Vallow's children have not been seen since September, amidst a trail of deaths that have warranted renewed interest from authorities

By Jeff Truesdell
April 14, 2020 02:59 PM
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Rexburg Police Department

Lori Vallow, whose two kids have not been seen since September, and her husband Chad Daybell are now officially under investigation for possible murder, attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

The confirmation comes in an April 9 letter from the Idaho attorney general’s office to the Fremont County Prosecutor’s Office in Idaho in which the AG’s office agrees to assist local prosecutors in their investigation of those possible crimes.

Meanwhile, Lori’s children, 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, who disappeared amidst a trail of deaths before and after Lori and Chad’s November marriage, remain missing.

Lori is a follower of Chad’s writings on religious doomsday scenarios, and appeared with him on at least one podcast with a theme of preparing for the end of the world. Divorce filings from a prior marriage allege Lori had developed a recent infatuation “about near death experiences and spiritual visions,” and that she’d claimed to be “a God assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020 and that if [her then husband] got in her way of her mission she would murder him.”

The letter from the AG’s office to the local prosecutor does not specify which death or deaths are under review, and neither Lori nor Chad have been charged in connection with any murder or attempted murder. Fremont County, where Chad formerly lived, is adjacent to Madison County, where he and Lori shared a subsequent residence in Rexburg and where Lori is facing criminal charges related to her children’s disappearance.

But authorities looking into the missing children have voiced renewed interest in the October death of Chad’s previous wife, Tammy, two weeks before Lori and Chad married; the July death of Lori’s previous husband, Charles Vallow, in a shooting at Lori’s home by Lori’s brother Alex Cox, who claimed self-defense and was not charged; and the December death of Cox himself.

In addition, Cox has been alleged as a possible participant in a non-fatal drive-by shooting of Brandon Boudreaux, whose former wife, Melani, is Lori’s adult niece. Brandon’s court papers in a child custody case allege that Melani was part of an “attempted murder” plot to have him killed, citing an insurance policy that made Melani the financial beneficiary of his death. His filing alleges that Melani was “hoping to cash in on that policy to help support the cult that she is believed to be a part of.”

Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, at left, and his sister Tylee Ryan

Brandon’s filing further alleges: “[Melani’s] knowledge of the whereabouts of her aunt’s two missing children and her unwillingness to cooperate with law enforcement in finding those children, is daunting to [Brandon]. [Melani’s] current husband has told law enforcement something to the effect that [Melani] says sometimes children are full of light and then just like that they go dark.”

Robert Jarvis and Garrett Smith, the attorneys for Melani — now Melani Pawlowski — issued a joint statement saying she “strenuously denies the innuendoes and allegations that she knows the whereabouts of the missing Vallow kids and that she has been involved in any wrongdoing.”

“She has cooperated with the FBI thoroughly,” Smith tells PEOPLE. “She had nothing whatsoever to do with this alleged drive-by shooting of Brandon.”

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Lori currently is jailed in Madison County, Idaho, 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 children.

She has not yet entered a plea and is scheduled for a preliminary court hearing May 7 on the charges.

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

Lori’s attorney, Mark Means, has not responded to any previous calls by PEOPLE for comment. Lori is due back in court on Friday to hear her request to have her bond reduced from $1 million.

An attorney for Chad was not identified.

Both the AG’s office and the office of Fremont County Prosecutor Marcia Murdoch declined PEOPLE’s request for additional comment on the current investigation into possible additional criminal charges.

Lori’s Children Vanished in September

Lori’s adopted son, J.J., was last seen Sept. 23 at his school in Rexburg, to which Lori and the two kids moved 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 Lori’s daughter, Tylee, dates to a Sept. 8 day trip Tylee 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.

Lori Vallow
Dennis Fujimoto/AP/Shutterstock

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.

In November, police say Lori and Chad “abruptly vacated” their home in Rexburg as authorities prepared to carry out search warrants tied to the children’s disappearance.

Lori and Chad subsequently were located Jan. 25 in Kaua’i, Hawaii, where police slapped Lori with a court order out of Idaho that gave her five days to turn over the kids to police or child welfare authorities. She defied that deadline, which resulted in the charges against her and her extradition to Idaho, and police said there was no sign the children were ever in Hawaii.

Police in Rexburg say they have documented several misleading statements from Lori and Chad about the kids’ whereabouts, and “strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger.”