Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
REXBURG — It has been five months since Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow vanished. Their mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, and her husband, Chad Daybell, have been in Hawaii living in a gated community, staying at different resorts and biking together around the island of Kauai.
Multiple sources tell EastIdahoNews.com the couple boarded a plane Sunday afternoon for Maui. It’s unknown how long they plan to stay or if they will return to Kauai but law enforcement in Idaho and Hawaii say they are aware of the Daybell’s location.
Frank Montoya worked for the FBI over 25 years and served in a variety of high-profile positions, including the head of national counterintelligence and as the special agent in charge of the Honolulu and Seattle divisions. Montoya oversaw counterintelligence squads and led several national security investigations but says he has never seen a case like this.
“This is pretty out there. This is strange and bizarre,” Montoya tells EastIdahoNews.com. “When you’re looking at the number of people who are dead that are associated with either individual at the center of this case, and when you consider the missing children and how long they’ve been gone, there’s something very suspicious about their behavior.”
Despite the unusual circumstances, Montoya says police and prosecutors are being careful in how they proceed. While arresting Chad and Lori Daybell may seem like an easy solution, it’s not that simple.
“The bottom line is what would be the crime? The children are missing but what does that mean? Where are they? If they’re in the care and custody of a family member or friend or somewhere else but they’re still alive, what are we looking at with potential crimes to charge these people with? Maybe child endangerment. Beyond that, at this point, I’m not sure,” Montoya says.
Lori Daybell was served with a child protection order on Jan. 25 stating she must produce JJ and Tylee to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare or Rexburg Police Department within five days. The notice stated that she could face civil or criminal contempt of court by failing to comply.
She never produced the children and the case is sealed, so it’s unknown what happened with the court order but Montoya says authorities could use Daybell’s non-compliance as leverage.
“There may very well be grounds to have her extradited back to Idaho to at least address the question as to where the children are,” he says. “But it’s all about patience. There are a lot of jurisdictions involved, there’s a lot of interest in law enforcement to resolve it and they’re going to be putting forth their best effort but patience for the public is key.”
Montoya finds it unusual that the Daybells are spending their time in “paradise” but is confident law enforcement officers are tracking their every move. The FBI is assisting with the case, meaning local police departments have access to the agency’s forensic evidence lab and behavioral science program.
While it may appear to the public that investigators aren’t doing anything, Montoya says a lot is happening behind the scenes and police are leaving “no stone unturned.”
“Your biggest fear as an investigator is when the lead well dries up. So keeping it high profile, using the media to promote the investigation, talking to a lot of different jurisdictions – they’re doing anything and everything they can do to uncover more leads,” he says.
Montoya says it’s important for the public to send in tips, even if they seem insignificant, and to trust the legal process. His experience shows that if the couple eventually decides to cooperate with law enforcement, it will likely be Chad who talks.
“I would note in cases like this that it’s the woman who is the hard nut to crack. The husband is usually the one who comes clean first,” Montoya says. “It’s frustrating the parents aren’t talking, it’s frustrating they’re having a grand old time in Hawaii but maybe at some point, their conscience finally gets to one of them.”