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What's next for Lori Vallow Daybell? More murder charges, in Arizona

Lori Vallow Daybell was photographed on Tuesday as she was booked into the Pocatello Women's Correctional Center in Pocatello, Idaho. Prosecutors in Arizona are looking to bring her to that state to face more charges there.
Idaho Department of Correction
Lori Vallow Daybell was photographed on Tuesday as she was booked into the Pocatello Women's Correctional Center in Pocatello, Idaho. Prosecutors in Arizona are looking to bring her to that state to face more charges there.

Updated August 3, 2023 at 8:08 AM ET

An Idaho judge sentenced Lori Vallow Daybell to spend the rest of her life in prison for murdering two of her children, but she also faces two pending criminal cases. Prosecutors are working to extradite her to Arizona, where she has also been indicted on conspiracy murder charges related to her late husband's killing.

Vallow Daybell, 50, was sentenced to multiple life terms in prison with no possibility of parole after being found guilty of murdering her two youngest children and conspiring to murder a romantic rival. Authorities said the killings were part of an elaborate plan to start a new life with her fifth husband, Chad Daybell — a scheme that included killing Daybell's previous wife, Tammy Daybell.

Now that Vallow Daybell has received a sentence, prosecutors in Arizona want to bring her to their state. They want her to face murder conspiracy charges in her previous husband's death, as well as in an attempt on another relative's life.

The Arizona cases are the next twists in a convoluted crime saga, in which Vallow Daybell is said to have been motivated by beliefs about doomsday scenarios and zombies — and also by a desire to collect insurance payouts and benefit payments.

Here's where things stand now:

Vallow Daybell is under two indictments in Arizona

In Arizona, Maricopa County prosecutors accuse Vallow Daybell of conspiring with her brother, Alex Cox, to murder her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, so she could marry Daybell and obtain a payout from a $1 million life insurance policy.

Charles Vallow died on July 11, 2019. On that day, Cox called 911 and "reported that he had shot and killed his brother-in-law," the Maricopa County prosecutor's office said. Cox claimed he had acted in self-defense after an argument. Months earlier, Vallow had told police that his wife had threatened to kill him, describing her as increasingly unbalanced.

"I can murder you now, with my powers," she said, according to Vallow.

Vallow Daybell is also accused of conspiring with Cox in an attempt on the life of her niece's ex-husband, Brandon Boudreaux, who was shot at in the fall of 2019 but survived. At the time, the couple was going through a contentious divorce.

Based on the attack on Boudreaux, police in Gilbert, Ariz., recommended felony charges of attempted first-degree murder against Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell in 2021.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office started the extradition process for Vallow Daybell after her sentence in Idaho was handed down, the office told NPR on Wednesday.

"Once the paperwork for the governor's requisition has been filed with the Governor of Arizona, the process typically takes 90-120 days for extradition," the prosecutor's office said in an email.

Vallow Daybell's beliefs factored into her crimes

Vallow Daybell is currently residing at the Pocatello Women's Correctional Center. She was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in May, as a jury agreed with prosecutors who said she wanted to eliminate her youngest children as part of a plan to embark on a new life.

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were found to have invoked arcane religious theories, including the idea that they were exalted figures called "James and Elena" with a long spiritual history, in what prosecutors described as an elaborate scheme to justify their actions.

The pair also claimed Vallow Daybell's children were becoming "zombies," according to court documents.

In Idaho, jurors heard an audio recording, found on Vallow Daybell's iCloud account, of Daybell conferring a "patriarchal blessing" upon Alex Cox, although Daybell did not have the appropriate status to do that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the recording, Daybell said he had the authority to do so under the "Church of the Firstborn."

The recording was dated November 2019; Cox died a month later. A medical examiner concluded that he died of natural causes.

In November 2019, Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell held a wedding in Hawaii; prosecutors in Idaho noted that the ceremony took place days after Tammy Daybell died; weeks after Vallow Daybell's children, Tylee Ryan and Joshua Jaxon "JJ" Vallow, died; and months after Charles Vallow died.

Parts of the Arizona cases potentially got a preview in Idaho

Before he died, Charles Vallow altered his insurance policy to make his sister, not his wife, the beneficiary of his insurance policy — a change that evidently took his wife by surprise after his death.

During the murder trial in Idaho, Detective Nathan Duncan of the Chandler Police Department in Arizona read aloud a text message that Vallow Daybell sent to Daybell on July 18, 2019 — one week after Cox killed Charles Vallow in Arizona.

"I just got a letter from the insurance company that I am not the beneficiary. It's a spear thru my heart," Duncan said as he read the message from Vallow Daybell, according to East Idaho News.

Also testifying in Idaho was Boudreaux, who spoke about the day he was nearly killed.

As Boudreaux started to pull into his driveway, he said, he saw a gun with what looked to be a "silencer" on it emerge from the rear window of a Jeep Wrangler parked close by. He heard a sound, and his driver-side window shattered. Boudreaux sped off and called 911. He later came to believe the Jeep was the same one that Charles Vallow had purchased before his death, he said.

The trial also included Cox's widow, Zulema Pastenes, who testified that she asked her husband whether he had anything to do with Tammy Daybell's death or whether he knew where Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were, as East Idaho News reported.

"I think I'm being their fall guy," Cox reportedly said, but he refused to elaborate. He died the next day.

Pastenes' version of events could loom large in Arizona: In the Idaho trial, large portions of her personal journal were accepted as evidence.

This isn't Vallow Daybell's first extradition process

When Idaho authorities initially filed charges against Vallow Daybell in early 2020, she was living in Hawaii, where she and Chad Daybell had wed.

Those early charges included felony counts of child abandonment, as Vallow Daybell couldn't account for the whereabouts of her children.

In that instance, Vallow Daybell waived an extradition hearing, clearing the way for her return and eventual murder trial in Idaho.

The massive search for the missing children ended in June 2020, when their bodies were found in horrendous condition, buried on property in Rexburg, Idaho, that was owned by Chad Daybell.

Chad Daybell still faces murder charges in the three deaths in Idaho. His trial is slated to start in April 2024.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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