One basic principle that most Idahoans would embrace is that parents should have primary decision-making authority when it comes to their children.
But, few would support parents being able to harm their children physically through beatings or worse.
The balancing of those two concepts is often in conflict — for instance, whether children should be vaccinated or when the parents’ beliefs preclude life-saving treatments.
Idaho is now in the international spotlight concerning the safety of 7-year-old autistic child Joshua Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, who were most recently living near Rexburg in Salem. They have not been seen since September of last year.
The parents at issue are Lori Vallow and her new husband Chad Daybell. Lori’s husband was shot and killed by her brother on July 7, 2019 (the brother then died in December). Chad’s wife died under mysterious circumstances on Oct. 19, 2019. Lori and Chad married shortly after her death. The former Mrs. Daybell has now been exhumed to check for foul play.
Lori’s former husband in a divorce filing said she believed she was carrying out the work of the 144,000 named in the Book of Revelation and that she would kill him if he got in her way. She may or may not have done so.
Mr. Daybell is the author of a large number of books directed at the LDS audience. He claimed a couple of near-death experiences and asserts that he has been shown the future of the world. His works, mostly fictional, supposedly reveal a violent future as part of the second coming of Jesus Christ. There are unconfirmed reports that he has been excommunicated by the LDS Church.
Both he and Lori have close ties to Julie Rowe, a former Mormon who was excommunicated by the LDS Church last year. Rowe also claimed a near-death experience and that she was shown the “end of times”. She also asserts that she was Mary Magdalene in a previous life. She has made repeated failed predictions of the collapse of society. Rowe is also into “energy healing” where she claims to be able to remotely cure people of ailments (of course for money). She has defended Daybell this year twice in two separate podcasts, stating, “My angels tell me that Chad Daybell is being falsely accused of the suspicious death of his wife . . . I have talked to [his former wife’s] spirit.”
Vallow and Daybell have also been involved with “Preparing a People”, an organization that does forums for the “prepper movement”.
Fremont County law enforcement did a wellness check at the Vallow/Daybell home in November. They were told the kids were with family in Arizona. That was false.
Both Vallow/Daybell then fled to Hawaii. Last week their vehicle was seized by Kauai police. They had a bag of cash with them. Nate Easton, of East Idaho News, tried for three minutes to ask them questions about their kids — and they declined to answer. They have been living in a luxury resort. Their home in Salem has also been searched pursuant to a warrant.
An Idaho judge ordered Vallow to produce the kids in Rexburg last Thursday. She didn’t show up. Presumably, she’ll shortly be arrested and dragged to Idaho. Whether that will break open the case remains to be seen.
This weird incident brings into high relief the clash been the rights of parents and the right of society to protect their children.
There is no proof of harm to the two kids. There is also no evidence they are still alive. But, the circumstances are highly disturbing at best, at least in part because of the parents’ odd beliefs. The fears are compounded by relatives, including grandparents, who are concerned about what Daybell and Vallow may have done.
Last year the Idaho Legislature debated the role of the state in protecting child welfare. The House passed a measure trying to restrict Idaho Child Protective Services from inquiring of parents without letting them know their rights, including the right to remain silent. That measure was killed in the State Senate. The legislation would not have made a difference with the parents here, given their utter intransigence.
But, should Idaho empower state officials — law enforcement, CPS, the courts, etc. — to take far more aggressive action when the next Vallow/Daybell situation arises? That is a matter worthy of debate.