Lori Vallow: The Disturbing Case of Idaho Mom Whose 2 Kids Were Found Dead on Husband's Property
Authorities say Lori Vallow refused to help them locate her 7-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, who were later found dead on property belonging to her husband. A spate of mysterious deaths have surrounded Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell.
A Fateful Connection
In their first documented appearance together, author and speaker Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow, a follower of Chad’s religious doomsday writings, appear Dec. 5, 2018, on a podcast promoted by an entity called Preparing a People, which is run by a multimedia company that purports to host lectures and videos focused on "helping to prepare the people of this earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ," according to its website.
A Marriage Broken?
On Feb. 8, 2019, Lori's then-husband Charles Vallow, with her at right, files for divorce. He seeks custody of their adopted son, Joshua "J.J." Vallow, and in his divorce papers cites Lori's growing embrace of extreme religious views. He alleges Lori believes “she was a God assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020 and that if Father [Charles] got in her way of her mission she would murder him.”
Estranged Husband Fatally Shot
While estranged from Lori, Charles is shot to death in Lori's Arizona home on July 11, 2019, by Lori's brother Alex Cox. Cox claims self-defense in the shooting, which occurs while he, Lori, and Lori and Charles' children J.J. and Tylee are inside the residence. Cox is not charged.
J.J.'s Service Dog Returned
After Charles' death, Lori calls Neal Mestas, who trained a service dog the couple acquired the previous year for J.J, who had autism, and said she wanted to give the dog up. With the boy's father gone, Mestas tells PEOPLE he finds her request "really puzzling, because now you think, doesn't J.J. need the dog more than ever? That's a traumatic thing to have happen.” Lori tells him the family is moving to Idaho. "It's just too hard," Mestas says she tells him.
Lori's Sudden Move
Lori explains in a Sept. 5 email to J.J.’s school, the Laurens Institute for Education in Gilbert, Arizona, at right, that he won't be re-enrolling because the family had to “move quickly” so she could accept an out-of-state job. By then she has enrolled him at Kennedy Elementary School in Rexburg, Idaho, near Daybell's home base.
The Kids Disappear
On Sept. 24, a day after J.J. is last seen at Kennedy Elementary, his mom disenrolls him and tells the principal that she is going to start homeschooling him. The date is also Tylee’s 17th birthday, but is not noted by Tylee on her social media accounts.
A Shocking Death
On Oct. 19, Chad Daybell reports the death of his wife Tammy, pictured with him at right, saying she had gone to bed with a cough and didn't wake up. The manner of death is initially ruled as “natural causes,” and there is no autopsy. But as concerns arise about Lori and Chad tied to the childrens' disappearance, police later say they consider Tammy's death “suspicious.”
Lies About Kids' Whereabouts Emerge
According to police in their subsequent investigation into the whereabouts of J.J. and Tylee, at right, “in the weeks after Tammy Daybell’s death, Lori Vallow/Daybell and Chad Daybell told witnesses that Lori’s daughter had died a year before the death of her father, which is untrue. Around that same time Chad told another witness that Lori had no minor children.”
Four months after the shooting death of Lori's husband Charles, and two weeks after the mysterious death of Chad's wife Tammy, Lori and Chad are married on Nov. 5, 2019, in Kaua'i, Hawaii.
Missing Persons Case Opened
After getting a call on Nov. 26, 2019, from J.J.'s grandparents Kay and Larry Woodcock, at right, police in Rexburg, Idaho, conduct a welfare check and realize that J.J. and Tylee haven't been seen since sometime in September. Police open a missing persons investigation. The grandparents later offer a $20,000 reward for helpful tips.
Couple 'Abruptly' Vacates Home
As police begin to investigate the children's apparent disappearance after disproving Lori's initial claim that J.J is with a friend in Arizona, they show up Nov. 27 at the Rexburg residence of Lori and Chad Daybell, at right, with search warrants. Police discover the couple has "abruptly vacated" the home and left the area, they say. A later statement says police “strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger” and alleges that Lori “has refused to work with law enforcement to help us resolve this matter.”
On Dec. 12, 2019, Lori's brother Alex Cox -- who had shot dead her previous husband, Charles, in Lori's home during an alleged altercation and claimed self-defense -- is discovered unresponsive in the bathroom of the residence he shares with his wife of 12 days in Gilbert, Arizona. A medical examiner eventually ruled in May 2020 that Cox died of natural causes.
A Son's Plea
In early January, Colby Ryan, an older half-brother to J.J. and Tylee, posted a 7-minute video plea on YouTube, asking his mom to safely return the missing children and end the uncertainty “for everybody, for the kids, for yourself, for all of us.” He says: “I know you know [what] the right thing to do is and I know you have a good heart. It’s time to do the right thing.”
Hiding in Paradise
On Jan. 25 authorities locate Lori and Chad in Kaua'i, Hawaii, at right, where local police say the couple had been staying for an "unconfirmed period of time." Rexburg police said the two children were not with the couple, “and there is no evidence” the kids were ever in Hawaii. Lori is presented with a court order demanding that she turn over the two kids to police or child welfare authorities in Idaho within five days. The deadline passes with no sign of the children.
A Mother's Arrest
On Feb. 20 police in Kaua'i arrest Lori and charge her with two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. She also is charged with arrests and seizures — resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, and contempt of court — as well as willful disobedience of court process or order. Bond is set at $5 million. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, according to the prosecutor's office.
Chad Says 'Kids Are Safe'
In brief comments given to ABC News, Chad said, “The kids are safe.” But he refused to provide more details.
Chad made the pronouncement while leaving Hawaii for Idaho ahead of Lori’s extradition.
According to ABC, Chad also told his neighbors in Hawaii the kids were safe.
New Photos of Kids Surface
In early March, the FBI released new photos they hoped would aid in the search for the children.
The photos, taken on Sept. 8, 2019, showed Tylee and J.J. at Yellowstone National Park, where authorities say they were accompanied on a day trip by their mother, Lori Vallow, and Lori's brother Alex Cox. The photos were notable because they are the last known photographs of Tylee, who hadn’t been seen since the family visited the park.
Lori's Bail Is Reduced to $1M — But Kids Still Missing
During a March court hearing, an Idaho judge reduced Lori's bail to $1 million.
Her defense attorney, Edwina Elcox, asked for a bail amount no higher than $50,000, claiming Lori “poses no flight risk whatsoever.”
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.”
2 of Lori's Lawyers Withdraw
On March 13, two of Lori Vallow's attorneys withdrew from defending her against charges related to the disappearance of her two kids, according to a videotape of the court proceedings obtained by EastIdahoNews.com.
Lori's remaining attorney, Mark Means, also filed a motion seeking the removal of Judge Farren Eddins, who agreed to remove himself with no reason given for the change, according to the video.
Lori Allegedly Believed Children Were 'Zombies': Court Docs
According to court filings, Lori allegedly expressed a belief that her children were zombies.
The court documents were filed in an Arizona court by Vallow’s niece’s ex-husband, Brandon Boudreaux, in a child custody case against his ex, Melani Boudreaux Pawlowski, the East Idaho News reports.
In the filing, Melani Pawlowski allegedly told her current husband Ian Pawlowski that she “had been told by Chad and Lori that her children had been possessed and had become zombies.”
“She shared concerns that she’s been told Brandon needed to die and that may indicate that Tylee and J.J. needed to die as well,” NBC reports.
A Tragic Discovery
By tracing cell phone records of Vallow's deceased brother, Alex Cox, who was on Chad Daybell's Idaho property on two dates that align with the last time the children were seen, authorities on June 9 discover their remains buried on Chad's property. J.J. was wrapped in plastic and bound by duct tape, while Tylee was dismembered and burned.
New Charges Against the Couple
After the discovery of the children's bodies on Daybell's property, Chad is arrested and charged with two counts of destruction, alteration and concealment of evidence, and two counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. He pleads not guilty. Lori is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. She does not immediately enter a plea.
Sister Says She 'Was Wrong' to Support Lori
In a Facebook post, Lori's sister Summer Cox Shiflet, who had been one of Lori's staunchest defenders, says she "was wrong" to come to her defense. "Losing our precious Tylee and JJ in this horrific way is more than we can bear," she wrote. "We had prayed our hearts out for them and hoped with all of our hearts they were safe. But we sadly have to face this new reality and our family will never ever be the same."
Chad Was 'Calm' as Police Searched for Bodies
When J.J.'s body was found, he was in his red pajamas. And while police searched Chad's property, Lori called him from jail, where she was being held on charges of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, among other allegations, according to testimony in a preliminary hearing.
On the recorded call, Lori asks what she can do for Chad and offers to pray, but Chad tells his wife, “I’m feeling pretty calm," before the bodies turn up.