'He Was Framed': Chad Daybell's 5 Kids Claim He Didn't Murder Wife Lori Vallow's Children

CBS News' 48 Hours: The Secrets of Chad Daybell's Backyard features interviews with the children of Chad Daybell who believe in his innocence

Chad Daybell Lori Vallow
Chad Daybell, left, and Lori Vallow. Photo: Rexburg Police Department ; Madison County Sheriff's Office/AP/Shutterstock

The kids of Chad Daybell are defending their father in the face of charges that he murdered their mother as well as children of the woman, Lori Vallow, that he swiftly married after his wife died.

Prosecutors allege that Chad killed his wife, Tammy, in October 2019, two weeks before marrying Lori, whose son, Joshua "J.J." Vallow, 7, and daughter, Tylee Ryan, 17, were reported missing the next month by the boy's grandparents. The children's remains were discovered buried on Chad's property outside Rexburg, Idaho, in June 2020.

Criminal indictments that further charge both Chad and Lori with the children's murders allege the so-called "doomsday" couple, who embrace end-of-times prophecies that Chad espoused in his writings, used their "religious beliefs" to rationalize the killings.

Lori apparently had asked her future husband to gauge her children's "dark" and "light" spirits, allegedly telling a friend that her children had become "zombies," and that she was on a religious mission with Chad "to rid the world of 'zombies'" months before the children's remains were found.

Authorities also allege the couple conspired with Lori's brother, Alex Cox, to plot a murder attempt on Tammy Daybell that was not carried out. Chad and Lori have pleaded not guilty to all charges; Alex Cox died in 2019.

Joshua Vallow, Tylee Ryan
Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, at left, and Tylee Ryan. Rexburg Police Department (2)

Coming forward publicly for the first time, Chad's five children tell CBS News' 48 Hours that they believe in their father's innocence.

"He was framed," Chad's daughter Emma Murphy tells correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti, who accompanied her to the site where J.J. and Tylee's bodies were recovered. "This is his property. If there's bodies buried here, it would be attributed to him."

"Who framed your father?" Vigliotti asks her.

"I think it's pretty clear it was Lori and Alex," Murray replies. "Alex came ... and left for periods of time. ... We don't know ... exactly what he was doing."

The broadcast, 48 Hours: The Secrets of Chad Daybell's Backyard, airs Wednesday (10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT). A clip is below.

Investigators who found the children's remains did so after tracking the cell phone activity of Cox, who was on Chad's property on two dates that align with the last time the children were seen, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by PEOPLE.

Tammy's death also initially was blamed on natural causes, say Chad's children. But it was given a second look by investigators after Lori's children disappeared and the newlywed couple fled Idaho for Hawaii as local authorities began raising questions.

Tammy had been in failing health at the time she died overnight in the couple's bedroom, according to Chad's children, reports CBS News. Their father let the children decide whether to seek an autopsy, and they said no.

RELATED VIDEO: Lori Vallow Ruled Incompetent to Stand Trial After Mental Evaluation

"The narrative is that he was going, 'No, no, no autopsy.' But he was standing there — in complete shock, traumatized, letting us make the decision," Emma Murray tells 48 Hours. "If he was trying to hide something, you — I wouldn't leave something like that up to my kids if I was trying to hide something."

After authorities later began to call Tammy's death suspicious and exhumed her body, "They told me that she'd been asphyxiated ... but we never saw an autopsy," says Emma's brother Garth Daybell.

"Asphyxiation doesn't necessarily mean smothered," says another brother, Mark Daybell. "According to my understanding, it just means the breath was interrupted. And in the end, she wasn't able to breathe. And according to that, there's more facts we need."

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Chad's children say they've struggled to learn details of the investigation. "They've told us things before that turned out to not be true," says Garth.

No manner of death is revealed in the indictment that charges Chad with first-degree murder in Tammy's death, nor in the indictments charging Chad and Lori with first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder in the deaths of Lori's children.

Lori Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell in Hawaii
Chad Daybell, at left, and Lori Vallow Daybell. Eric Grossarth/ EastIdahoNews.com

Lori, her brother and her two children moved north from Arizona to Idaho, near Chad's publishing base, after the July 2019 shooting death of Lori's previous husband, Charles Vallow, by Cox during an argument in Lori's home. Cox claimed self-defense and was not charged.

Before that incident, Lori and Chad had participated together in a December 2018 podcast promoted by an entity called Preparing a People, which is run by a multimedia company that purports to host lectures and videos focused on "helping to prepare the people of this earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ," according to its website.

J.J., who had autism, was last seen Sept. 23, 2019, at his school in Idaho before Lori withdrew him and told the principal she was considering home-schooling. The last known image of Tylee was taken Sept. 8, 2019, while she was on a day trip to Yellowstone National Park with her mother, brother and Cox, according to a court filing.

Tracking data on Cox's cell phone reveals that, hours after the Yellowstone trip, he showed up at Lori's townhome in the middle of the night on Sept. 9. The next morning Cox showed up at Chad's home and spent more than two hours there.

According to a criminal affidavit, minutes after Cox's phone last pinged at the location, Chad texted his then-wife, Tammy, just before noon with the message, "Well, I've had an interesting morning! I felt I should burn all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms."

The affidavit revealed that Tylee's body appeared to be burned, as well as dismembered.

17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old J.J. Vallow
Joshua "J.J." Vallow, at left, with sister Tylee Ryan, center, and Alex Cox.

On Sept. 23 -- the morning that Lori's visiting friends, Melanie Gibb and David Warwick, asked about J.J.'s whereabouts, and Lori replied that Cox had taken him away after J.J. climbed up a kitchen cabinet and knocked a picture of Jesus off a refrigerator -- Cox's cell phone again pinged at Daybell's property around 10 a.m. near a pond.

Authorities who later obtained a search warrant of Daybell's property and dug near the pond found recently disturbed ground covering flat rocks placed atop two pieces of buried paneling, and underneath the paneling, a body wrapped in black plastic that was later identified as J.J.'s.

The children were reported missing in November by the grandparents of the adopted J.J. Lori and Chad quickly became the targets of police scrutiny. But before police could execute a search warrant on their home in Rexburg, police say the couple fled, only to be located without the kids two months later in Hawaii.

While in Hawaii, Lori defied a court order to produce the children. She was arrested and jailed on felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, among other charges, and pleaded not guilty.

After the discovery of the children's remains, Chad was arrested and charged with two counts of destruction, alteration and concealment of evidence, and two counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. At the time, Lori was charged with additional counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.

The indictments unsealed in May that charged each with the murders of J.J. and Tylee allege that between Oct. 26, 2018 and June 9, 2020, Lori and Chad "did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying" the killings.

After a mental evaluation, Lori was judged unfit to be tried on the murder charges.

Chad's trial, now set for November, is likely to be pushed into 2022, reports East Idaho News. Both he and Lori currently are being held in Fremont County jail.

48 Hours. The Secrets of Chad Daybell's Backyard, airs Wednesday (10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT).

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