Editor’s note: This article is the first in a 3-part series based on interviews EastIdahoNews.com conducted with Melanie Gibb about the disappearance of Tylee Ryan and Joshua "JJ" Vallow. Be sure to read part 2 and part 3.
REXBURG, Idaho — Melanie Gibb likely knows more about Chad and Lori Daybell’s relationship than anyone else. She was Lori’s best friend, attended conferences where Chad spoke and was with them the moment they met. She saw the pair’s friendship quickly turn into something more and says Lori confided intimate details about the couple’s activities, beliefs and future together.
Gibb is an extremely private person who has been in hiding since December. That’s when police announced Lori’s children, 8-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, were missing. Their mother has refused to say where they are and is in the Madison County Jail on two charges of desertion and nonsupport of a dependent child.
After remaining silent for five months, Gibb is speaking exclusively with EastIdahoNews.com about the case, what she knows, where she believes JJ and Tylee are and how she got “sucked in” to Chad and Lori’s religious circle.
East Idaho News spent several hours with Gibb in an undisclosed location and separated their interview into three parts that will be posted Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Why Gibb is speaking out now
Gibb says she has been silent for one reason: fear. Fear for her safety, fear for what will be reported in the media, fear for her family and fear that something could happen to her.
“When you realize the people that you know and you’re close to and love have been involved in something that has to do with people dying, you start to think, ‘Oh my gosh, are they going to come after me?'” Gibb says. “Everything closes in, and you start to think about your own safety … (and) what really happened, and could this really be true?”
Gibb has spent this year facing her fears and is coming forward on behalf of the “innocent victims” affected by the actions of Lori and Chad.
“I think it’s fair to Charles and JJ and Tammy and Tylee that somebody is standing up for what happened to them. I do care for them and the families that are involved,” Gibb says. “I decided that the truth was more important than what I wanted. My goal is to speak to the things that have gone on and to those who have believed Chad and Lori’s story.”
Gibb has been working with police since November, regularly speaks with investigators and does not have an attorney. She says she does not need one because she is telling the truth, and “God is on my side.”
Meeting Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow
Gibb first met Chad Daybell a few years ago at a religious conference in northern Utah. He was speaking about his dreams, visions and the last days. The self-published author had written several books, and Gibb was familiar with his work.
“I wanted to meet him because I thought his dreams were interesting, and when I met him, I thought he was a really nice guy,” Gibb recalls.
In October 2018, Gibb was teaching an evening class at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building in Gilbert, Arizona. Lori Vallow was there, and the two did not know each other.
“She was very excited to hear the things I was teaching, so when I went out to the hallway, she came up to me and introduced herself,” Gibb says. “She told me about a lot of personal experiences she had that were spiritual in nature, and we just hit it off.”
The two became instant friends and spoke about everything from religion to motherhood to everyday life. A few weeks later, they traveled together to St. George, Utah, for a conference where Chad was speaking and selling his books.
I wanted to meet him because I thought his dreams were interesting, and when I met him, I thought he was a really nice guy.
Lori immediately walked up to Chad, and the conversation became personal. Gibb said he shared with her that they had met in a previous life and had been married multiple times before in prior existences.
“They started talking about these different beliefs that are not something you learn in church,” Gibb says.
She said they discussed things out loud that normally would be talked about privately.
Chad’s wife, Tammy, and their five children were not at the conference, but Gibb says Lori was aware he was married. Lori and Chad exchanged phone numbers and began speaking every day, according to Gibb.
Chad’s religious teachings
Within weeks of the St. George conference, Chad visited Arizona for another event. Lori invited several people, including Chad and Gibb, to stay at her home. Charles Vallow, Lori’s husband, was out of town.
Gibb remembers Chad and Lori going on a walk or jog together and talking about things “so personal, it’s so hard to share with the world.”
“He was teaching us about some of his understandings about multiple lives and things of that nature,” Gibb says. “It was definitely different. The idea was definitely a new concept. … Did I 100% believe any of it, ever? No, not 100%, no. When you get introduced to something, you kind of let it marinate. … I just listened to them talk about it.”
Gibb says Chad’s teachings did not represent the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He met one on one with people and never held official gatherings or group meetings to discuss the concepts.
“A lot of people have different ideas. ‘Is this a cult? Is this not a cult?’ … I would just say from the beginning, it felt like he was talking to individuals,” Gibb says.
After the Arizona event, Chad and Lori continued speaking with each other every day. Lori had three phones – one designated solely for Chad – and he had a special phone for their private conversations, according to Gibb. At one point, Gibb suggested the pair should divorce their spouses but Lori told her they were “not allowed to” because of information they were receiving “from the other side of the veil.”
Chad and Lori believed they were the head of the 144,000 chosen people who were to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Gibb says they made her feel special and told her she was elect (chosen), and Lori insisted they had known each other in previous lives.
Gibb says she thought their beliefs were a “little unusual.”
“When she taught me, she was always leading me to believe they were true, and there would be times I would say, ‘Do you think that’s a good idea?’ … I didn’t voice much opposition to it, but just more listened,” Gibb says.
Lori’s family members
Gibb remembers the first time she met Charles, Lori’s fourth husband. They were having a barbecue at the Vallows’ home, and the kids were swimming in the pool.
“He seemed like a nice guy – happy to see us, happy to meet us. … He was talking a little bit about his conversion to the church, and he seemed to be pretty excited about it,” Gibb recalls.
Gibb never saw Charles lose his temper but says he and Lori often argued. She confided in Gibb that they were having marital problems, and there was a lot of contention.
“He was trying to do things to help her and please her, and she seemed like she was struggling to be happy by that,” Gibb says. “She seemed a little frustrated with him. They had something going on that I didn’t quite understand.”
Later, Gibb met Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, and her niece, Melani Boudreaux (now Pawlowski), at the same home. Everyone got along, and Gibb describes them as a group of good friends.
“It was fun and enjoyable. Alex was fun. He was a comedian kind of guy. We talked about all kinds of stuff – sometimes spiritual stuff, sometimes nonspiritual stuff. In the beginning, it was just more casual,” Gibb says. “(Melani) was fun. I really love Melani. … She seemed that she had a lot of strife going on in her life, and she was really worried about her family.”
The group didn’t get together often but remained close as Chad continued to share his unusual teachings.
Doubting the beliefs
Lori eventually stopped going to church but would attend the temple as often as she could. It was her favorite place, according to Gibb, and even though she was still married to Charles, and Chad was married to Tammy, they went together.
One day, Lori told Gibb she was sealed to Chad.
Latter-day Saints believe relationships continue after death for a husband and wife who are sealed in the temple. Sealings are performed by officiators in the temple and are recorded in church records. People cannot be sealed to a second spouse if they are legally married to a living person already.
“(Lori said) they felt they were sealed by those on the other side of the veil that had the authority to do that,” Gibb says. “She said it was OK they did this because they had been married so many times before, that their (current) spouses would understand someday.”
Other teachings alarmed Gibb, such as Chad creating a spiritual “portal” in Lori’s closet or other places.
“A portal is a spot where he said a prayer or something to create the portal. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. … (But) it was a way for them to interact spiritually,” Gibb says. “I thought it was different. I thought, ‘How do you do that?’ … It was pretty extreme, but to me, everything was new.”
Gibb says Chad had an extensive chart that ranked people based on their spiritual level. It showed Biblical apostles, the current Latter-day Saint 12 apostles, celebrities, friends and family members. It was four pages, and Gibb says it detailed how many lives each of the people have lived, whether they were “dark” or “light” spirits, their previous names, and other bizarre information.
Lori had experienced 21 lives, and Chad was on his 31st life, according to the chart. Both had lived five lives on this earth, and Chad was considered a Holy Ghost.
She said she always had a “little bit of doubt” about what Chad was saying and Lori did too.
“Two to three times, (Lori) said to me, ‘If Chad is Satan, he sure is a good one,'” Gibb says. “That tends to lead me to believe she wasn’t 100% convinced either.”
Chad and Lori only seemed to share these extreme beliefs with those who were close to them. Looking back now, Gibb believes they kept it private so their church membership would not be put in jeopardy.
“When you go in the temple, there are certain questions they ask you to see if your belief systems are consistent with the doctrine,” Gibb says. “They were inconsistent, so that’s the reason they’re going to be secretive about it.”
She said their doctrine was not affiliated with any Christianity she knew of.
“It’s not doctrine that comes from Jesus Christ – it comes from the Adversary (devil),” she said.