Editor’s note: This article is the second 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 1 and part 3.
REXBURG, Idaho — It was September 2019. Lori Vallow was moving to Rexburg, Idaho, from Gilbert, Arizona. She didn’t want to go at first, according to her best friend, Melanie Gibb, but Chad Daybell insisted she make the move.
“She said she thought Chad would come to be with her in Arizona, and then she said, ‘I changed my plans. I think I’m supposed to be up there (in Idaho). He says I’m supposed to be up there, but I need to get my own answer to find out if I’m supposed to be there,'” Gibb recalls.
Lori prayed and eventually, she said she received the answer that she needed to move to Rexburg to be with Chad, Gibb says. But there was one complication – Chad’s wife, Tammy Daybell, was still alive.
“She was uncomfortable with it. She believed that Tammy was going to pass away, though, before she got up there,” Gibb says. “That didn’t happen. She didn’t pass away before (Lori) got up there.”
Gibb says Lori thought Tammy might die in a car crash — but that didn’t happen.
Melanie Gibb visits Rexburg
Lori moved into a townhouse in Rexburg with her two children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, the first week of September. Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, arrived a few days later and rented a different townhouse in the same complex. Gibb visited Sept. 19 and remembers walking around the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus and indoor track with Lori and Chad, who were holding hands and kissing.
“I said, ‘Aren’t you worried that people are going to see you?’ She says, ‘Well, Tammy doesn’t come out a lot.’ … They said a lot of people that knew Chad didn’t know what Tammy looked like because they didn’t do a lot of things together,” Gibb says.
During their walk, Alex babysat JJ at home, but Tylee was not there, and Lori never mentioned her. Weeks earlier, Gibb had spoken to Lori on the phone after she moved to Rexburg and heard Tylee yelling in the background, so she was surprised the 17-year-old was not around.
“I was told she was at (BYU-Idaho),” Gibb recalls. “I knew that Tylee had her GED, which she got when she was 16 or 17 … There were definitely question marks. It didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel like the truth. I didn’t know what to say about it. I wouldn’t assume that she had done something to her. It was unusual.”
Equally concerning was what Lori said about JJ when Gibb arrived in Idaho.
“She said that he had turned into a zombie the day before I got there, and she was pointing out behaviors of his. … She was trying to create uncertainty in me about what I saw. … I was looking at him and thought, ‘I don’t know. He looks just like JJ to me,'” Gibb says.
This wasn’t the first time Lori had spoken to Gibb about zombies.
‘Why is everybody in your life turning into zombies?’
Months before, Chad told Lori over the phone that her then-husband, Charles Vallow, had been possessed and would die in a car crash, according to Gibb.
“I was in her house when that phone call came in, and he described to her that Charles was no longer Charles, that this unclean spirit that was friends with Charles on the earth … had now passed on, and now he is this unclean spirit on the earth roaming around, and he’s attached himself to Charles and now he has entered his body and taken over it,” Gibb says. “So he’s not really Charles anymore. He’s now this guy named Ned Snyder.”
Gibb says Lori was “blown out” and uncomfortable by what Chad was telling her. But even though he was quiet, unassuming and sometimes appeared to be unsure of himself, Lori trusted Chad and his “revelations.” She would call and ask him questions, and he would tell her who was a “dark” or “light” spirit.
“He would say he was receiving revelation about people,” Gibb says. “He said the veil (between heaven and earth) was open all the time, and he had a way of seeing things that Lori could not. … She would tell me, ‘He’s so much better at getting revelation than me. I used to get it a lot, but I rely upon him a lot more now.'”
Lori predicted Charles would die in a crash traveling to Arizona from Texas. When that didn’t happen, she questioned why, and Chad responded it was because of “people’s choices,” according to Gibb. When their prophecies were not fulfilled, Chad said it was due to the fact that people have agency and “somebody changed their agency.”
Chad and Lori told Gibb they knew how many zombies were in every state.
“It was their commission to get rid of all the zombies before tribulations came upon us,” she says.
They would get rid of the zombies “through some kind of prayer that they would do,” Gibb says, adding they believed it was effective because Chad received their death numbers through revelation.
Those who questioned the beliefs were often considered “dark.”
“It was a lot of drama, and I would ask (Lori), ‘Why do these things keep happening to you?’ Because I have never been around so much drama in my life.’ … It just seemed like it was one drama after another drama, and it never ended,” Gibb says. “I used to say to her, ‘Why is everybody in your life turning into zombies? Why is everybody after you? I don’t understand.’ And she would say, ‘Well, it’s because Satan really hates me, and because of my exaltation and the level I’m exalted to, they’re coming straight after me.’
Gibb was never sure about the zombie beliefs and raised questions with Alex. He told her, “I 100% believe it.”
But even Lori had doubts.
“I don’t ever believe Lori completely believed it. You know when you really want to believe something sometimes … because the outcome is what you’re desiring to have – I think she believed it to a certain level … but I’m not confident she 100% believed it,” Gibb says.
On July 10, 2019, Lori asked Alex to spend the night at her home. The next day, Charles arrived to pick up JJ, and Alex shot him to death. Lori’s brother told police Charles had become angry, and the shooting was in self-defense. Gibb doesn’t buy that explanation and believes Alex shot Charles to protect his sister from someone she believed was evil.
“I didn’t know about (the shooting) until four days after it happened. She called me and said, ‘Hey, did you see the news?’ … I said, ‘I don’t watch the news,’ and she said, ‘Charles was shot,'” Gibb says. “I’m like, ‘What?'”
Gibb was confused and asked what happened. Lori said Charles had been planning to kill her to cash in on a $3 million life insurance policy. She also said Charles’ sister, Kay Woodcock (who is also the grandmother of JJ, whom Charles adopted), had turned into a zombie and was after her.
“She told me (Charles) had about $1 million (in life insurance), and she knew when he passed away, she thought she was going to get the money … but she thought possibly the policy had been switched from her to Kay,” Gibb says.
Sure enough, months before his death, Charles made Kay the beneficiary of the $1 million, and Lori did not receive the money. Gibb says Lori told her Tylee received funds after her father, Joe Ryan, died, and Lori also obtained government assistance as a single mother raising a son with special needs.
According to research by EastIdahoNews.com, Lori was getting $5,000 to $6,000 a month.
After Lori told Gibb in September that JJ was a zombie, the two decided it would be best to have him stay with his grandmother in Louisiana.
According to Gibb, Lori said, “He’s in the way of our mission, so we need to send him to Kay’s house.”
“We talked about Kay, and we talked about some of her family members that could actually take him on. … We talked about what that conversation would be like with Kay, and she wasn’t sure if Kay would really receive him. … That was the plan that I knew of – he’s going to Kay’s house. … That’s what I believed was going to happen, so I left thinking that’s where he was going … Kay’s for sure,” Gibb said. “I didn’t doubt that.”
Gibb returned home to Arizona and spoke with Lori a few times. Lori told her about meeting Kay at the airport and leaving JJ with her. Gibb didn’t think anything of it until two days before Thanksgiving. She was in Utah for the holiday, and Chad called her out of the blue. She says he sounded scared and nervous.
“I still get emotional about it. He said, ‘Melanie, It’s Chad. When the police call, don’t pick up the phone,” Gibb recalls. “My heart just dropped. I was so confused. … He said, ‘Yeah, the police are at Lori’s house checking on JJ.’ I’m like, ‘JJ’s not with Kay?’ (Chad replied), ‘No.’ My heart dropped deeper, and I just knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know. I didn’t understand.”
Gibb wasn’t sure what was going on and hung up the phone. Lori then called and sounded upbeat, cheerful and unworried.
“She said, ‘Kay is trying to kidnap him,’ and I said, ‘How do you know that?’ ‘Well, through the emails.’ I said, ‘I have not read your emails. What did they say?'”
Lori replied that the emails from Kay said, “It’s not like I’m going to kidnap JJ or anything.”
“She led me to believe that everything was fine and that she was protecting JJ … and not just Kay, but it felt like many people were after him,” she recalls.
Gibb says the emails did not sound like a threat, but Lori insisted everything was fine. She then allegedly told Gibb to lie to detectives.
“She asked me to tell the police that JJ was with me. I was going to drive to Arizona for Thanksgiving, and he was going to go with me,” Gibb says. “She had made it sound like we had arranged it or something … she was going to come down there later and pick him up. It was a foreign idea. … I can’t even tell you how uncomfortable (it was).”
Then, a more bizarre request.
“She said, ‘I told the police that you were at ‘Frozen 2’ with JJ.” Gibb said. “(Lori said), ‘Get your cell phone out and take a picture of random kids running around to make it look like you (have) him with you.'”
Gibb refused to do what her friend asked and says she had a gut feeling that “something was terribly wrong.” It would not go away, and that’s when she decided she needed to talk to the police.
“I wanted to believe her. I didn’t want to think that she would do anything like that. I really, really wanted to believe her,” Gibb says.
Gibb said she spoke with police the day Lori asked her to lie about JJ’s whereabouts. Over the next week, she talked with Lori a few times, and during one conversation, Lori mentioned going on a trip with Chad and his children to California.
A message to those who believe Chad’s teachings
Gibb struggled with what was happening, and one night began confiding everything to another friend. They spoke until 5 a.m.
“(Chad and Lori) did not fit the pattern that the scriptures teach. I often think about when Jesus Christ was on the earth. He healed people. He cast out evil spirits. He did not kill people. And if they did have an unclean spirit, He was able to get rid of it, and those people were OK afterwards. There was no pattern of this behavior,” Gibb says. “He was always sharing, where they were inclusive and hiding. … This has been very hush-hush, and that’s not how God works. The mysteries of God, which they were always trying to unfold, are about bringing people to Jesus Christ. … (Chad and Lori) were not bringing that. … It was not leading people to Christ — it was taking people away from him. Maybe they thought they had this pretend relationship with him, and it led to people dying.”
She says God was not behind their teachings.
“You don’t have to be running and hiding when you’re transparent and doing the right thing. … When you’re telling the truth, you have nothing to worry about,” she says. “I got to see a secret combination unfold in front of me, and I got to see it with my own eyes.”
One of the main reasons Gibb agreed to be interviewed was so she could speak to those who follow Chad’s teachings or similar beliefs. She admits she was gullible and even confessed to detectives that she can’t believe she was “sucked in.”
“There are many people other than Chad that believe these teachings of many lives or multiple probations. … I want you to decide … does having this information make you a better person? Does it make you loyal to your spouse? Does it make you feel like you’re better than other people?” Gibb asks. “If this idea of multiple probations had not been introduced, nobody would have ever died because they would have never thought they were married before. This is dangerous doctrine because this is not how he (God) works.”
Gibb says despite everything that has happened, she still loves Chad and Lori. She says she hopes they will repent, tell the truth and confess to authorities any wrongdoings they have done.
“I’m only here to share the truth because of those that passed away, and that justice needs to be served. … But if you’re Lori … She’s got to admit that these people are dead and it was because of their teachings and their ideas that they had these things happen. … You would have to admit you actually had something to do with the death of your family,” Gibb says. “It would be hard to say, ‘My belief systems are false.'”
She continues, “I do feel sorrow for everybody involved. … Everybody’s hurting from this. … She’s in … jail now. She doesn’t get to be with Chad, who she loves. That’s what she wanted so badly, and now she can’t even be with him. It was a fatal attraction that led to their separation and people passing away. It’s a tragic, tragic story.”