GILBERT, Arizona — This article was written by Eric Grossarth of East Idaho News.
Authorities released new information Monday regarding the investigation into the death of Lori Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox.
The 59 pages of heavily redacted reports provide more insight about Cox, his death and what those close to him had to say about his life. Investigators believe Cox is tied to the death of Daybell’s two children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. Their bodies were found buried on the Fremont County property of Chad Daybell, Lori’s husband, in June 2020.
On Dec. 12, 2019, the Gilbert Arizona Police Department was called to Cox’s home where he lived with his wife, Zulema Pastenes. The couple had been married two and a half weeks. According to the newly released report, Pastenes’ stepson had been in his bedroom with the door closed and headphones on when Pastenes, who was not home, called and asked him to check on Cox.
The stepson found Cox, 51, lying on the floor of the bathroom gasping for air as vomit came from his mouth. The stepson called 911, and first responders rushed to the home. Cox was taken to Banner Gateway Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Autopsy and toxicology reports obtained by EastIdahoNews.com in May 2020 show that a medical examiner determined Cox died of natural causes. The report indicates Cox died of blood cots wedged into the arteries of his lungs. High blood pressure also contributed to his death.
Pastenes went to the hospital, and investigators found her sitting next to her husband’s body. They asked to speak with her in another room.
“Zulema asked me why she was being questioned, and if she was considered a suspect in the death of her husband,” a detective wrote in his report. “I assured her she was not a suspect, but I needed information from her regarding what happened at her house when Alex was discovered.”
According to Pastenes, Cox began having shortness of breath Dec. 6, 2019. The following day, Cox drove to Algodones, Mexico, to buy prescriptions because they were cheaper. When he arrived home, he reportedly felt winded but refused to get medical treatment.
The day Cox died, he called a friend and received a priesthood “blessing” over the phone. EastIdahoNews.com can confirm from multiple sources this friend was Chad Daybell, who had married Cox’s sister, Lori Daybell, a month earlier.
Pastenes and Cox had known each other for about a year, according to the Pastenes. The couple eventually went on a trip to Las Vegas and eloped in a “spur of the moment” decision on Nov. 29, 2019, Pastenes told police.
Before Pastenes and Cox married, he lived in Rexburg in neighboring townhomes with Lori and his niece, Melani Pawlowski. Pastenes said Cox visited for Thanksgiving, and she asked him to stay in Arizona.
After Cox and Pastenes married, Pawlowski stayed with the couple in Arizona, according to police documents. She had married Ian Pawlowski, whom she met in Rexburg, at a small wedding chapel in Las Vegas on the same trip.
During the interview, Pastenes said Cox did not have much communication with his six siblings. She said she knew Lori and Melani but did not know where Lori lived or her phone number.
“She said the last time she tried texting Lori, the number was disconnected,” according to the report. “She had met Lori a few times before when Lori lived locally. She had not seen Lori since she moved a few months ago. She did not think Lori was married.”
Meanwhile, Pastenes’ daughter arrived at the house and spoke with detectives about her mother and Lori. She described the two as good friends who attended the same congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to police reports.
The daughter said both Pastenes and Lori were “preppers” preparing for the end of the world, and her mother met Cox, whom she described as “very religious,” through Lori. The two became engaged, and Pastenes planned to move to Idaho with Cox, Daybell and Pawlowski, according to the daughter. Plans changed when Cox moved in with them around Thanksgiving 2019.
Back at the hospital, a family member showed up and told Pastenes she should not speak to investigators without an attorney. They went to their home, and Pastenes received a phone call from someone.
“Moments later, Zulema told me she would not talk with me without a lawyer,” an officer wrote in a report.
Others, whose names were redacted from police reports, also would not speak with investigators as they had retained attorneys.
After Pastenes stopped talking, the Gilbert Police Department served a search warrant on the home.
Officers searched the house and several items of evidence were recovered, according to police reports. Details of what was taken were redacted from reports, but it appears one of the items was a cell phone, which had data extracted from it.
Included in the case report is an introduction to Cox’s involvement in several investigations before, during and after his death, but no further details were explained. It is known Cox shot and killed Lori Daybell’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow, in July 2019. Cox claimed self-defense. Police were still investigating Vallow’s death in Chandler, Arizona, when Cox died.
Idaho court documents show Cox’s phone placed him at the location where the remains of JJ and Tylee were found around the time they disappeared. No one has been charged in the kids’ deaths, but Chad and Lori Daybell are charged with felonies related to the concealment, alteration and destruction of their bodies.
In a recorded conversation played during a court hearing last week, Special Prosecutor Rob Wood told Lori’s sister, Summer Shiflet, in October that he intends to file conspiracy to commit murder charges against the couple. Those charges had not been filed as of Monday.
The next court hearing for the Daybells will discuss moving the trial from Fremont County. A date for that hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Along with the release of the Cox police report, Gilbert Police shared videos, 911 calls and other reports tied to the Daybell investigation as previously reported on by EastIdahoNews.com.