‘Doomsday Mom’ Lori Vallow’s Niece Testifies About Zombies, Casting Spells To Ward Off Demons, in Chad Daybell’s Triple-Murder Trial: Chad Used ‘Pendulum’ 

Melanie Pawlowski testified that ‘casting’ involved raising one’s right hand to push away evil spirits.

Courtroom Feed
Melani Pawlowski, niece of 'cult mom' Lori Vallow, testifies on Monday in the murder trial of Lori's fifth husband, 'doomsday prophet' Chad Daybell. Courtroom Feed

Spiritual “castings” and zombies were central to the testimony on Monday from Melani Pawlowski, the niece of mother and convicted murderer Lori Vallow Daybell. Over several hours on the witness stand in Idaho, Ms. Pawlowski described the cult-like beliefs of Lori and her fifth husband, “doomsday prophet” Chad Daybell, which, prosecutors say, increasingly dominated Lori and Chad’s beliefs leading up to the murders of Lori’s two young children and Chad’s first wife.  

It’s the latest in a weeks-long trial for Chad,  who is accused of being behind a string of murders underscored by his doomsday beliefs and an unquenchable thirst for “sex, money, and power,” as prosecutors put it, in a case where he could face the death penalty if convicted. 

Lori, who did not face the death penalty, is already serving a double life sentence after she was found guilty last year for murdering two of her three children — Tylee Ryan, 16, and JJ Vallow, 7, who was adopted – and successfully conspiring to kill Chad’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, 49. Lori is also facing another murder trial, in Arizona, for the murder of her estranged fourth husband, Charles Vallow and the attempted murder of Melani’s estranged first husband, Brandon Boudreaux, who was in an ugly custody dispute with Melani over their four children.

Chad is also facing an insurance fraud charge for cashing in on Tammy’s life insurance policy when she died just weeks before he ran off to Hawaii to marry Lori. 

Melani Pawlowski and her second husband, Ian, have given numerous media interviews about Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, and Ian even wore a wire during the investigation. Both Pawloskis testified in Chad Daybell’s murder trial. KPNX

Prosecutors in Idaho and Arizona say Chad and Lori, who met in 2018, murdered or plotted to murder her children, their spouses and other family members so they could be together and also collect on life insurance policies and Social Security benefits of their victims.

On Monday — the 17th day of Chad’s trial — Lori’s niece, Ms. Pawlowski, said that she at one point looked up to Lori as a mother figure, and she also developed a close relationship with Chad, even calling him “Dad.” Melani was a member of a close circle, led by Chad, which focused on Chad’s heretical beliefs, for which he had been excommunicated from the Latter Day Saints church.

“Chad was said to have a gift to spiritually discern and he could see light and dark or if a person had good intentions,” she said, adding that he had a pendant or pendulum that could give him answers to things he wanted to know. She also participated in so-called castings, she said, which she described as raising one’s right hand to cast our demons or dark spirits. 

The couple’s disturbing cases have gained worldwide notoriety, in part, because of their religious extremism. They first got national attention in September, 2019 when JJ’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, reported him missing, and Lori and Chad were found vacationing in Hawaii, now married, without a care in the world.

(Chad and Lori had gone to Hawaii for a romantic beach wedding only weeks after Tammy, Chad’s wife of 28 years and mother of his five children, died suddenly in her sleep. Chad claimed Tammy had recently been sick and that he’d had a premonition that she would soon die, and swiftly had her buried. She was later exhumed, and prosecutors now believe she was asphyxiated, perhaps by Lori’s loyal brother, Alex Cox.)

Over the ensuing months since JJ and Tylee vanished, media coverage detailed how Chad and Lori divided people into “light” and “dark” categories and believed that some of their family members had become possessed by zombies. Chad himself had authored books about the end of the world and the second-coming of Jesus Christ.

It took ten months, during which Lori was arrested in Hawaii and extradited back to Idaho, where she sat in jail refusing to reveal the kids’ whereabouts, before the bodies of JJ, Lori’s adopted son with Charles Vallow (JJ was Charles’ blood nephew), and Tylee, daughter of Lori and her late third husband, Joe Ryan, were found in a pet cemetery and pond in Chad’s backyard.   

Lori Vallow’s new booking photo after she was extradited to Arizona to stand trial for Charles’s murder. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Melani said that Lori and Chad taught her that “you could cast out at any time for anybody if you felt like you’re being inflicted with some type of dark spirit or a bad feeling,” she said. 

She said that the couple’s teachings about “casting” were always changing but originated from a podcast from Julie Rowe, a clairvoyant and doomsday prophetess who would later claim that Chad forcibly kissed her and rubbed up lewdly against her during an “energy healing session”. 

Melani said she would ask Chad about who was “dark and light” and that she later learned that people who were possessed were “zombies.” 

She testified that she was also taught that “there was some type of darkness that you couldn’t cast out and so the Lord in his due time would have to take, that person would pass away because this darkness was too much.”

Chad Daybell, on trial in an Idaho courtroom for capital murder. Courtroom Feed

Some of these “dark” individuals doomed to die, prosecutors allege, were the murder victims. Chad believed Tammy was possessed by a spirit named “Viola”, and Lori told her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, that he was possed by a spirit named “Ned Schneider”, according to a police report Charles filed when he unsuccessfully sought to have Lori committed. Texts between Chad and Lori played at Lori’s trial showed they believed Tylee and JJ were “dark” and possessed by zombies.

Ms. Pawlowski said that during the search for JJ and Tylee, Lori and Chad told her not to speak with law enforcement, describing police as “corrupt” and that they “couldn’t be trusted.” She said they told her that several law enforcement officers were “dark.” 

Last week, the jury saw evidence reportedly so graphic that it was blocked from the trial’s livestream. Some of the graphic evidence were photos of Tammy Daybell’s exhumed body, which had been buried for two months prior to the autopsy.

Last week,  the jury also heard explosive testimony from family members, including Chad’s mother, Sheila Daybell and his sister-in-law, Heather Daybell. 

Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, two of the murder victims. Madison County District Attorney’s Office
Tammy and Chad Daybell were married for 28 years until her death at age 49. Madison County District Attorney’s Office

Sheila testified on Thursday that she had never even heard of Lori before meeting Lori and Chad at a restaurant in 2019, when she noticed they were wearing rings and found out they were married. She described the news as “shocking.”

Heather, who is married to Chad’s brothe,r Matt Daybell, described feeling “uneasy” and “concerned” about Chad and his “end-of-days” visions. She testified that she was uncomfortable about the prospect of Chad moving near their family, and said Chad began discussing disturbing visions including an earthquake that he thought would come in 2015 and cause destruction across Utah. 

While it has been widely speculated that it was these religious beliefs that led to multiple murders allegedly committed on the couple’s behalf, prosecutors are currently trying to convince the jury it was ultimately a “desire for sex, money, and power” that was to blame.

Lori will eventually face another trial in Arizona for two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, and the attempted murder of Brandon Boudreaux, Melani’s ex-husband.

Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, is believed to have carried out the murders. He died suddenly in 2019. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Lori’s brother, Alex Cox. shot and killed Charles in 2019 in Arizona, claiming it was self defense. Grand Canyon State prosecutors now say Lori orchestrated the murder. These prosecutors also say that Alex, on Lori’s orders, shot at Brandon while he was driving, also in Arizona, narrowly missing him, during a time when Brandon was in an ugly custody dispute with Melani.

As prosecutors push for Chad’s conviction, Tylee and JJ’s loved ones tried to honor the children’s memories with a celebration of life in East Idaho earlier this month.

“Until the day we meet again, I’m going to do what I have to do in this world to get to heaven,” Todd Trahan shared during the service via call. “Tell everyone that is there with you hi and that I love them.”

Todd, JJ’s biological father, is currently in prison. JJ, who would eventually be diagnosed with autism, was adopted by Lori and Charles, JJ’s biological uncle, in 2013, less than a year after his birth because both of his biological parents, Todd and Charles’ niece, Mandy Leger, suffered from substance abuse disorders  and JJ was born addicted to drugs.

Charles Vallow was Lori’s fourth husband. Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office

“JJ was amazing, and Tylee was his protector,” Larry shared at the event

Tylee’s cousin, Zac Cox, showed exactly how close Tylee and JJ were via a heart-wrenching letter read at the memorial.

“Tylee was the best big sister she could be to JJ and he was always number one on her list of priorities,” the letter read. “She loved JJ more than anything.

So far, we’ve heard a variety of testimony at Chad’s trial. Worthy of note was that of Lori’s oldest son, Colby Ryan, the son of Lori and her second husband, William Lagiola (Colby took the last name of Joe Ryan, Lori’s third husband, whom Colby would later accuse of sexually abusing him. Family courts found there was no abuse. In 2018, Joe died suddenly of an apparent heart attack, alone in his apartment, while in the midst of an ugly custody dispute over Tylee with Lori. Tylee was still collecting her late father’s Social Security checks when she vanished).

Colby said the last time he saw his late adopted brother and half-sister was on August 30, 2019, outside his place of employment. Tylee and JJ’s remains were discovered on June 9, 2020.

Colby didn’t know he was saying goodbye for the last time during that meet up. But he did say that Lori called him earlier that day to tell him she was moving away with JJ and Tylee. Colby said Tylee was crying and Lori did not say where they were going (Rexburg, Idaho) when he met them outside to say goodbye.

Colby also testified about his stepfather Charles’ death on July 11, 2019, saying that Lori told him Charles had died of a heart attack. But when he came over after work and hugged a crying Tylee, he saw  Alex sitting on the couch with a bandaged head. When he asked about the injury, Alex explained that he had shot Charles in self-defense after Charles had hit him. Colby then asked his mother about her lie, but she allegedly responded in an “unrattled” and “calm” way. Believing she was influenced by Chad, Colby said Lori never did say why she told the lie.

Lori Vallow Daybell, in court in Arizona, wore full makeup and had highlighted her hair. Courtroom Feed

“I thought it was crazy because I was freaking out and she seemed to not care,” Colby said in court. “There was a lot of lying in a lot of places.”

Alex, an amateur standup comedian, died on December 12, 2019 of “natural causes” which were later determined to be blood clots in the lungs. If he hadn’t passed away, it is likely Alex would have faced a similar fate as his sister since prosecutors think he may have carried out all of Lori and Chad’s killings.

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