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Police recording: Daybell family 'refused' autopsy for death related to two missing Idaho children

Posted at 10:09 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 11:20:34-05

REXBURG, Idaho — New police recordings explain what happened in the weeks following the death of Tammy Daybell. In the recording, a dispatcher reveals that the Daybell family refused an autopsy for Tammy when she first died.

Idaho authorities have linked Daybell’s death with the case of the two missing children from Idaho, 7-year old Joshua JJ Vallow and 17-year old Tylee Ryan.

They disappeared in September from Rexburg, just a few weeks before Tammy suddenly died in her Salem, Idaho home.

A dispatch call released to Fox 13 from the Fremont County Attorney’s Office details a 17 minute phone conversation between a detective from Gilbert, Arizona and a dispatcher with Fremont County. There is no date or time stamped on the call.

The detective calls dispatch to request information for the death of Tamara Daybell.

“Oh, yeah,” the dispatcher says, with a tone of recognition upon hearing Daybell’s name. “I was the one that actually took that call.”

He tells the dispatcher he’s asking for the police report.

“So why is someone from Arizona wanting to know?” the dispatcher asks. “That’s crazy.”

“Yeah, isn’t it funny how everything ties together?,” the detective answers. “We just have some cases down here, that… that got our attention with Miss Daybell.”

The cases the detective is talking about could include the early October shooting aimed at a relative of Lori Vallow-Daybell in Gilbert. The family member has said he believes the shooting had to do with religious beliefs shared by Lori and some of her family members.

The detective could have also been referring to the July shooting death of Lori’s late husband, Charles Vallow, in nearby Chandler, Arizona.

At the time, police didn’t arrest the shooter, Lori’s brother Alex Cox, because he claimed self-defense. A search warrant has since revealed police were investigating the death as a “conspiracy to commit homicide.” The investigation is still ongoing.

Lori married Tammy’s husband, Chad Daybell, shortly after Tammy died and Lori’s kids disappeared.

At the time of Tammy’s death, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office responded to investigate. Sheriff Len Humphries said the coroner ruled the death as being from natural causes.

He indicated their deputies didn’t find anything suspicious, criminal, or out of the ordinary in their investigation.

The dispatcher who spoke with the Gilbert, Arizona detective after Tammy’s death, explained how it wasn’t just the coroner who didn’t want to press the investigation any further.

“The family did not want an autopsy, so they just went straight to the funeral home and the family refused an autopsy,” she tells the detective.

The detective clarifies that piece of information with the dispatcher.

“The family said they don’t want an autopsy, therefore… the coroner just signed off, then and there?” He asks. “And then the funeral home took Miss Daybell? Is that how that works?”

“Yes,” the dispatcher responds. “That’s, that’s pretty much how it works.”

A family refusing an autopsy isn’t necessarily an uncommon occurrence, according to retired Unified Police Department Deputy Chief Chris Bertram.

“There's a lot of personal beliefs why somebody may not want it,” he explained. He cited reasons like religious beliefs or not wanting to disturb the deceased loved one. “On the other side, it may be a red flag that they are concealing something.”

Bertram spent more than two decades in law enforcement, and knows the ins and outs of death investigation protocol. While that protocol varies from state to state, he urged that any investigation should be complete and detailed.

No matter the family’s wishes, Bertram indicated that it’s unusual for a coroner not to do an autopsy if someone fairly young with no major medical issues passes away suddenly, like Tammy did in October.

He pointed out that the public doesn’t know what the family said to the coroner that may have relieved any suspicions over her death.

Still, if the death is unattended and there aren’t any obvious reasons why it happened, he said a thorough investigation needs to take place every time.

“There’s a high probability that there will be an autopsy, whether the family objects to it or not.” He said. “We've got to find a way to determine how they passed away.”

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office now considers Tammy’s death suspicious. Her body was exhumed from a cemetery in Springville, Utah in December. Fremont County and the FBI served a search warrant on the Daybell home in January. Her autopsy results haven’t been released.

When the Gilbert, Arizona detective called the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, he asked for an autopsy report. While there wasn’t one to provide to him, he did get a chance to personally speak with the deputy who responded to the Daybell home.

“Hopefully she’ll be able to answer a couple simple questions, and we’ll see what directions we’ll take,” he tells the dispatcher.

The detective’s conversation with the deputy wasn’t part of the records released to FOX 13.