Mom Who Missed Deadline to Produce Missing Kids Said She Pulled Son from School for Out-of-State Job

Lori Vallow wrote in a September email that she had to "move quickly" from Arizona, and police say her two children were last seen that month

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

In the weeks before Lori Vallow‘s 7-year-old son was last seen in September, she emailed his Arizona school to say he wouldn’t be re-enrolling because the family had to “move quickly,” in part citing the recent death of her then-husband.

“Since the circumstances in our lives have changed drastically since my husband passed away last month, I have been offered a job out of state and have had to accept it,” she wrote on Sept. 5, 2019, in an email to staff at Laurens Institute for Education that was shared with PEOPLE. “We have had to move quickly since the job started ASAP. So I’m sad to inform you that Joshua won’t be returning this year.”

She added: “We are doing our best to adjust to our new life.”

Left out were the details of that death: Charles Vallow, Lori’s estranged husband, was shot and killed July 11 in Lori’s home by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, allegedly during a confrontation. She then moved her son Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and his sister, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, from suburban Phoenix to Rexburg, Idaho, where Lori married Chad Daybell, an author who writes about doomsday prophecies, and whose own wife’s October death authorities have labeled “suspicious.” Alex Cox also later died, but his cause of death has not been revealed.

Alerted in November to the two kids’ disappearance by a grandparent, police have said they “strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger,” and allege that Lori “has refused to work with law enforcement to help us resolve this matter.”

Lori Vallow
Lori Vallow. Rexburg Police Department

The mom’s email and a separate statement released Thursday by J.J.’s school — “[W]e want him to be safe and found happy and smiling as we remember him when he was here,” it said — are the latest update in the search for the missing kids after Lori defied a January 30 court-ordered deadline to produce them.

Questioned in November in Idaho, Lori said the children were in Arizona. But after quickly disproving that statement, officers with a search warrant bore down on Lori and Daybell, only to learn the couple had “abruptly vacated” their Rexburg home and vanished, police said.

The couple was discovered January 25 on the Hawaiian island of Kuau’i, with no sign the children had ever been there with them, police said.

Authorities who ordered Lori to produce the children within five day to police or Idaho child welfare officials have not taken a next step, short of saying that Lori could face civil or contempt of court charges for her refusal.

Chad Daybell
Chad Daybell. Rexburg Police Department

The grandparents of the children, Kay and Larry Woodcock, have expressed fears for the safety of the children. They have cited Charles Vallows’ divorce documents, which described Lori’s growing embrace of extreme religious beliefs and claim that Lori believed “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.” Charles Vallow and Kay Woodcock are siblings.

For now Lori and Daybell are believed to still be on Kuau’i, Kay Woodcock told reporters on January 30.

School CEO: Missing Child ‘Is a Beautiful Boy’

J.J., who has autism, previously was enrolled at the Laurens Institute in Gilbert, Arizona, which the co-founder and CEO Margaret Travillion describes in an email to PEOPLE as “an all-inclusive pediatric treatment center and private school serving children and adults with developmental disabilities.”

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“Our hearts continue to ache during this time, we all want to know where JJ is and know that he is safe,” she said in her statement. “J.J. is a beautiful boy who has a smile that goes on for days. His joy of life was contagious. He started with us as a very quiet child and soon blossomed into a child who loved coming to class, loved being with his friends and loved to talk about his family.”

“We were shocked to learn of Charles’ death,” her statement continued. “It was evident on campus that Charles deeply loved J.J. and J.J. loved him. Lori always had a smile when seen on campus with J.J. and when he was unenrolled we were told they were leaving the state due to a job opportunity. When the story broke we were devastated. The thought that J.J. left us at the beginning of Sept. and was last seen in Idaho on Sept. 23rd was overwhelming to hear.”

“We have two yellow ribbons hanging on our trees on the property, one for JJ and one for Tylee,” she said. “Staff members wear small yellow ribbons daily in support of J.J. and Tylee’s safe return.”

She added: “We all pray for a happy ending and a positive outcome.”

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