A couple with alleged "doomsday" beliefs have been charged with murder after their children's remains were uncovered in the backyard.
Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell were indicted in the US state of Idaho, prosecutors announced on Tuesday (local time).
The formal charges come nearly two years after the children mysteriously vanished and nearly a year after their remains were discovered buried on a property owned by their stepfather, Chad Daybell, on June 9 last year.
The two children of Vallow, Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were 7 and 16 respectively when they disappeared, sparking an exhaustive search by authorities which culminated with the arrest of their mother in Hawaii on February 20 last year.
The couple never reported the children missing and didn't cooperate with investigators before fleeing the state.
Daybell has also been charged with the murder of Tammy Daybell, his wife at the time when she was found dead in her home on October 19, 2019.
The case has drawn so much attention the prosecutor's office last year hired a public relations firm to handle the influx of media requests.
Homicide charges in the notorious case have been a long-time coming as prosecutors worked to gather enough evidence to take the couple to court for murder.
"Due to the ongoing safety restrictions imposed by the courts during the pandemic, we just recently were given permission to present information to the Grand Jury for their review," prosecutors said in a statement.
"They deliberated and determined there is probable cause to believe that the Daybells wilfully and knowingly conspired to commit several crimes that led to the death of three innocent people."
The couple allegedly justified their disturbing crimes with their doomsday-centred religious beliefs, authorities said on Tuesday.
Text messages show belief in demonic spirits
The couple have both been in jail for months awaiting trial on charges including conspiracy and destruction of evidence.
According to the latest indictment, prosecutors allege during October 26, 2018, and June 9, 2020 the couple "did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying" the killings.
Text messages between Vallow and Daybell were tendered as evidence with talk about Tammy "being possessed by a spirit name Viola" and saying she was now "in limbo".
The couple got married in late 2019 with Vallow later being charged with conspiring to help her new husband keep the bodies of her children hidden.
Court documents in the woman's criminal case, relating to an August court appearance, included claims the couple believed dark spirits, or “zombies”, would possess people.
Friend Melanie Gibb said Vallow told her at different times last year that both children had become zombies and the couple believed the only way to rid a person of a dark spirit was by killing them.
Children found bound and buried in yard
While testifying in August, Police Detective Ray Hermosillo said JJ’s body was found beneath fresh sod, under which were three large white, flat rocks in a row and then a piece of wood panelling. He said the body was buried in a black plastic bag covered in duct tape.
At the medical examiner’s office, investigators found a white plastic garbage bag over the boy’s head covered with layers of tightly wound duct tape.
His sister's body was found buried a short distance away.
Investigators were led to the remains by tracking the mobile phone data of Vallow's brother Alex Cox, who has also been implicated in the crime spree.
The strange case began in mid 2019 after Cox fatally shot Vallow’s estranged husband Charles Vallow in suburban Phoenix in what he asserted was self-defence.
Charles had been seeking a divorce, saying Vallow believed she had become a god-like figure who was responsible for ushering in the biblical end times.
A short time later, she and the kids moved to Idaho, where Daybell lived. He ran a small publishing company and had written many fiction books about apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Following the news of the latest homicide charges for the couple, JJ's cousin, Zac Cox, rejoiced on social media.
"Finally!!!" he wrote on Twitter." and on JJ's birthday too.”
Both Vallow and Daybell pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges. They have not yet had the opportunity to enter a plea on the murder charges.
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