Mysterious Family Deaths After Mother Befriends Cult Leader
Lori Vallow befriends ex-grave digger and religious fanatic Chad Daybell and a string of mysterious deaths occur including her two children
The disappearance of JJ and Tylee Vallow sparked interest across America and they became two of the most famous missing children at the time. However, what makes this case bizarre, is the fact that surrounding the children’s disappearance, was a series of deaths of people connected in some way to their mother Lori.
Lori Daybell, previously known as Lori Vallow was married to her husband Charles Vallow, with whom she shared two children, Tylee and JJ. Tylee was a 16-year-old girl from Lori’s previous marriage, that she was raising with Charles, and their 7-year-old son, JJ, who they had adopted from Charles’ niece.
It all started in 2017 when Lori began reading the books of Chad Daybell, a former grave-digger, and writer from Idaho, who is said to be a religious fanatic, a cult leader of sorts. She became fascinated with his writing and a year later she had the opportunity to meet him. The two quickly hit it off and she began creating podcasts with him, where the two would spread Chad’s beliefs that there was a certain darkness on earth that needed to be eliminated. Morgan Loew an investigative reporter that worked on this case said that:
“Chad had this belief that some people who were on this earth weren’t really the people they were supposed to be. … They were zombies. Their souls had left them. … And — evilness took over their bodies. And the only way to release their spirits to heaven was to kill the bodies”.
Lori began telling her friends that she was a supernatural being, chosen by God to help Chad on his mission to eliminate this darkness and lead the other chosen ones into the millennium. April Raymond, Lori’s former friend, said that Lori believed one of those dark souls not meant to be on earth, was her own husband Charles. She says that “the way she had explained it to me about Charles was that Charles was already dead. And that there was a demon living inside of him”. Charles, spooked by Lori’s ideas went to the police, concerned for his own safety. He changed the beneficiary of his million-dollar life insurance policy from his wife to Kay Woodcock, his sister and the biological grandmother of his son JJ.
He filed for divorce, yet was still concerned for himself and his children because of her radical beliefs and by the middle of 2019, he had gone to the police twice. In a recording from the police officer’s body cam, Charles said to Officer Dorenbush that “She’s psychological, she’s gone. Something’s happened to her”. The police did not act on his claims and for Charles, life went on as usual.
The first murder
On the morning of the 11th of July, Charles went to Lori’s home in Arizona to pick up JJ for school. Lori and the two children were there, along with Alex Cox, Lori’s brother. Alex had always acted as a protector for Lori, willing to do anything to shield her from harm. Within an hour, Charles was shot by Alex and lay dead on the floor. Alex called 911 and said he had to report a shooting, which he claims was carried out in self-defence. Alex told the police officers that attended the scene that Charles and Lori got into an argument and that Charles became violent. He claims that 16-year-old Tylee came out of her room with a bat to defend her mother and that Charles grabbed the bat and turned on Alex. This is when Cox says he shot Charles, fearing for his own life.
The police believed Alex, and Charles’ death was not considered to be suspicious. What remains curious, however, is the fact that Lori told JJ’s school that her husband committed suicide, and it wasn't until the school administrators searched for his name on Google, that they learned the truth.
In September that same year, Lori moved herself and the children into a new house in Rexburg, Idaho near to where Chad Daybell lived with his wife and children. Alex her brother moved into the same complex.
The disappearance of the children
April Raymond says that her friend, Lori, began referring to her daughter, Tylee as a zombie, who had a “dark spirit”. On Septemeber the 8th, the family took a trip to Yellowstone National Park, which is believed to be her very last day alive. They left the park and drive back to their apartment, and Alex, who had been at the park with them, returned back to his own home. Police investigators tracked Alex’s phone to Lori’s apartment at 2:45 am that night, where he stayed for two hours, before travelling to Chad Daybell’s back yard.
Following Tylee’s mysterious disappearance, JJ was last spotted at his school in Rexburg, on Septemeber the 23rd, with Lori emailing the school the next day stating that she is moving to California for a fresh start, which the school understood. Melanie Gibb and her boyfriend, friends of Lori’s, were staying with the family that weekend when JJ disappeared. David Wick, Melanie’s boyfriend claimed that Lori said that JJ:
“Was being a zombie and climbed up on the cabinets, climbed up on top of the fridge, smashed her picture of Christ down, and then climbed up onto the upper cabinets and got between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling”.
Once again, Alex Cox was around that evening, and his phone records can trace him to Chad Daybell’s backyard after JJ was last spotted.
For the time being, no one was suspicious of the children’s disappearance, and life continues as usual for Lori and Alex. It is not until further strange deaths linked to the family occur, that anyone questions the whereabouts of the two children.
On the 9th of October Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori’s niece was killed in a drive-by shooting in Arizona, yet what is concerning, is that the Jeep identified as carrying the shooter, was registered to the late Charles Vallow. This prompted Boudreaux to hire a private detective to investigate both suspicious incidents. It was then, that private investigators noticed that the children were missing.
Chad and Lori get together
On October the 19th, Chad Daybell’s wife, Tammy died at their home, which initially is thought to be unsuspicious, with the report stating that she died peacefully in her sleep, despite no autopsy ever being carried out.
Only seventeen days after Tammy died, Chad and Lori got married on a beach in Kauai, Hawaii, with receipts showing that Lori had purchased her own wedding ring from Amazon three weeks prior to Tammy’s death, which spurred law enforcement to become suspicious and further investigate her death.
The children are discovered to be missing
On November the 26th, Kay Woodcock, Charles Vallow’s sister asked Idaho police to perform a welfare check on the two children, as she had not heard from them and were concerned. When the police performed the check, Lori and Chad informed them that JJ was staying with her friend, Melanie in Arizona. Lori called Melanie to corroborate her story, and when the police called Melanie they got no response. Upon their return, they questioned Lori further, which caused her to embellish her story further, stating that they were meant to be going to see Frozen 2, which is why Melanie had not responded.
Melanie says that Lori called her, and that “she asked me just to pick up my phone and take a picture, random picture of kids running around”. She was concerned that Lori had asked her to lie to the police, but Lori assured her that JJ was safe and that she was hiding him from his grandmother Kay Woodcock.
The next day, the police executed a search warrant and discover that Lori and Chad have fled and are nowhere to be seen. They were found on yet another vacation in Hawaii, which raises even further suspicion. Lori’s car was searched in Hawaii for evidence of the missing children, yet nothing was found.
In another bizarre twist, Lori’s brother Alex Cox was found dead in a bathroom in Arizona on the 12th of December, yet the autopsy confirms he died of natural causes whilst he had the drug Narcan in his system.
On the 25th of January 2020, Lori was served an order to present the children within five days, which of course she ignored, which caused her to be arrested for abandonment charges. She was extradited to Idaho and put in Jail, whilst Chad returned home.
On April the 9th, the authorities reveal that were investigating both Lori and Chad for attempted murder and conspiracy in connection to Tammy, with her body being exhumed and her death being reclassified as suspicious.
The children are found
It isn't until the 9th of June, 2020, that the police perform a search of Chad’s home when they discover two bodies buried in his backyard. JJ’s body was found to be tightly wrapped in plastic sheeting and taped before being buried in the pet cemetery at the bottom of Chad’s garden. Tylee’s body was found in a horrific state, which made it hard to discern exactly what happened to her, but what was for certain, was that her body had been dismembered and burned before burial.
Chad was arrested and taken into custody and he and Lori were both charged with destruction or concealment of evidence. The case is still ongoing, with no clear resolution, which is in part due to the death of Alex Cox, Lori’s brother who could've provided the police with key information on the case.
Morgan Loew an investigator on the case says that “what’s infuriating to the people who follow this case is that there’s nobody charged with any of these deaths. Nobody’s charged with murder”.
Whilst no clear evidence has pointed to Lori, Chad or Alex committing any of the multiple murders that occurred, it is unequivocal that their behaviour before and after the disappearance of the children and Tammy’s death is largely concerning. Many people believe that Lori and Chad are at the heart of all of the deaths that occurred to people in connection with them, although people are divided on which of the two had more agency in the crimes committed.
Is Lori a victim who was indoctrinated by Chad’s radical religious beliefs, was she a heartless mother who killed her two children with the help of her brother or was her strange behaviour simply coincidental, and in fact, somebody else committed the crime?