Lori Vallow’s former best friend testifies about bizarre religious beliefs and odd excuses


Melanie Gibb during a Dateline interview

Melanie Gibb during a Dateline interview in June 2020 (Dateline)

The triple murder trial for Chad Guy Daybell, 55, the “doomsday cult” author and fifth husband to convicted killer Lori Vallow Daybell, 50, continued with testimony from a former devoted friend on Thursday.

In an Ada County courtroom, Melanie Gibb, reprising some of her prior testimony from Vallow’s April 2023 trial, discussed details about the accused killers’ bizarre post-Mormon belief system and how those beliefs became a real-world nightmare for Joshua Jaxon “J.J.” Vallow, 7, Vallow Daybell’s adopted son, and Tylee Ashlyn Ryan, 16, Vallow Daybell’s biological daughter from a prior marriage.

By September 2019, Tylee was dead while J.J. was still alive. In her testimony, Gibb relayed warning signs that, in hindsight, were all too apparent during an Idaho trip to visit her friend and her friend’s spiritual mentor that month.

Prosecutors allege the couple killed the children, along with Tammy Daybell, 49, Chad Daybell’s previous wife, in a spate of killings across September and October 2019.

She never saw Tylee during that visit but she did ask about her, the witness testified on Thursday.

“I was told that she was at the BYU Idaho campus at school” Gibb told the court in response to a question from the state.

During that visit, Gibb said, she largely stayed in Tylee’s room during the trip — except for at least one night she remembers well.

On the day in question, Sept. 22, 2019, Gibb was doing a podcast recording and Alex Cox, Vallow Daybell’s brother, came inside the house with J.J. on his shoulder because the boy had fallen asleep and he was taking him to bed, the witness testified. That was the last time she ever saw J.J., Gibb said.

That night, she ended up sleeping in J.J.’s room because David Warwick, her eventual husband, was there and she opted to stay with him. Solidifying that memory, she said, Warwick woke up with a start from a nightmare that night. After that, Gibb wanted to contact Chad and Lori to get a “priesthood blessing” for Warwick, she testified.

But that blessing did not come.

Vallow Daybell’s bedroom door was locked and her friend never replied to a text she sent that night, Gibb testified.

The reasons for the boy’s absence would eventually become clear. But for a long while, Gibb remained mystified. Still, there were clues.

“She told me the day before I arrived that he became dark,” Gibb said — testifying about the novel religious beliefs in which Chad Daybell was the alleged arbiter of who was irreparably possessed by a certain, and decidedly novel, form of evil.

In this belief structure, oddly named spirits would latch onto human bodies. In time, those unfortunate human beings were considered to have become “dark.” And if the dark ones couldn’t be cast out, the possessed person would become a “zombie.”

“They were considered dark translated beings,” Gibb testified.

During the weekend she stayed in Idaho with her friends, Gibb said, she observed J.J. quite a bit. But there were not any behaviors that caused her concern regarding any alleged darkness, she testified.

On one occasion, Gibb said, “J.J. seemed to be upset,” so Daybell took the boy upstairs, she said — before an objection was lodged and the answer stalled out. A rephrased question picked things back up.

“After a period of time he came back downstairs and I believe he was holding his hand,” Gibb went on to say.

Daybell had a red scratch on his neck after that upstairs incident, the witness said. In response to a question, Gibb said she asked about that scratch. Daybell allegedly told her J.J. scratched him.

Daybell, the witness added in response to another question, was possibly present during discussions about the boy being “dark.”

“She said that he was acting out more, that he was acting like he was possessed,” Gibb testified, recalling Vallow Daybell’s concerns. “She seemed troubled by it, that he had been taken over by an evil spirit.”

From the Wednesday evening to the Monday morning, she was in Idaho, Gibb realized Daybell and Vallow were already a couple.

Lori Vallow and Daybell seemed to be loving, she testified.

They sang and even danced together a little. They walked around the BYU Idaho campus holding hands. They were “very affectionate and loving” toward one another, Gibb said. These outward displays prompted her to ask them whether Tammy Daybell knew and they said they were not concerned, according to the witness.

One night, at the kitchen island, Gibb said she came in to find Daybell and Warwick discussing the alleged killer’s relationship with his then-wife. Daybell allegedly said: “Please don’t share this with anybody — my relationship with Lori.” He allegedly added: “She was a good wife.”

Tammy Daybell died on Oct. 19, 2019.

Later, jurors heard the entirety of a phone call Gibb recorded with herself on one end and the accused killer couple on the other. As Law&Crime previously reported, this phone call figured prominently during Vallow Daybell’s trial. Gibb made that recording, she said, without any prompting from the police, after Vallow Daybell provided an unsettling lie to police that implicated her friend in the missing boy’s disappearance.

Gibb testified she got a call from Daybell just before Thanksgiving 2019, saying the Rexburg police were going to call and ask her about J.J.

“He asked me not to pick up the phone and talk to them,” Gibb testified. “He said that Lori told the police I had J.J.”

By then Gibb knew something was amiss, she said, because Vallow Daybell had previously discussed giving J.J. back to Kay Woodcock, his paternal grandmother. But now, she said, she wanted to keep him away from Woodcock.

“She said she was protecting Tylee and J.J. because Kay and others were trying to kidnap them,” Gibb testified — adding that Vallow told her to go to a “Frozen movie” and take a picture so as to suggest she had the children with her.

So, first, Gibb testified, she called law enforcement back to say she previously had J.J. but then gave him back to his mom. Later, she called the police to say she never had J.J. with her.

A day or two after Thanksgiving, Gibb spoke with Cox at his new house in Arizona, she said, about her concerns for the children.

“I said do I want to know where J.J. was,” she testified. “And he said, ‘No.’”

On Dec. 8, 2019, Gibb made that recorded phone call.

“I had to move him somewhere else because of her actions,” Vallow says on the call. “It’s the danger that there’s people after me. I just want to keep him protected.” Daybell chimes in: “And keep you protected.”

Later on, Vallow Daybell tells her best friend that most of her family is working with J.J.’s grandmother against her. Vallow Daybell insists she also needs to keep J.J.’s location unknown to law enforcement.

“The police are working with her in some dark capacity,” Vallow Daybell tells Gibb, referring to Woodcock.

Gibb appears to play along with the excuses — slowly prodding her friend for some kind of solid information as the call continues.

“Is J.J. safe?” Gibb asks at one point.

To which Vallow replies: “He is safe. And happy.”

Gibb later reads scripture to the couple during the call — relaying a parable suggesting her friend had, somehow, been led horribly astray.

“I promise you I have done nothing wrong in this case,” Vallow says.



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