Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, the US couple described as members of a Christian "doomsday cult" have been charged with murder after a long and painstaking criminal investigation.
The investigation began when Vallow was arrested in February 2020 on charges of deserting and abandoning her children from two previous marriages.
The bodies of those children- Joshua "JJ" Vallow, seven, and Tylee Ryan, 17, were found at Daybell's home last year.
Court documents also reveal that a friend of Vallow’s told police that Vallow and Daybell had come to believe that JJ and Tylee had become "dark spirits" or zombies.
The witness is prepared to testify that Vallow and Daybell said they believed the only way to exorcise one of these "dark spirits" was by killing them so the person could be at peace in the afterlife.
Daybell, a former priest who has written several books detailing his "end of the world" beliefs, has also been charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Tammy Daybell. She died in mysterious circumstances just weeks before he married Vallow.
Vallow and Daybell had travelled to Hawaii as the investigation into her missing children began to intensify. When questioned, Vallow insisted to police that the children were safe and living with family members in Arizona.
She even continued to collect her children's Social Security benefits for months after their deaths, according to court documents.
The same papers reveal that Daybell increased his late wife’s life insurance policy just weeks before her death – collecting a payout of $430,000 (a little over £300,000) when she died.
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Court documents also reveal that a friend of Vallow’s told police that Vallow and Daybell had come to believe that JJ and Tylee had become "dark spirits" or zombies. The witness is prepared to testify that Vallow and Daybell said they believed the only way to exorcise one of these “dark spirits” was by killing them so the person could be at rest in the afterlife.
Apart from her children, several members of Vallow’s family have died in unusual or suspicious circumstances: Her sister Stacey Cox Cope died of unknown causes aged just 31, her third husband died of an unexpected heart attack in 2018, and her fourth husband Charles Vallow was shot dead by her brother Alex Cox just a year later.
Alex Cox himself died at the end of 2019, and his cause of death is yet to be determined.
The death penalty is reportedly being considered for both defendants, should they be found guilty, reports local news station KSLTV.
"We know many members of the community may feel that progress on this case has been slow," Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake told a news conference on Tuesday.
She added: "I want to assure everyone that despite the delays we have been working diligently to pursue justice for the victims in this case to ensure we have the evidence required to prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."
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