By LAUREN SILVER and COURT TV STAFF
BOISE, Idaho (Court TV) – The man who married Lori Vallow Daybell‘s niece testified on Thursday that he believes the defendant manipulated his wife.
Lori is charged with the murders of her two youngest children, Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, and conspiracy in the death of her husband’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell.
Thursday’s court proceedings began without the jury present, as the attorneys argued over recordings the prosecution wanted to admit as evidence. The recordings were made by Ian Pawlowski, who married Lori’s niece, Melani Boudreaux, on November 30, 2019. The recordings were made while Ian was working with the police and without the knowledge of Lori or others heard speaking.
The defense, in their objection to the recordings referred to Ian as a “snitch,” a term the prosecution objected to, saying that Ian had concerns for his safety when he assisted the police in their investigation into JJ and Tylee, who were missing at the time.
The judge ruled the recordings would constitute hearsay and did not allow them to be admitted into evidence.
Ian returned to the stand to continue his testimony from Wednesday and testified that he met his wife, Melani, in November and married her after dating for just 10 days. The two were married in Las Vegas after Ian asked Lori and Chad Daybell for Melani’s hand in marriage. Ian testified that he asked them for their blessing because Melani trusted them more than the rest of the family.
Ian testified that he worked with the FBI to record conversations with Melani, Lori, Chad and Alex Cox, among others, in an effort to get evidence and help find Tylee and JJ. In all, he recorded nine conversations, which included discussions where Ian tried to get a better picture of what Melani was understanding. He testified that at one point, Melani was sick and Lori said that she folded Satan up like a taco and was locking him in a box in Antarctica.
Ian testified that in the conversations he recorded, the group talked about spiritual attacks and said that “blessings were flying around like flies.” He described the blessings as ones of comfort, designed to remove dark weapons.
Ian testified to a conversation on December 12, 2019, the day that Alex Cox died. Ian said that Lori and Chad told Melani that day that she should go to a place of safety. Melani went to Ian’s apartment and the temple in Rexburg.
Describing the recorded conversations, Ian said the blessings were not being given in a dark way but that looking back at them now, “It feels a lot more like manipulation than it does true intent to help.” Ian said that he believed the group manipulated Melani during a dark time in her life, specifically telling her that members of law enforcement were dark beings and impeding a holy mission.
During cross-examination, Ian testified further about the alleged manipulation. “There’s reality then there’s the layers of spiritual explanations that were laid over reality.”
When asked about Alex Cox’s death, Ian testified that he did not think there was a spiritual attack to kill him.
Taylor Ballard, an insurance broker, was the next witness called to the stand. Ballard testified that Chad was his client and that they met on October 31, 2019, when Chad came to his office to ask about getting coverage. Chad told Taylor that he needed coverage because his wife had recently passed away, and said that he needed coverage for his children, Seth, Leah and Mark as well.
During their first meeting, Taylor said that Chad made a comment that his income would be lower in 2020 because he did not have his wife’s income. After looking into Medicaid, Chad did not qualify but did get a tax credit to assist in paying for his coverage.
Taylor testified that on November 21, 2019, Chad came into the office to talk about further options, at which point Chad said he only needed coverage for himself and Mark. Chad then asked how difficult it would be to add a wife to the policy if he got married. On March 20, Chad then asked Taylor about health coverage for his new wife. When Taylor asked when they got married, Chad told him their wedding date was November 5, 2019. When he was told that was outside of the 60-day window during which a change to insurance would have been allowed, Chad said that he needed to make the change because his wife was incarcerated and he was worried about something happening to her, but that she would get out of jail the following week.
Taylor informed Chad that the incarceration was a qualifying event that would allow for changes to the insurance policy.
When Taylor asked Chad about his wife, Chad said that she lived in Kauai and they planned to live there half the year. He described her as a widow who lived off her husband’s Social Security death benefits. Chad said that the woman’s name was Lori Ryan Daybell and that she had no children.
Angela Yancey, a school administrator who processed Tammy’s life insurance benefits was the next witness to take the stand. Tammy was hired by the school district in 2017, and at the time elected the minimum life insurance coverage of $10,000. Angela testified that on September 8, 2019, Tammy changed the policy with a form that was also signed by Chad, to elect spousal coverage. When Tammy made the change, she also elected the maximum benefit, which was five times her salary: $80,000. Additionally, she had a $50,000 policy from group life.
Angela testified that Tammy passed away over a weekend and Chad came into her office that Monday morning to process the life insurance claim. She testified that a spouse arriving that quickly was unusual, and when she explained that she needed a death certificate to file the claim, Chad told her that he had already ordered eight of them.
Chad was eventually paid $130,000.
The next witness called to testify was Detective Colin Nesbitt, who served papers to Lori in Hawaii and executed a search warrant at her home. Nesbitt said that the first time he made contact with Lori was January 25, 2020, when he assisted the Rexburg Police Department in serving a legal document. Nesbitt found Lori and Chad at the swimming pool of a condo.
Body camera video from the interaction was played for the jury. In the video, Lori is visible wearing a bathing suit and sunglasses, laying by the pool next to Chad. She can be seen reading the paper officers hand her, and when she was asked if she had any questions, Lori shrugged her shoulders.
Nesbitt testified that the legal papers he served were orders to produce JJ Vallow. The next day, Nesbitt said he returned to the property to execute a search warrant on Lori, Chad and their vehicle. The couple were found while driving to a Kauai beach resort. Lori was driving and Chad was a passenger.
Nesbitt said that when he searched the car he saw a credit card with the name “Tylee Ryan,” which stood out to him because that was one of the missing children officers were looking for. The jury was shown photos showing the card with Tylee’s name on it between the car’s seat and door. Another photo admitted into evidence showed an iPad with a case that said “JJ” in red letters. Another photo showed 14-15 copies of Leland Charles Vallow’s death certificate.
Officers said they found a number of documents in the car, including multiple copies of JJ’s birth certificate, social security cards for Tylee and JJ as well as a school district receipt for JJ.
Nesbitt said that when he searched the condo, there was no evidence children were there.
During cross-examination, Nesbitt said that he did not test hairs that were in the car to determine whether or not they belonged to Tylee. Officers also found cash in the car totaling $5,000-$5,500.
Detective Ryan Pillar, who investigated the attempted shooting of Brandon Boudreaux and conducted the welfare check on Tylee and JJ was the next witness to testify.
Pillar said he became involved in Brandon’s attempted shooting on October 2, 2019, when Brandon called 911 to report that he was shot at. When he responded to the scene, Pillar said there was a bullet hole in the top of Brandon’s driver’s-side door and his windshield was shattered.
Brandon told him that he left his home that morning with Melani, his wife at the time, and four children. When he returned home after taking the children to school and meeting with friends at the gym, he noticed a grey Jeep Wrangler.
When Pillar reviewed video footage from Ring doorbell cameras, he confirmed that a Jeep was idling in front of the Boudreaux’s residence for 1-1.5 hours. The Jeep was described as gray with a Texas license plate and no wheel on the back.
Pillar said the lack of a wheel on the back of the Jeep was significant because the presence of the wheel typically prevents the rear window of the Jeep from opening.
While investigating the shooting, Pillar said he learned that Brandon was in the process of divorcing his wife, Melani, and that Melani’s aunt Lori had a brother named Alex who had been involved in a homicide in Arizona – referencing the shooting death of Charles Vallow.
When Pillar looked into Charles’ death, he learned that Lori and her two children were present at the scene, as was a grey Jeep Wrangler with a Texas license plate.
Pillar testified that the interior of the Jeep tested positive for gunshot residue, indicating a weapon was fired inside of it.
As part of the investigation into the shooting, Pillar testified that officers found there was a life insurance policy on the Boudreaux that each and to sign to modify or nullify the policy. At the time, the policy was valid despite the couple’s pending divorce. If Brandon were to die, the policy would have paid out $200,000 or more.
Pillar testified that there were a series of Venmo transactions made between Melani, Chad, Tylee, Alex and Lori with substantial amounts exchanged that were referenced in texts.
Pillar testified that he was called to check the welfare of JJ and Tylee, and located the Jeep Wrangler in Rexburg, where they had confirmed that Alex, Melani and Lori were living. Officers were unsuccessful in locating the children but did see Alex, Chad and Lori.
It was during that welfare check that police were told that JJ was in the custody of Lori’s friend, Melanie Gibb. Officers set up pole cameras at Melanie Gibb’s residence as part of their investigation into the missing children, but nothing was seen. Pillar testified that there is no evidence Tylee and JJ were in Arizona.
Pillar said there is no evidence that Tylee ever enrolled in college or that she drove the Jeep after September 2019.