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Lori Vallow Daybell sentenced to life in prison for the murders of her children

"The most unimaginable type of murder is having a mother murder her own children, and that's exactly what you did," Judge Boyce said.

ST ANTHONY, Idaho — Lori Vallow Daybell was sentenced to five life terms in prison without parole on Monday for the murders of her two children and conspiracy to murder her husband’s former wife.

Before Vallow was sentenced, she quoted a Bible verse about heavenly judgement. She then told the court that Jesus Christ is the only person who "knows what happened" and that Christ himself has visited her in spirit.

"I mourn with all of you who mourn my children, and Tammy. Jesus Christ knows the truth of what happened here. Jesus Christ knows that no one was murdered. Accidental deaths happen… Fatal side effects happen," Vallow said. 

“I know for a fact that my children are happy and busy in the spirit world… Because of my communications with my friend Tammy Daybell, I know she is happy and extremely busy.” 

Vallow was extremely religious, as shown during trial. Evidence was depicted describing her obsessiveness with archangels, prophecies, past lives and the second coming of Jesus Christ.

She added her children have spoken to her in spirit, telling her she "did nothing wrong." 

Vallow remained calm in her white and orange striped jumpsuit when she heard she will be spending the rest of her life in a cell.

Fremont County Judge Steven Boyce issued the sentence after considering his primary objective, the protection of society. He told Vallow, "It's unbelievable you have no criminal history, and yet, sit here convicted of the most serious criminal charges.”

Boyce said he understands she was a good mother, has never caused a problem in jail, and she "should be commended for that."

"I have found during my interactions with you... You've been respectful of the court."

But Boyce said having considered all of the evidence he has seen "it's been a difficult task." 

"The most unimaginable type of murder is having a mother murder her own children, and that's exactly what you did," Boyce said. "Despite the jury convicting you, you still sit here before the court today and say you didn't do it."

Boyce told Vallow she alienated her kids, moved them miles away to Rexburg "and brought them here to murder them" when any other person would have gladly taken her children, he said.

"I don't think you have any remorse... When you knew (the children) were dead... They were found burned, mutilated... Like animals," Boyce said. He said he is traumatized by the photos of Vallow's dead children, and he can't imagine how the law enforcement feel who had to see it in person.

"You took them away from this world. It is the most shocking thing I can imagine," Boyce said. "Even sitting here today, there is no remorse for what you did... You haven't said you're sorry... You may not believe to this day you've done anything wrong and think you're justified by your religious beliefs... But I don't believe a God in any religion would want what happened here to happen."

Vallow received fixed life for first-degree murder of her son, 7-year-old JJ Vallow; fixed life for the first-degree murder of her daughter, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan; fixed life for conspiracy to commit murder of her husband’s former wife, Tammy Daybell; and fixed life for two other conspiracies to murder charges in the deaths of her children.

All three died in 2019.

Multiple family members gave victim impact statements Monday morning, most speakers calling Vallow a murderer, a liar, cruel and heartless.

The courtroom was also not shy of crying – reporters, onlookers and even law enforcement officers that have seen the case through were wiping tears from their eyes in the gallery.

You can read all victim impact statements, as well as Lori Vallow's full final statement on KTVB.com.

Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood told the judge, “A defendant who is willing to murder her own children… Will murder anyone.” He asked for a sentence of life without parole – Vallow has shown no remorse, he said, and rehabilitation requires acceptance of responsibility. There is no evidence of that, Wood told Boyce.

Wood choked up as he spoke about Vallow's children, and how they could have lived an amazing life it wasn't ripped away. He asked the court to give Vallow a fixed life sentence with no possibility of parole.

“Our community was left reeling by these crimes,” Wood said. “The citizens of these counties don’t live these types of lives.”

The presentence investigation, an investigation to analyze a defendant’s background, is collected through records and interviews – Boyce said Vallow declined to participate in it. However, Wood reminded the court that the investigator said it was clear Vallow had a mental illness, but also was able to fabricate a story, steal social security payments, plan a secret wedding and lie – all while knowing her children were dead and buried in a backyard. Meaning, she still knew right from wrong.

But, Vallow's defense attorney John Thomas said she is merely misunderstood. 

He told Boyce during his sentence recommendation that Vallow may be the most hated woman in America -- "maybe even the world," he said, but it doesn't bring love or peace.

"So many victims in this case. So many lives have been touched in a negative way. There is devastation and destruction surrounding this case. My heart aches, as does the rest of my team. We ache with the victims in this case. There's a lot of hurt," he said. 

"Lori… If she could send a message… It would be one love... Her motto is, 'love is the key.'"

The death penalty was taken off the table for Vallow due to a discovery error before trial. Thomas said his team saved his client's life, and "that is a win."

Thomas asked Boyce to sentence Vallow to a term of life with parole availability after 20 years with a 14-year concurrent sentence for the grand theft charge.


Kay Woodcock, JJ Vallow’s grandmother, said so much of the trial was focused on her grandson’s death that she wanted to show “how he lived.” Kay and her husband Larry Woodcock mostly raised JJ Vallow until he was adopted by Lori Vallow.

Woodcock still has a “preemie” diaper she can hold in her hand; she told the court. When he grew up, He would ask his grandfather to pat his back until he fell asleep. He would make gumbo with his grandmother. He was so smart, Woodcock said. 

JJ Vallow would read pill bottles and try to pronounce the names of medication. He loved school. He loved singing, kisses and laughs.

But that was taken away when he was murdered in 2019, later found suffocated and buried in Lori Vallow’s husband’s backyard.

“She took all that away because she is a money hungry power mongering monster,” Woodcock said. “She has shown no grief for the lives she took or the pain she willingly caused."

"How dare she (Lori Vallow) take his energy… And turn it into a reason to further her murderous conspiracy," Woodcock said. "That same mother murdered that same child she expressed her deep appreciation for."

Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister, told Vallow during sentencing she will never be exalted; she will never see heaven. Tammy Daybell was killed in 2019 by suffocation, a medical examiner previously testified in Vallow’s trial. Prosecutors say Vallow and her boyfriend Chad Daybell, Tammy Daybell’s husband, conspired to kill her so the two could be together.

Gwilliam spoke directly to Vallow on Monday – “You are a liar, an adulteress and a murderer,” she said. “No angels are coming to rescue you.”

“Tammy was one thousand times the woman (Lori Vallow) will ever dream of being,” Gwilliam said. Vallow made no eye contact.

Vicki Hoban, Tammy Daybell’s aunt, sobbed as she spoke on the stand during her statement. The Daybell’s were robbed of her life and her soul, Hoban said. 

“She will never see another sunrise or a sunset. See her grandchildren stomp through a mud puddle. Not another birthday, Christmas, or the birth of a grandchild,” she told the court through tears. “For you to turn her home where she lived and slept into a cemetery… She would've been horrified to know what you have done.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Colby Ryan, Vallow’s only surviving son, submitted a statement to the court but was not present. His statement was read out loud by Wood.

“My children will never know their uncle or aunt or grandfather,” Ryan wrote. “This has affected me personally more than I could put into words. I’ve lost my entire family in life. I’ve watched everything crumble and be shredded to pieces. I’ve lost my sister, brother, father and mother.”

The judge said based on her psychological report, Vallow suffers from delusions, religious or otherwise, and some personality disorders with narcissistic features. 

Vallow was remanded into state custody. It is likely she will now be transferred to a state prison rather than a county jail.

Alexandra Duggan was reporting from inside the courtroom. Follow her on Twitter @dugganreports.

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