Editor’s Note: Some testimonies contain graphic descriptions. Reader consideration is advised.
The trial of Lori Valo Debell, accused with her husband Chad Debell of murdering her children and Debell’s first wife, entered its third week Friday as the prosecution continued to build its case.
Prosecutors said the couple used a “doomsday” belief involving zombies to justify killing the children with Debell’s first wife, Tammy Debell.
Vallo Debelle’s daughter, Tylee Ryan, 16, and adopted son Joshua “JJ” Vallo, 7, were reported missing in 2019 after relatives were unable to contact the children. They were found in 2020 on the property of Chad Debell, whom their mother married after the death of Debell’s wife, Tammy.
The couple, who are being tried separately, are accused of three murders. Valo Debell faces theft charges for allegedly making Social Security payments on behalf of her children.
Both Chad Debell and Lori Valo Debell have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Prosecution witnesses detailed the couple’s fringe religious beliefs and their blossoming relationship after each of their spouses died, as well as the discovery of the children’s bodies. Here are some of the most compelling moments of the testimony so far.
JJ Vallo’s grandfather Larry Woodcock cries as the date. Ray Hermosillo described finding the boy’s body
Det. Ray Hermosillo, an investigator on the case with the Rexburg, Idaho Police Department, testified about law enforcement finding the children’s remains on Chad Debell’s property as JJ Vallo’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, watched from the courtroom.
“When they started to remove the top layer of soil, it started to expose three large white rocks. Uh, and at that time, uh, there was a strong smell through my training experience, which was a decomposing body,” Hermosillo told the court.
She testified that she saw a small boy wearing red pajamas — witnesses said JJ was last seen alive — with a white plastic bag around his head and several layers of duct tape from his chin to his forehead. Her arms were folded across her chest and duct taped with several layers of duct tape, and her legs were also bound with duct tape, Hermosillo said.
“He had a white and blue baby blanket, um, put over him,” the detective testified.
Larry Woodcock reportedly cried throughout the graphic testimony.
Laurie Vallo Debell calls Chad Debell as investigators search his property for JJ and Tylee’s remains, recording reveals
Prosecutors played audio of a phone call between Valo Debell, who was being held in the Madison County Jail on child abandonment charges at the time, and Chad Debell while investigators were searching Debell’s property for the children’s remains.
Jurors heard Debell say that Valo Debell investigators were on the property and that he asked her to pray. He added, “I love you.”
Melanie Gibb testified about “evil spirits” and “zombies.”
Laurie Vallo Debell’s friend Melanie Gibb told jurors that Vallo Debell described some people as possessed or “zombies.” Gibb said, Valo Debal claimed that some people were “light” and others “dark,” meaning they were possessed by evil spirits. Some of those identified as “dark” include Vallo Debell’s fourth husband, Charles Vallo (referred to as “Ned” – the evil spirit that possessed her body), who was shot and killed by Vallo Debell’s brother Alex Cox and his children. was done , Tylee and JJ, who were found buried in Chad Daybell’s backyard.
Gibb also testified that Valo told Debell that he and Debell had been married in a past life.
Prosecutors played a phone conversation in which Gibb confronted Valo DeBelle about JJ’s whereabouts months after he last saw his son. In it, Valo Debelle says she loves Gibb “with all my heart”.
“I appreciate those words, but if you really loved me, you wouldn’t have told the police that I had JJ with me. That’s not – that’s not what friends do. I mean, it makes me look weird and it – it’s just – it Not safe for me. It doesn’t look good. You need – if you love me you need to think about my welfare,” Gibb said in the recording, which he eventually gave to police.
“I do and I did exactly what I felt the Lord was instructing me to do. And I admire you and I love you. And I would never do anything to harm you, and you can be assured of all this by the Lord.” Valo Debell responded to the recorded conversation.
Alex Cox’s wife Julema Pastenes testifies she fears being a “fall guy”
Debell and Valo Debell explained to his brother Alex Cox that his divine mission was to protect him. Cox, who shot and killed Charles Vallo in self-defence, later told his wife Julema Pastenes that he felt the pair had made him their “fall guy”.
“I said, ‘What’s fall guy for? What is it, what did you do? What, what did you do that you fell?’ It was like I pressed him and I was very frustrated because he wasn’t answering me,” she said. “So I’d walk away and she’d say something, and then I’d come back and I—she was—and then I’d push her again. And then she said—as I was walking away from her, she said—Zulema, either. I am not a servant of God.
That conversation, Pastenes testified, came the day before Cox died suddenly.
Friend Valo testifies to DeBelle that she is “done with JJ” and claims that Charles Valo was having an affair.
April Raymond, Valo Debell’s former friend from Hawaii, testified in early 2019 about Valo Debell and Tylee visiting her home in Hawaii, where Raymond said Vallo Debell told her that Charles Vallo was having an affair and needed a place to stay.
When a prosecutor asked where JJ was, Raymond replied, “He said he was done with JJ and that Charles and his sister Kay had to figure it out.” Raymond is also interrogated about Ned, a demon Valo claims to be inhabiting Charles Valo’s body called Debel.
While JJ and Tylee were missing, Chad Debell told a Hawaii realtor that the couple had no children, emails show.
Emails between Debell and a realtor in Hawaii, introduced as part of evidence by Rexburg police Det. Chuck Kunzitis, note the couple is interested in viewing a property. Debell asked if the owners would be interested in “leasing this property to a clean couple without pets or children.”
The email was sent three days after the couple got married and before JJ and Tylee went missing.
Laurie Vallo Debelle’s son cries as the jailhouse phone rings in court
Colby Ryan, Laurie Vallo DeBelle’s oldest and only surviving child, confronted her mother about her sibling’s death in an emotional phone call shortly after Ryan took the stand as prosecutors played for the jury. “You tore out my heart and you tore out the hearts of all of this family,” he said in the call, which was made in 2020 after the bodies of JJ Vallo and Tylee Ryan were found buried in Chad Debell’s backyard, and after Vallo Debell was jailed for the crime.
She wept over pictures of her slain siblings and told jurors how Tylee sent her regular text messages in the weeks after she first disappeared but had changed in tone and punctuation before she disappeared.
In the phone call, he confronts his “murderer mother”.
“I trusted you. I gave you every chance I could, going beyond my own limitations as a human being. I went through everything to try to get to you, to help my own mother. You lied to me, especially to me. More than I can count on it,” he said on the call. “To find out they’re gone and you know? And my phone is texting my little sister who is not alive? My little brother, who is the sweetest kid?”
During cross-examination, Valo asked DeBelle’s attorney Ryan if Valo DeBelle had taught him about the extreme religious beliefs brought up by prosecution witnesses the previous week. Ryan answered “no” when asked what he was taught about zombies, casting out evil spirits and light and dark scales.
Laurie Vallo DeBelle says she “deserves to be happy” after children’s remains found in disturbing recording played in court
Lori valo debel was heard a The recording is played in court He deserved to find happiness, as his sister, Summer Shifflett, testified. Shifflett was heard crying and screaming in a jailhouse call with Valo Debelle in June 2020 after police found the children’s remains.
“I would have taken Tylee and JJ in a heartbeat and so would everyone else, you know,” Shifflett said on the call. On the stand, Shifflett said he had a close relationship with his sister and spoke to Vallo Debell in February 2020, two months after Vallo Debell’s children went missing.
GHB found in JJ Valo’s system, forensic pathologist reveals
Dr. Garth Warren, chief forensic pathologist for the Ada County Coroner’s Office, testified that toxicology testing of a sample of JJ Valor’s liver that was part of the boy’s autopsy revealed that the child had low levels of gamma hydroxybutyric acid, a so-called party. Or the date rape drug often called GHB, and alcohol in his system. Tests also showed caffeine and theobromine, which are found in chocolate and tea.
Warren said the amount in JJ’s system was “undetectable” and he could not say whether he was given the substance intentionally or if it was occurring naturally.
Her official cause of death was suffocation by a plastic bag, Warren said.
Tylee Ryan’s DNA found on pickaxe, expert testifies
Kathryn Deas, a forensic biologist with the Idaho State Police, told the jury they tested samples from several tools found in Chad Debell’s shed. A partial DNA profile from a shovel and a pickaxe sample, he said, matched Tylee Ryan.
Tylee Ryan’s remains were found in a grave on Chad Debell’s property and her body had been burned and dismembered, witnesses testified.
To keep up with the latest trial developments, listen to the day’s testimony every evening on CBS News’ YouTube channel and weekly updates on the “48 Hours” podcast.