren testified that JJ had been bound, saying his forearms, hands and ankles had been bound with duct tape. JJ was found wearing red pajama tops and bottoms and black socks.

In addition to evidence that JJ was bound, Warren testified that JJ may have been scratching to get the bag off of his head, due to scratch abrasions that appeared on the left side of his neck.

Jurors were shown autopsy photos, where a strip of duct tape was visible covering JJ’s mouth across his entire jawline. Duct tape was also visible wrapped around each of his wrists, which were laid on top of one another. Another photo showed what appeared to be bruising on JJ’s arm. Warren testified that the bruising was done before JJ’s death.

Warren also conducted the autopsy on Tylee’s remains and testified that her remains were contained in three separate sealed bags. Warren said the autopsy for Tylee took much longer than normal because he needed to sift through the remains to identify bones and tissue.

Warren told the court he spent approximately 4 hours performing JJ’s autopsy, while Tylee’s took about a week.

Courtroom sketch of Dr. Garth Warren testifying in court

Dr. Garth Warren testified in court on April 26, 2023. (Sketch by Lisa Cheney)

Tylee had been dismembered, and Warren said he was able to identify the heart, both lungs, one kidney, portions of the bowel and liver as well as small fragments of brain matter. Warren was unable to determine Tylee’s cause of death, which was formally listed as homicide by unspecified means.

Warren testified that Tylee’s remains were difficult to identify and that many of the organs had been charred and burned to the point they were falling apart.

During cross-examination, Warren testified that he concluded that JJ was smothered with a plastic bag because he was found with a bag over his head, duct-taped tightly, with evidence of a struggle, and no other explanation for why he died.

Dr. Angie Christensen, a forensic anthropologist who examined Tylee’s remains, was the next witness called to the stand. She testified that she saw evidence of thermal damage and saw damage to some of Tylee’s bones. On the left and right hip bones as well as the sacrum, Christensen said she noted sharp trauma, likely caused by something with a beveled edge or point.

Christensen said that the trauma is not typical of dismemberment, because the marks do not appear near joints, rather only in the pelvic region. She also said sharp trauma to Tylee’s pubis, below her bellybutton, was inconsistent with dismemberment.