SALEM, Idaho — This article was originally published by Nate Eaton of East Idaho News.
Now that remains found in Chad Daybell’s backyard have been identified as Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, investigators are working to determine how the children died and how they ended up buried on the property.
Autopsies performed by the state medical examiner’s office confirmed the children’s identities, and Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood has said one body was concealed in a “particularly egregious” manner.
Jennifer Shen, a forensic psychology professor at Alliant University, has served as the crime laboratory director for the San Diego Police Department for years. She has been following the Daybell case closely and says investigative work done at a burial site is “a meticulous operation.”
“The bodies are generally a wealth of information, so to start with, you’re at the gravesite where you have to recover the bodies in a way that you will make sure you maximize the gain of any evidence,” Shen tells EastIdahoNews.com. “You need to go through the gravesite scoopful by scoopful of dirt to make sure there’s nothing you miss.”
Detectives will look for any clues at the burial site, such as plastic bags, gloves, fibers, hair or debris, that could lead them to suspects. Shen explains victims are sometimes identified by the clothing or jewelry they are wearing, and dental records are often used for confirmation.
Daybell was arrested Tuesday after authorities excavated a section of his Salem property and discovered the remains. He is in the Fremont County Jail on $1 million bail charged with two felony counts of concealment or destruction of evidence.
From the EastIdahoNews.com helicopter, we noticed a police dog on Daybell’s land as police executed a search warrant. It’s likely the animal helped to find the remains, Shen said.
“If you have a fairly large property and you have cadaver dogs, those dogs can narrow down where the bodies are very quickly,” she says.
Law enforcement removed 43 items from Daybell’s home during a multi-agency raid in January. Computers, cell phones, journals, documents and medications were sent to forensic experts for examination. Several feet of snow covered the frozen ground, and no major digs were performed on the property at the time.
“The investigators on this case have to lay out a very meticulous case for a search warrant. They have to be able to convince a judge that they have enough probable cause to go onto someone’s property and start digging in their backyard, and that’s not easy to do. It shouldn’t be easy to do,” Shen says.
It’s likely Daybell and his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, will face additional charges in connection to the deaths of JJ and Tylee.
While the discovery of the remains does bring some closure, other questions remain about aspects of cases tied to Chad and Lori. The Idaho attorney general is investigating both of them for conspiracy, attempted murder and murder in connection to Tammy Daybell, Chad’s first wife. Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries says her autopsy results have not been finalized.
“They might be looking for poisons or toxins of some sort. That can take a long time,” Shen says. “The more complex the poisons or toxins you might be looking for or the body chemistry you might be trying to understand, the longer it takes. They’re not quick tests you can do immediately – they take longer.”
Shen stresses that investigations like these are complex, difficult and time-consuming. Although crimes may be solved within an hour on television, real cases cannot be hurried, and patience is necessary.
“People’s lives are at stake. That can’t be rushed. It will take a while and it may be frustrating to wait, but that has to happen,” she says.