Lori Vallow's two children remain missing, and she has refused to help authorities find them

By Jeff Truesdell and Greg Hanlon
March 06, 2020 04:38 PM
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An Idaho judge reduced Lori Vallow‘s bail from $5 million to $1 million during a Friday court hearing.

Wearing an orange-and-white striped prison jumpsuit, Lori smiled after the hearing in a Madison County courtroom. Meanwhile, her two children remain missing.

Her defense attorney, Edwina Elcox, asked for a bail amount no higher than $50,000, claiming Lori “poses no flight risk whatsoever.”

Elcox said Lori wouldn’t even be able to flee because she has had “droves of people following her every move, even before she was charged,” and she accused prosecutors of “trying this case in the media.”

Prosecutor Rob Wood countered that Lori previously defied a directive from law enforcement to produce her two children, saying, “She cannot be trusted to obey a court order.”

He said Lori faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all the crimes she is charged with, which might compel her to flee.

If Lori makes bail, she will be required to wear an ankle monitor and will be prohibited from leaving Madison County or several surrounding counties.

Kids Vanished in September — and Lori Went to Hawaii

Lori’s court appearance followed her Feb. 20 arrest in Kaua’i, Hawaii. Authorities allege she and her newlywed husband Chad Daybell, an author who writes about religious doomsday prophecies, fled Idaho as they became a focus of the search for the children.

Authorities say 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, Lori’s adopted son who has autism, was last seen Sept. 23, at his school in Rexburg, Idaho, before his mother disenrolled him and told the principal she was considering home-schooling.

The last known image of J.J.’s sister, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, was taken Sept. 8 while Tylee was on a day trip to Yellowstone National Park with her mother, brother and an uncle, according to the court filing in Madison County that led to Lori’s arrest.

Police located Lori and Chad in Hawaii on Jan. 25, when Lori was given a court order requiring her to produce the children within five days to police or Idaho child welfare workers.

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

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Weeks after she defied the order, Lori was arrested and jailed on a $5 million bond. She stands accused of two 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.

If convicted, each count carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, according to the prosecutor’s office. Wood said on Friday that cumulatively, Lori could face 30 years in prison.

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

Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell
Lori Vallow, at left, and Chad Daybell
| Credit: Rexburg Police Department (2)

Authorities were alerted to the children’s disappearance by a tip from J.J.’s out-of-state grandparents, who reported in late November that they’d not been able to contact him.

After Friday’s hearing, the grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, left the courtroom separately from Chad.

3 Suspicious Deaths

Chad and Lori were married on Nov. 5, two weeks after the Oct. 19 death of Chad’s then-wife, Tammy. The investigation into the children’s disappearance has since yielded a second look at Tammy’s death, which officials now term “suspicious.”

It also has focused renewed attention on the July shooting death in Lori’s previous home in Arizona of her former husband, Charles, by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, during an alleged altercation with Lori and the kids in the house. Cox claimed self-defense and was not charged in the shooting. He has since also died under circumstances that authorities are reviewing.

At Friday’s hearing, Wood said there are three active investigations into suspicious deaths surrounding Lori.

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

Lori, a follower of Chad’s doomsday writings, moved from Arizona after the death of Charles to Idaho, where Chad’s publishing company is based. She had appeared with Chad as far back as Dec. 5, 2018, on a podcast promoted by an entity called Preparing a People, which is run by a multimedia company that says it hosted lectures and videos focused on “helping to prepare the people of this earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ,” according to its website.

On Oct. 1, police say she rented a storage unit in which she kept items that appeared to belong to the children, according to East Idaho News. When the credit card on file to pay for the unit was declined in January, the owner of the unit called police. Inside the unit officers found bikes, a scooter, winter clothing, sports equipment and a backpack with J.J.’s initials.

As Chad prepared to leave Hawaii ahead of his jailed wife’s extradition, he claimed the “kids are safe” in a brief comment to ABC News, but did not otherwise disclose their whereabouts.

Chad has not been charged with any crimes.

PEOPLE’s calls to Lori’s attorneys Mark Means, Brian Webb and Edwina Elcox on Friday weren’t immediately returned on Friday.