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Lori Vallow claimed son turned into 'zombie' before disappearance, best friend says

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Posted at 10:25 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 00:25:57-04

In the second of a three-part interview by Nate Eaton with East Idaho News, Lori Vallow Daybell's former best friend recounted her visit to Idaho shortly after Lori moved there.

Melanie Gibb visited Lori in September 2019. She'd find out later that her visit came after Lori's daughter Tylee Ryan was last seen, and right before Lori's adopted son JJ Vallow went missing.

Melanie said Chad told Lori she was supposed to be in Idaho, which is why Lori moved to Rexburg. Chad was married to his wife Tammy, and Melanie said Lori was uncomfortable with it but also believed that Tammy was going to pass away in a car crash before Lori moved.

When Melanie arrived, she explained witnessing the two display affection toward each other in public. After bringing up concerns about people seeing them, she said they told her Tammy doesn't come out a lot, and that a lot of people who knew Chad didn't know what Tammy looked like.

Melanie noticed Tylee wasn't around, and she said Lori told her that Tylee enrolled at BYU-Idaho. The then 16-year old had gotten her GED, so Melanie thought it could have been plausible.

"It didn't feel like the truth. I didn't know what to say about it," Melanie expressed. "I wouldn't assume that [Lori] had done something to her."

She didn't question it further, and Melanie said Lori didn't talk about Tylee again after that.

Instead, they focused on JJ.

"She had said that he had turned into a zombie the day before I got there," Melanie said.

The term 'zombie' wasn't foreign to her-- Melanie described that Chad Daybell claimed to received revelations about people. According to Melanie, Chad was able to determine if people were zombies, or light or dark spirits.

This was all part of the radical religious doctrine he allegedly taught others, which included beliefs in multiple lives.

Melanie dove into those beliefs in part 1 of her interview with Eaton.

"So it was their commission, though, to get rid of all the zombies before, you know, tribulations came upon us. That was their goal," Melanie said.

The first person labeled a 'zombie,' she indicated, was Lori's late husband Charles Vallow. He died in July of 2019 after Lori's brother Alex Cox shot and killed Charles. Melanie mentioned how Lori talked of how Charles was supposed to die before he was killed.

At the time, Alex claimed self-defense. Alex died in December of natural causes.

Melanie said Alex told her before he died that he "100 percent" believed in the zombie claims and that she thinks he shot Charles because he believed he was protecting Lori.

With JJ now a 'zombie,' Melanie explained Lori wanted someone else to take care of him.

"'He's in the way of our mission, so we need to send him to Kay's house,'" Melanie said, of what Lori told her during Melanie's Idaho visit. "That was kind of like the ideas, what could we do."

After Melanie left Idaho, she thought JJ ended up with his biological grandmother who is Charles' sister, Kay Vallow Woodcock. She said that Lori told Melanie that Kay met up with them in the airport to receive JJ.

Then just before Thanksgiving, Melanie described getting a sudden phone call from Chad, who she said sounded nervous and scared.

"I still feel emotional about it," she said, recalling their conversation. "[He] said, 'Melanie, it's Chad. When the police call, don't pick up the phone.' And my heart just dropped."

She said Chad told her that the police showed up to Lori's house to check on JJ, and that Lori was going to tell them that JJ was with Melanie. That's when Melanie realized JJ wasn't with Kay.

At that point, she said she knew something was wrong.

"When you believe your friends are good people, you couldn't believe that they could do something like that," she said.

Melanie later talked to Lori, and she said Lori sounded positive and upbeat so it gave her a little hope.

Lori's claim, according to Melanie, was that she was worried JJ was going to be kidnapped.

"She was trying to protect him," Melanie said. "That's what she told me."

Melanie relayed that during her conversation with Lori, Lori told Melanie to lie to police and say JJ was with her-- even asking Melanie to take a picture of random kids running around, to make it look like she had JJ.

But by this point, Charles had suddenly died. Tammy, Chad's wife, also had suddenly died. And now the kids were missing.

"I wanted to believe her," Melanie said. "I didn't want to think that she would do anything like that."

Eventually, Melanie talked about how she came forward to police and told them everything.

"[Lori's] got to admit that these people are dead, and it was because of their teachings and their ideas that they had these things happen," Melanie said.

She called the teachings "dangerous doctrine," that ended up hurting everyone involved.

"She's in the jail now. She doesn't get to be with Chad, who she loves," Melanie said. "It was a fatal attraction that led to their separation and people passing away. It's a tragic, tragic story."

East Idaho News will release the third and final part of Melanie's interview on Thursday morning, which is expected to explore Tammy Daybell's death and address where Melanie thinks JJ and Tylee might be.