Judge refuses to lower $1 million bail for missing kids’ mom

Posted at 6:45 AM, May 4, 2020 and last updated 7:11 PM, May 18, 2023

By REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho judge has refused to lower the $1 million bail set for the mom of two kids missing since last fall.

Magistrate Judge Michelle Mallard said Friday that the challenges Lori Daybell may face in jail during the coronavirus pandemic are not any different than challenges faced by other defendants in other criminal cases, and that there was not a reason to lower her bail at this time.


Daybell was arrested in February and charged with abandoning 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, obstructing a police investigation and asking a friend to lie to authorities about the case.

Police say the kids were last seen in September and that both Daybell and her new husband, Chad Daybell, have lied to police about the children’s whereabouts.

The deaths of three people are also under investigation in connection with the case — Lori Daybell’s previous husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed by her brother, Alex Cox, who later died of unknown causes. And Chad Daybell’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell, died unexpectedly roughly two weeks before Chad married Lori.

Investigators have had Tammy Daybell’s remains exhumed, but the autopsy results have not yet been released.

Lori Daybell has not yet entered a plea in the case. But she and her attorney, Mark Means, have said in court they intend to vigorously defend Daybell against the charges.

On Friday, Means asked the court to lower Daybell’s bond because he said some of his conversations with Daybell that had been wrongly recorded by the jail, making it impossible for the pair to keep their communication confidential, as required under attorney-client privilege rules. He also said restrictions on visiting put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic made it unduly difficult for him to work with Daybell on her defense.

Lori Vallow appears in court for her second bond reduction hearing at the Madison County Magistrate Court on Friday, May 1, 2020.
(John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register)

But Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood said Means was told that he could ask jail staff to have the recording mechanism turned off if he needed to speak to Daybell confidentially, and that if the call was being recorded, a warning would be played at the start of it alerting the participants of the recording.

Wood said two calls were inadvertently recorded on March 31, but as soon as staffers realized it was a call between an attorney and a defendant they stopped the recording. Wood said both Means and Daybell heard the warning at the start of those calls and knew how to ask for non-recorded calls, but they declined to do so.

Daybell’s attorney said he feared additional calls may have been surreptitiously recorded, however, and said there was no way to ensure Daybell’s constitutional right to an adequate defense while she is in jail. Especially given the current economic downturn, a $1 million bond is impossible for most people to come up with, he said.

“A million dollars is the equivalent of holding without bail. What we’re thinking is in the ballpark of $150,000 to $200,000,” he said. “I think that puts enough skin in the game.”

The judge said a lowered bond wouldn’t be appropriate, and she noted Means didn’t produce any evidence that additional calls were recorded, just speculation.

“Let me be clear, because your gut reaction is not something I can take action on,” Mallard said. “I’ve heard nothing to indicate to me that Ms. Daybell is being treated differently than anyone else.”