REXBURG, Idaho (ABC4 News/East Idaho News) – The mother of two missing Idaho siblings remains behind bars three days after her first court hearing in Rexburg, after struggling to find a local bail bonds company willing to get her out.
Lori Vallow Daybell was charged with two counts of felony child abandonment, misdemeanor resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime, and contempt of court. The charges are related to the disappearance of her children, 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, who were last seen in September.
Edwina Elcox, one of Daybell’s defense attorneys argued in Friday’s hearing for a bail reduction of $10,000. She told the judge and the packed courtroom that this was a court of law, not a court of public opinion, and that the bail must match the charges Daybell is facing.
“Are we going to let our citizens’ rights be dictated by what appears in the media?” asked Elcox. “A $5 million bond is unreasonable, it’s astronomically excessive, and it’s a functional equivalent of holding Lori without bond. This is a violation of Lori’s constitutional rights.”
Elcox reminded the court that Daybell has never been accused of a violent crime and in a recent unrelated murder case, the bail was only set at $1 million.
“It is clear that the government just needed to find a charge that would fit in this case because of all the media attention surrounding this matter,” she said. “The last thing that should happen is to allow this case to be tried in the media and to allow public opinion and rampant speculation to dictate how this case proceeds in the criminal justice system.”
Daybell’s husband, Chad sat behind Lori during the proceedings. Elcox mentioned that Lori would be living with Chad in Madison County and that she is not a flight risk.
On the other end, Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood argued for the bond to remain at $5 million. He asserted Daybell was a flight risk and drew the court’s attention to the fact she quickly left Arizona after the suspicious death of her estranged husband, Charles Vallow. He also pointed out Daybell immediately left Idaho after police attempted to perform a welfare check at her home on JJ and Tylee.
“The defendant also tried to mislead law enforcement about the whereabouts of her children, and in furtherance of that, she tried to convince a family friend to say the children were with them, even though they weren’t,” he said.
Wood said Daybell had a history of defying court orders, the most recent being in January when Madison County issued a court order for Daybell to return the children to Rexburg. She did not follow that court order, which ultimately led to the charge for contempt of court.
“The most aggravating factor about this case … and the reason there is so much media attention, is because the children are still missing,” he said. “The defendant has not only misled law enforcement in their efforts to find the children, but she has completely and utterly refused to aid police in finding the children, even before charges were filed.”
Following statements by the prosecution and defense, the judge reduced Daybell’s bail to $1 million. He stipulated that if she does post bond, she must wear an ankle monitor and stay within Bonneville, Jefferson, Madison and Fremont counties.
As of Monday morning, ABC4 News content partner, East Idaho News reported Daybell had not posted bond and remained behind bars at the Madison County Jail.
If Daybell decides to post bond through a bail bonds company, she would be required to pay 10 percent of the bond amount, $100,000 along with additional jail and state fees. Two local bond companies told East Idaho News they were contacted by Daybell’s representatives, but they declined to work with her.
ABC4 News spoke to Gary Walton, president of Salt Lake City-based Beehive Bail Bonds, who explained running a bail bonds company can be risky. If Daybell fails to show up for court, it is up to the company to return her to custody or risk being liable for the entire $1 million.
“I can tell you because of the current charges, her behavior up in Hawaii, and the possible pending charges that may come as a result of the further investigations, she is an extraordinarily high risk person to appear,” said Walton. “So that $100,000 fee upfront looks pretty small next to a $1 million loss and that’s why I don’t think there’s a bonding agency in the country that would underwrite her bail.”
Larry Woodcock, JJ’s biological grandfather told media after Daybell’s Friday hearing that he was not concerned with her posting bail, emphasizing that their focus is on locating the missing children.
“It’s not about whether I like Lori or Chad. I don’t care what the judicial system does or doesn’t do to Lori. This is about finding two children. I want everybody to please keep that in mind,” said Larry.
He added, “If Lori gets free tomorrow, she’s free. But tell us where the kids are. That’s all what I want to know […] Anything more than that is just simply pudding on the cake.”
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Daybell on March 18 and 19. Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood will need to prove there is enough evidence on the felony charges for the case to proceed from Magistrate Court to District Court.
“We have the paperwork ready, but so far, nothing has happened. We have done our due diligence as far as getting an ankle monitor, and we are ready if she does find a bondsman,” Madison County Sheriff Sgt. Isaac Payne told East Idaho News.
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