Special Agent Benjamin Dean, an intelligence analyst, was assigned to examine an LG cellphone with a clear case decorated with purple glitter and hearts, he said on the stand at a preliminary hearing to determine if Daybell’s case is removed from state court.
“Well, I’ve had an interesting morning! I felt I should burn all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms,” Chad Daybell wrote his then-wife Tammy Daybell, at 11:53 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2019.
“While I did so, I spotted a big raccoon along the fence. I hurried and got my gun, and he was still walking along. I got close enough that one shot did the trick. He is now in our pet cemetery. Fun times!” he continued, according to the text Dean read during his testimony at the Fremont County Courthouse.
The agent said the text was unusually detailed compared to the couple’s regular exchanges and was sent the day after Tylee Ryan, 17, was last seen alive in Yellowstone National Park.
The phone had been seized from Daybell’s rural property in Rexburg, Idaho, during a Jan. 3, 2019, search related to the disappearance of his stepchildren Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Ryan.
Both children’s remains were found about six months later on a pet cemetery at the edge of Chad Daybell’s property near a statue of a dog.
The little boy was wrapped in two plastic trash bags and bound with tape. Ryan’s badly charred and dismembered remains were excavated nearby.
The FBI also exhumed a dog and cat — but did not find a raccoon in the pet cemetery, according to trial testimony.
Tammy Daybell died in her sleep on October 19, 2019, under circumstances that officials later called suspicious.
Just two weeks after her death, Chad Daybell married Lori Vallow — the mother of JJ, whom she adopted with her fourth husband, and Ryan, her biological daughter with her third husband.
Chad and Lori were part of the doomsday cult Preparing a People, which believes in prepping for a second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of days.
The couple allegedly believed in evil spirits, or zombies, that could possess people — and believed that JJ and Tylee had become “zombies.”
The pair have been charged in connection to the disappearance and death of the children — but not their murder. They are each being held on $1 million bond.
Vallow’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.