FBI details salacious texts between Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell
May 5, 2023, 3:46 PM | Updated: Oct 19, 2023, 10:39 am
BOISE, Idaho — In the very beginning of its opening arguments, the prosecution in the Lori Vallow Daybell case said her trial for multiple murders was about “money, power and sex.”
Friday, with an former FBI special agent on the stand, that claim was enforced, as the jury heard salacious text exchanges between Chad Daybell and his future wife, the then Lori Vallow.
Formerly a special agent with the FBI, Douglas Hart was the sole witness to take the stand Friday and his testimony will continue Monday, if not beyond. Hart was tasked with reading aloud text exchanges between key parties in the case, including between Vallow Daybell and Daybell.
Many of the texts were within days of of the death of Vallow Daybell’s fourth husband Charles Vallow, indisputably shot and killed by her late brother Alex Cox, but Hart said the relationship between the pair accused of murder was ongoing months before that.
“It was apparent, shortly after meeting they were involved in an illicit affair together,” Hart said.
They met in St. George Utah at a preppers conference on Oct. 26, 2018. Hart flagged a contact in Lori’s phone that was created during that time with Daybell’s phone number but using the name of a presumably fictitious religious leader.
Less than nine months after that conference, Charles Vallow was shot dead on July 11, 2019. Two days after his death, Daybell and Vallow Daybell exchanged:
Chad: “I need so badly to just gently kiss you…for hours.”
Chad: “It would likely lead to other activities.”
Lori: “Likely or luckily?”
Chad: “It would likely lead to nakedness.”
Hart stated texting showed pair was planning a life together and testified that Daybell called the people who might prevent their union “obstacles.” After Charles Vallow’s death, Daybell told multiple people he felt his wife would dead soon and sent a text to his future wife that “I feel she will be gone by then.”
The prosecution also asked if Vallow Daybell expressed any sorrow or remorse about her husband’s death in any of her texts.
“None,” Hart said.
Tammy Daybell was killed Oct. 19, 2019, less than a year after the accused met and a few months after Charles Vallow was dead.
There was a lot of legal wrangling Friday, including about Hart himself and a presentation he prepared to explain highlights of data found on the digital cloud connected to Vallow Daybell’s phone. Judge Steven Boyce ultimately ruled a reduced version of Hart’s Power Point-style presentation could be used in court, but not be entered as evidence.
Hart was given the task of sorting through all of Vallow Daybell’s stored data connected to her phone, an account that dated back to 2000. It’s also seems to be his task to testify about the cloud data in court, with the help of his presentation.
Depending on the depth of questions the prosecution has Monday, his testimony could take multiple more days. Hart appears to be poised to be the witness the prosecution uses to tie many of the threads of evidence together for the jury. There were multiple objections Friday, to his testimony, a few sustained.
It’s clear the prosecution and defense agree that there is a monumental amount of data stored on Vallow Daybell’s digital cloud but disagree on how it can be read into court. The case may rely on the ability to articulate the context of the messages between accused co-conspirators and evidence previously presented.
Hart highlighted other details found in texts, including that she notified Charles Vallow’s children by text that he had died and then didn’t provide them with details about it after. Days later they confronted Vallow Daybell after asking multiple times what happened.
Hart read one text in court:
Okay Lori, it’s been 3 days. You let us know our father passed away over a text message. 3 days and we haven’t heard from anyone. The only information we have is that one text from you saying he passed away. You disappeared after that. We need any information you have. What happened, when did it happen, how did it happen. Where is he now. Are there any funeral plans and can Zach and I be a part of it … He was our dad and we loved him very much. We deserve answers … I need to be kept in the loop about this all. This isn’t a nonchalant topic you can throw a text at and be done with it.
Hart also testified that while Vallow Daybell didn’t respond much to Charles Vallow’s family, she texted often during that same time to Daybell and Alex Cox and others.
Hart said besides being tasked with sorting through the vast amounts of data, he was also called into to help with the initial investigation of the then missing JJ Vallow, a search that quickly expanded to Tylee Ryan.
“We knew very quickly that Lori Vallow had lied to the Rexburg Police Department,” Hart said. The welfare check on JJ turned into a missing child case and Hart said he was part of the whole case starting on day two.
Hart said with the warrant, he and others first walked the Daybell property looking for signs of “clandestine graves,” a term he explained meant burial sites of bodies intended not to be found. He and another agent identified JJ’s grave, helped excavate it and helped exhume JJ ‘s body.
He walked the jury through photos of the ground and excavation that led to the discovery of JJ’s body.
Court resumes Monday, May 8.