The Idaho woman whose children were last seen in September faces multiple charges in their disappearance

By Jeff Truesdell
May 01, 2020 08:05 PM
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Lori Vallow
| Credit: Madison County Sheriff's Office

A judge on Friday refused to lower the $1 million bond of Lori Vallow, the Idaho mom under investigation for possible murder and jailed in connection with the disappearance of her two children last seen in September.

Her defense team earlier had secured a drop in her bond from $5 million to $1 million in a bid to win Lori's pretrial release, but complained it still was too high to Madison County Judge Michelle Mallard, who refused to budge any further.

Lori's attorney, Mark Means, argued that the reduction — making it easier for her to gain freedom for now — was warranted because conversations that should be private between them were compromised and in some cases recorded inside the Madison County jail, hindering his prep for her defense.

Prosecutor Rob Wood acknowledged that two calls had been recorded -- by accident, he said. But Wood blamed Means in part for failing to request a permissible shut-off of the recording system.

Those recordings have seen been deleted, Wood said.

Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, at left, and Tylee Ryan
| Credit: Rexburg Police Department (2)

Lori's children, 7-year-old Joshua "J.J." Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, have been the subject of a search since J.J.'s grandparents reported him missing in November. J.J. is Lori's adopted son.

Means hoped to drop Lori's bond to between $100,000 and $250,000. He said the $1 million was beyond reach for Lori, who was unemployed when she was arrested in February and whose husband, Chad Daybell, a publisher of his own religious doomsday-themed books, is not selling many copies in an economy slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wood wryly countered that after the couple disappeared from their Rexburg home as authorities launched their search for the missing children, Lori wound up in Hawaii. "Until she was arrested, she was living on the island of Kaua'i with her husband, which is very expensive," he said.

After her extradition, Lori was jailed in Madison County on felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, as well as resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, contempt of court and willful disobedience of court process or order for failing to produce the two kids.

She has pleaded not guilty.

Chad Daybell, at left, and Lori Vallow
| Credit: Eric Grossarth/ EastIdahoNews.com

Rexburg police have said they “strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger," and family members have raised additional concerns.

Lori and Chad married in November two weeks after the death of Chad's previous wife, Tammy, a death that authorities later deemed "suspicious." Last month, the Idaho attorney general's office confirmed it was working with authorities in Fremont County, where Chad and Tammy were living when Tammy died, to investigate Lori and Chad for possible murder, attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

Previously Lori was married to Charles Vallow, whose July 2019 shooting death by Lori's brother, Alex Cox, also has drawn renewed scrutiny, as has the December 2019 death of Cox himself.

Lori Vallow, at left, in court May 1, 2020, with her attorney Mark Means
| Credit: 12 News

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Lori allegedly believes she is “a God assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020, and that if [Charles] got in her way of her mission she would murder him,” according to a court filing by Charles, who was estranged from Lori at the time he was shot, with Cox claiming it was self-defense during an altercation in Lori's home. Cox was not charged.

Lori's son J.J. was last seen Sept. 23 at his school in Rexburg, where Lori and the two kids moved to in August from Arizona after the death of Charles Vallow. Lori subsequently withdrew J.J. from the school, telling the principal she wanted to homeschool him.

The last image of Tylee dates to a Sept. 8 day trip Lori's daughter made to Yellowstone National Park with her mom, brother and uncle Alex Cox, according to the court filing in Madison County that led to Lori’s arrest in the children’s disappearance.

Police in Rexburg allege they have documented several misleading statements from Lori and Chad about the children’s whereabouts. Prosecutors allege Lori “abandoned her two minor children, delayed law enforcement’s attempts to locate her children and encouraged another individual to delay law enforcement’s attempts to locate her children.”

Each felony count of desertion and nonsupport of a child carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison if she is convicted.

A preliminary hearing on the charges is scheduled for July 9 and 10.