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Court documents: Cell phone records led police to missing Idaho children's remains

Court documents: Cell phone records led police to missing Idaho children's remains
Posted at 7:39 PM, Jun 19, 2020

IDAHO — Newly released court documents are shedding light on the disappearance of Joshua "J.J." Vallow and Tylee Ryan, whose remains were found last week on Chad Daybell's property in Idaho.

A probable cause affidavit for Daybell's arrest, filed June 10 in Madison County, outlines what led investigators to Daybell's home and ultimately to the remains of the missing children. This includes cell phone location data of the kids' uncle Alex Cox around the time of their disappearance, as well as text messages Daybell sent to his wife at the time.

Tylee, 17, was last seen Sep. 8, 2019, at Yellowstone National Park, while J.J., 7, was last seen on the 22nd. The FBI's Cellular Analysis Survey Team discovered through Cox's cell phone GPS that he was at Daybell's home on Sep. 9 and 23.

Cox, the brother of the kids' mother Lori Vallow Daybell, was with the two kids and their mom in Yellowstone that day, verified through photos. They returned home to Rexburg around 8:30 that night.

Between 2:42 and 3:37 a.m. Sep. 9, Cox’s phone was at Lori and the kids’ apartment. He lived in a separate apartment in the same complex. They had moved there from Arizona on or around Sep. 1.

“This is significant, not only because he was there in the middle of the night, but also because this is the only time in September he appears to go over to Lori’s between midnight and 6 a.m.,” the probable cause statement read.

Later that same morning, GPS data indicates that Cox went to Chad Daybell’s home in Salem — specifically outside near the east end of a barn on the property. He appeared to have been on the property from 9:21 to 11:39 a.m.

Image: Google

The FBI also discovered text messages between Tammy and Chad Daybell, who were married at the time. Tammy died on Oct. 19, 2019, and Chad married Lori just weeks later.

On Sep. 9 at 11:53 a.m., Chad sent a text message to Tammy that said:

“Well, I've had an interesting morning! I felt I should bum all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms. While I did so, I spotted a big racoon along the fence. I hurried and got my gun, and he was still walking along. I got close enough that one shot did the trick. He is now in our pet cemetery. Fun times!”

Investigators spoke to Tammy’s sister about a week before serving a search warrant on Daybell’s property, who confirmed that the couple had a “pet cemetery” on their land. She also confirmed its location to investigators on an aerial photograph. The location was near a firepit where Cox’s phone location was pinged.

Cox’s phone was again pinged to Daybell’s property on Sep. 23, the day after J.J. was last seen.

J.J. was last seen on Sep. 22 at his home by two of Lori’s friends who were visiting. The next morning, the friends asked Lori where J.J. was, and she told them Cox had come and taken him after he was “acting like a zombie” — which the friends also say Lori had said about Tylee several months before.

Cox’s cell phone was again located at Daybell’s property on the morning of Sep. 23 from 9:55 a.m. to 10:12 a.m. The location was specifically pinged to a pond on the northern edge of Daybell’s property.

Investigators also noted that Cox was at Daybell’s home two other times: Sep. 6 and Sep. 25, these times inside Daybell’s house and not at the firepit or pond.

After discovering this information, investigators obtained and executed a search warrant on Daybell’s property on June 9. They dug in the two locations where Cox’s phone location showed him on the two days after each child’s disappearance and found both their remains.

Lori and Chad are both in jail on $1 million bond. Lori is charged with desertion and nonsupport of her children, while Chad is charged with destruction or concealment of evidence.

Cox died in December of a heart attack.

This article was written by Spencer Burt for KSTU.