Editor’s note: This article is the third 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 2.
REXBURG, Idaho — It was Oct. 19, 2019. Melanie Gibb was in Arizona when she received a text message from a friend who had learned on social media that Tammy Daybell had died.
She was startled but, then again, her friend, Lori Vallow, and Tammy’s husband, Chad Daybell, had told her weeks earlier that Tammy would die.
“I didn’t know how they did it, but I knew it was part of the plan that she was supposed to pass away,” Gibb tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Other people knew she was supposed to pass away because Chad knew this information for quite a while.”
Gibb called Lori and asked if she had heard about Tammy’s death. Lori said she had not and acted surprised, but this was the same woman who had told Gibb for months that she and Chad were supposed to be together. It was only natural that after Tammy’s death, Chad and Lori would get married.
“Their whole goal was to get together because they expressed to me many times that Tammy would be OK with this as she passed on,” Gibb says. “(They said) she may not remember it now, but … she had a mission to fulfill on that (the other) side, so they both felt that was where she was supposed to go.”
Confronting Lori and Chad
Lori and Chad married in a private ceremony on a Hawaiian beach on Nov. 5 – less than three weeks after Tammy’s death. Unbeknownst to Gibb, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were missing and hadn’t been seen since September.
Gibb explained in part two of our series what Lori and Chad asked her to do when they returned to Rexburg, and police showed up at their door looking for the kids. Gibb refused to lie to officers but wanted to believe her friends. Finally, after a few days of soul-searching, she called Chad’s phone and demanded answers. Lori picked up.
“I think the first question I said is, ‘Why haven’t you told us where the kids are?'” Gibb says. “(Lori responded), ‘Well, for your safety, we cannot tell you.’ That was just alarming to me. What safety? Why am I in danger? I didn’t feel like I was in danger.”
Gibb demanded to know why Lori had told the police that JJ and Tylee were with her. Lori admitted to lying but said it was for the safety of JJ. She refused to give Gibb any concrete answers on what was happening with the children and why she and Chad were not cooperating with law enforcement.
She said it was a long conversation.
“‘I’m concerned for you,'” she recalls saying. “I’m concerned for your salvation. … This is not light. This is darkness.’ … I was very uncomfortable talking to her. It was a disturbing conversation. … I just continued to tell her that I was concerned for them. And I am, and I was.”
Gibb told Chad and Lori they were evil, and she did not have a testimony of the doctrine and teachings they had shared with her.
They hung up the phone, and since that day, Gibb has not spoken to Chad or Lori again.
Alex Cox dies
Within weeks of that call, Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, suddenly died on Dec. 12 in Arizona. Gibb was friends with Alex and his wife, Zulema Pastenes, but had not spoken to them for some time.
“The bishop called and said, ‘Why are there cop cars around Zulema’s house?’ … He calls me back and said, ‘He died,'” Gibb says. “That completely threw me. … I had many different ideas. I thought, ‘Did he kill himself? … Or maybe somebody could have tried to kill him?’ I just really did not know. I was guessing all over the place.”
Earlier this month, the Maricopa County medical examiner announced Cox had blood clots in his lungs, high blood pressure and died of natural causes. The Gilbert Police Department is still investigating the death, but one thing is certain: Alex was devoted and loved Lori.
“I think he felt like a good … big brother that wanted to protect his sister. They had a lot of fun joking around with each other, and they just had a good relationship,” Gibb said.
Where are JJ and Tylee?
Six weeks after Alex died, police served Lori and Chad with a search warrant on the island of Kauai. EastIdahoNews.com asked them questions outside a beach resort, but they refused to say where JJ and Tylee are. Melanie saw the video of the encounter and says it was hard for her to watch.
She says the video made Lori and Chad “look more guilty.”
“If you really do believe your children are being harmed or you think they’re going to be kidnapped and you’re worried about them, you would be happy to tell anybody and everybody and the police about that,” Gibb says. “You would not not talk and have no comment. … I would think you would interact if you really felt they were (in danger).”
Although she was very close to Lori and Chad, Gibb says they have never told her where the kids are, and she does not believe they are alive.
“They’re not on this planet anymore. I don’t think they are. That’s my personal opinion. Tylee is a very strong-willed individual, and she’s capable of making a phone call if she needs to call, and she hasn’t reached out to anybody and let anybody know she’s alive,” Gibb says. “I can’t imagine she would be quiet the whole time. … JJ’s a handful. He wouldn’t have his medication with him, so how could she take care of him? … It doesn’t add up. If they’re in a safe place, why is (Lori) in Hawaii having a great time on her honeymoon when her children are hiding for safety? That doesn’t even make sense. I think most people understand that.”
Gibb believes Alex may have done something to the children for Lori or a “higher reason” before he died. Lori’s mother, Janis Cox, and her sister, Summer Shiflet, defended Lori in a recent interview and said she has her reasons for not saying where JJ and Tylee are. Lori’s niece, Melani Pawlowski, told EastIdahoNews.com Lori has “always done everything to protect her kids” and has a plan.
When asked if she thinks Lori’s family members know more than they are saying, Gibb says it’s likely some do.
“I don’t know all of what they know from Lori. I know some of them – what they know. I don’t know what everybody knows, but some of them do (know something),” she says.
One aspect of the multi-jurisdictional, complicated case involves Melani Pawlowski’s ex-husband, Brandon Boudreaux. Gibb met him briefly once or twice, but the two were not close.
In October, somebody shot at Boudreaux when he was returning home from the gym. The main suspect in the shooting was Alex, but Gibb was unaware any unusual had happened until Melani and Alex asked her to go by Brandon’s home.
“I drove by to see if anybody was there because she was concerned about her children, and I talked to a neighbor,” Gibb recalls. “He said that they had moved out two weeks ago. He said there were no children there, and he said, ‘I’m really glad they moved on because somebody tried to shoot at Brandon.'”
Gibb was startled and returned to share the news with Alex. His response was unusual.
“He said, ‘Oh yeah, we heard about that. He got shot at, but we believe that somebody tried to take a shot at him to make it look like it was us – or make it look like me,'” she recalls him saying.
Gibb didn’t think anything more of the incident until later when details started coming to light.
An earthquake, the end of the world and podcasts
Long before the deaths of Charles Vallow (Lori’s previous husband) and Tammy, and before the children disappeared, Lori repeatedly told Gibb a large earthquake would happen in Utah. Then, when Gibb visited Idaho in September 2019, Lori said it would be happening soon.
“She believed there was going to be an earthquake that was going to hit so large in Utah by the end of 2019 that (people) wouldn’t notice anything in her personal life going on,” Gibb says. “(She said), ‘So when Chad and I get married someday, nobody will notice we’re married because of the earthquake and different destruction going on.'”
Lori was confident nobody would pay attention to her, and that’s why her plan wasn’t “orchestrated very well,” according to Gibb. Lori often mentioned the world would end in 2020, and Jesus Christ would return to the earth. She based this belief on scriptural study and research. Gibb does not believe the Second Coming will be this year, but the topic has always interested her.
Gibb discussed it as part of her podcast with the group “Preparing a People.” She was one of the main hosts and was joined by guests, including Lori and Chad. Chad appeared four times – twice on the phone and twice in person.
Chad discussed his visions on the podcasts but privately told Lori and Gibb that God “left the door open” for him to receive revelation.
“I would think if he was such a visionary that he was portraying that he would have seen this (investigation) coming,” Gibb says. “This is big. He would have seen this one.”
Chad and Lori’s relationship
Looking back at Chad and Lori’s relationship now, Gibb describes Chad as the hand with “her as the puppet on the hand.” “They’re two people that have a lot of passion for a lot of things. They think a lot alike, as far as spiritual ideas go, and he comes across as reserved and quiet, and she is not. … I think ultimately they are just as equally bad for each other,” Gibb says.
Lori knew the scriptures well and reads them while she sits in a Madison County Jail cell. Chad video chats with her, and they discuss religious doctrines that Gibb says do not represent teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“These doctrines are dangerous, and look what they lead to. They lead to people dying. If that doctrine was not revealed … then these people would not have died. … This has got to be such a painful thing for her to come to believe so that she realizes at some point she’s gone against what is true. That would be hard to take in – especially as much as she loves God,” Gibb says.
Gibb has never met any members of Chad’s family, but Lori occasionally spoke about them. After Tammy’s funeral, Gibb says Lori invited Chad and his kids over to her townhouse for cookies, and afterward Lori told Gibb “they fell in love” with her.
Gibb thinks about Chad’s children a lot and does not want to harm them by speaking out.
“I am feeling for their journey. … I have no desire to say things about people that are hurtful. It’s just truthful. … This is very uncomfortable for me. I do care about those kids. I know Tammy does. … I’m sure it’s hard to know who to believe, and my heart does go out to them,” she says. “I really want them to know it’s really hard for me to talk about their dad because I really like Chad. I think he’s a good guy. He’s a nice man. I like him as a person, but his teachings – they’re dangerous.”
Lori repeatedly told Gibb how she could not wait to spend time with Chad, and their relationship was full of love and lust. Lori was a very impatient person, according to Gibb, and that led to their “fatal attraction.”
Message to Chad and Lori
Gibb thinks about Chad every day. She knows he can answer questions concerning the whereabouts of JJ and Tylee. But despite everything that’s happened, Gibb says she still loves and has a message for him.
“I still care for you and Lori. This is really painful what you’re going through, but God has always taught us to be honest,” she says. “There are no exceptions to those rules. … Even if you’re guilty and confess, there’s a peace that comes from telling the truth. I know I have that peace because I’ve come forward because people passed away.”
As she’s faced the circumstances over the past few months, Gibb says they’ve only made her faith stronger.
She’s preparing to be called as a witness at Lori’s preliminary hearing in July and will see her friend face to face again. She also has a heartfelt message to Lori, who Gibb says holds so much information about this puzzling case that has devastated many lives.
“We’ve had a lot of fun times together. We’ve laughed a lot, and I love her,” Gibb says. “I’m so sorry that she’s been so deceived by Chad. … I wish that none of this had happened. I have learned a great deal about deception, and now you (Lori) have learned a greater deal about deception. I just hope that you can really put aside a lot of what your wants are and be humble. … He (God) still loves you. He still loves Chad, and you can always be forgiven. However long that takes – I don’t understand. But he’s a good God, and I know that He died for her too, and there’s still hope.”
Gibb adds, “If she comes to realize what her inner feelings were. ‘Could Chad really be Satan? And if so, he’s a really good one.’ … maybe that was that little feeling telling you inside that he wasn’t doing the right things and saying the right things.”