REXBURG, Idaho — A recording between police investigators in Phoenix and a 911 dispatcher in Idaho sheds new light into three suspicious deaths of the family members of Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell — the parents in the case of missing children Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, both of whom have been missing since late last year.
Tylee, 17, and JJ, 7, were last seen in Rexburg, Idaho, last September. The children weren't reported missing until November. After months of avoiding investigators and not cooperating with the investigation, Vallow and Daybell were found in Hawaii. Vallow then missed a police deadline to produce her children to investigators.
Vallow and Daybell married in 2019, just weeks after the death of Daybell's wife. Investigators initially ruled that Daybell's wife, Tammy, died of natural causes, but have since exhumed her corpse and re-classified her death as suspicious.
According to a phone call between a detective from Gilbert, Arizona, and a dispatcher from Fremont County, Idaho, the Daybell family did not want to conduct an autopsy following her death last year.
"The family did not want an autopsy, so they just went straight to the funeral home, and the family refused an autopsy," the dispatcher said in the recording. "The family said they don't want an autopsy, therefore… the coroner just signed off, then and there?"
The dispatcher later confirmed that the funeral home took Daybell's remains, saying, "that's pretty much how it works."
A family refusing an autopsy isn't necessarily an uncommon occurrence, according to retired Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake Deputy Chief Chris Bertram.
"There's a lot of personal beliefs why somebody may not want it," Bertram said.
According to Bertram, religious beliefs can factor in a family's decision to wave an autopsy.
"On the other side, it may be a red flag that they are concealing something," Bertram said.
While that protocol varies from state to state, he urged that any investigation should be complete and detailed. Bertram also noted that it would be unusual for a coroner not to perform an autopsy in the case of Tammy Daybell, a fairly young woman who died suddenly with no history of major medical issues.
Bertram also points 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 investigator and dispatcher may also be discussing the early October shooting that targeted a relative of Lori Vallow.
On Oct. 2, just says after JJ and Tylee were last seen, Brandon Boudreaux called 911 to report that a man had shot at his car as he drove home.
Boudreaux's ex-wife, Melani, is Lori Vallow's niece. Boudreaux believes the shooting was related to Melani's religious beliefs — beliefs she shared with her aunt.
Brandon Boudreaux and his children then went into hiding in Utah. But a month later, Melani Boudreaux showed up at her ex-father-in-law's home and was cited for criminal trespassing.
Finally, the investigator may also be referring to the July shooting death of Lori Vallow's late husband, Charles, in nearby Chandler, Arizona. The gunman, in that case, Alex Cox, was not arrested in the incident because he claimed self-defense.
Cox was also implicated in the Melani Boudreaux criminal trespassing case. Police say he drove Melani Boudreaux to her ex-father-in-law's home.
Cox later died in December in Gilbert, Arizona. Police were called to a home where Cox was unresponsive. Results from his autopsy have not yet been released.
This story was originally published by Lauren Steinbrecher on
in Salt Lake City.