REXBURG, Id. - Dec. 20 marks one year since Rexburg Police announced their official investigation into the disappearances of two Arizona kids, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
Lori Vallow, the children’s mother, and her new husband, Chad Daybell, were wanted by the FBI for questioning after they failed to report the children missing and for not cooperating. Eventually, the two of them went off the grid.
Fast forward to June 2020, and the bodies of both JJ and Tylee were found on Daybell’s Idaho property, and Daybell and Lori were arrested.
Chad Daybell, top left; Lori Vallow, top right; JJ Vallow, bottom left; Tylee Ryan, bottom right.
Since Dec. 2019, FOX 10’s Justin Lum has covered the story and learned that the children’s disappearances uncovered a complex sequence of events.
The complex case spans several states and began with Lori’s brother shooting and killing her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, in Chandler last summer in what he asserted was self-defense.
Vallow was seeking a divorce, saying Lori believed she had become a god-like figure who was responsible for ushering in the biblical end times. Her brother, Alex Cox, died in December of an apparent blood clot in his lung.
Shortly after Vallow’s death, Lori and the children moved to Idaho, where Daybell lived.
Chad was married to Tammy Daybell, who died in her sleep last October of what her obituary said were natural causes. Authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell married Lori in Hawaii just two weeks later, and they had Tammy Daybell’s body exhumed in December of 2019. The results of that autopsy have not been released.
FOX 10 has learned in early April that the Idaho Attorney General's office has taken over the investigation into Tammy's death.
Now with Lori and Chad awaiting trial in Idaho following their arrest in June, we’re looking back on some of the top moments in the case.
Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell: Religious cult members?
Early on in the investigation, FOX 10 spoke with the founder of the Cult Education Institute, Rick Ross, who said he believes Chad is a cult leader. He wrote multiple religious books and a source close to Lori said she read these books several years prior to meeting him.
"This reminds me of the Lundgren Group in Kirtland, Ohio when children disappeared, parents disappeared, and Lundgren later was convicted of murder, and he was executed in 2006," said Rick Ross. "Number one, that it’s a personality-driven group with a living leader who has absolute authority."
Both Chad and Lori also contributed to podcasts for a doomsday prepping group known as Preparing a People. The group focuses on preparing for the end of the world and prepping for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
"Preparing A People" had issued a statement in the wake of the investigation that read, in part: "We feel it inappropriate to represent or promote any media content that featured or contained references to either Chad Daybell or Lori Vallow."
In a report aired in January by FOX 10, uncovered court documents related to Lori and Charles Vallow's divorce show disturbing allegations concerning Lori's mental stability, with Charles alleging that Lori threatened him, telling him she was a God preparing for Christ's second coming in July 2020, and if he got in her way, she would murder him.
As for Chad, multiple sources say Daybell believed he could judge light and dark spirits, ultimately influencing Lori.
According to a FOX 10 source, Chad believes people are reborn, or graduate, to the next level when they essentially die. The document says most LDS (Latter Day Saints) members are level two, and the dark side only matches the light.
"The thing is when you have some of these gifts, it gets real tricky because you’re not living in one dimension, you’re living in multiple dimensions, and Chad's had two near-death experiences, so his veil is kind of open, but not completely," said author Julie Rowe, who is Chad's former friend.
Rowe says Chad, a doomsday author himself, never brought up this 'system' when he published her books, but by 2018, she says he changed and claimed he could see the light and dark in people. Chad's ideas eventually reached Lori.
Email correspondence dating back to 2018 between Lori and Chad shows that Chad believed JJ was a light spirit, but Tylee was a dark spirit.
Rowe admits to defending Chad’s name in the past, but now she says his teachings are of false doctrine.
"If that isn’t a cult leader, I don’t know what it is," said Rowe. "That’s where I am now, because he was going around, saying things in people’s homes, going to people now. Whether they joined a cult or realized that’s what he was trying to do or not, he won’t call it a cult. I think he thinks he’s starting a church."
Colby Ryan, son of Lori, speaks out for the first time
Over a month after Rexburg Police issued a news release to the public in regards to the disappearance of JJ and Tylee, Colby Ryan, Lori Vallow’s son with her third late husband, Joseph Ryan, spoke to FOX 10’s Justin Lum.
Ryan said his relationship with his mom started to change after she abruptly moved from Arizona to Hawaii with her daughter Tylee, leaving her husband Charles and their son JJ behind.
Colby Ryan with his mother, Lori Vallow.
After about a month, she came back. The couple eventually separated, and soon after, Ryan got a phone call from his mom, saying Charles had a heart attack at the house.
However, body cams show a homicide investigation at the Vallow home. Chandler Police say Vallow's brother Alex Cox shot and killed Charles Vallow in self-defense. Ryan says when he came to visit his mom later that day, she revealed details on the fight that turned deadly.
"Why would you not tell me what was going on, this is worse, this is a million times worse than what you said," Ryan remembered thinking.
Then his uncle, Cox, died suddenly in December - the cause still unknown. But for Ryan, he has questions about his stepdad's death. "No matter what happened, why was he shot in the chest, why was he killed? That just doesn't make sense, why did he have to die for a fight?"
By the end of August 2019, Ryan learned his mom planned to move out of Arizona again with the kids. "She said, 'I got a new job' and that she was moving so that was it, that's all she told me and she didn't tell me where."
Ryan says he had no idea they went to Idaho. Then contact with his mom declined and he couldn't get his sister Tylee to answer calls anymore.
There is a Venmo profile under Tylee Ryan, confirmed to be her account by her brother, and it shows two payments to him in October. Ryan says his mom had always used it as a way to transfer money.
"My mom is not tech-savvy, so Tylee's account for Venmo was the account she used to transfer money to us," he explained. Whether Tylee or his mom made the transfers is unknown.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Ryan finally knew something was wrong when police asked him for the whereabouts of Tylee and JJ.
"I called my mom and I'm like 'Two detectives just came to my door, what is going on?' And she said 'I got it, I'll take care of it... Love you and that was it," Ryan said.
During that time, Rexburg Police searched his mom's townhome in Idaho, but she was gone the day after the welfare check for JJ on Nov. 26. Authorities say Vallow lied about JJ being with a relative in Arizona.
Fast forward to February 2020 - Vallow and her new husband, Chad Daybell, were located on the island of Kauai. Daybell is a doomsday author who Ryan says he never knew existed.
"I'm done. I've been done the day that I saw them without the kids walking around Hawaii," Ryan said. "That was it."
Lori Vallow arrested in Kauai
One of the biggest turning points in the case was on February 20, 2020, when Kauai Police arrested Lori Vallow on a warrant issued by Madison County, Idaho. She was accused of multiple offenses, including desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, and contempt of court.
Chad Daybell was not taken into custody.
Three months earlier, Chad and Lori had gotten married in Hawaii. The marriage was two weeks after Chad's first wife, Tammy, was buried in Utah, and six weeks after JJ and Tylee were last seen.
They were also searching to rent a home in Kauai, mentioning on their applications that they didn't have any children.
The warrant was issued after Lori disobeyed a court order requiring her to produce the children to Idaho authorities.
In late January, authorities in Idaho say a child protection action was filed on behalf of JJ and Tylee, and that a court has ordered Vallow to physically produce the two children to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in Rexburg within five days of being served with the order.
Officials with the Madison County Prosecuting Attorney's Office say the maximum sentence for deserting a child, under Idaho law, is 14 years in prison.
Vallow waived extradition and arrived back in Idaho on March 5. Her bail was set at $1 million.
Lori's storage unit abandoned, children's items inside
East Idaho News received surveillance footage from a storage unit company that shows Lori with a man who appears to be her late brother, Alex Cox, visiting the unit. They're seen moving items, like bins, tires, bikes and even gun cases, in and out of the unit throughout October and once in November.
On Nov. 26, the Rexburg Police Department did a welfare check for JJ and Tylee, but say Lori and Chad gave false statements on their whereabouts.
The next day, police served a search warrant at the Idaho home, as well as the storage unit. The unit contained multiple pieces of sports equipment, as well as bicycles and a scooter. There were multiple photos of the children on blankets and scrapbooks. There was winter clothing, and a jersey left behind had the name of Lori Vallow's oldest son, 23-year-old Colby Ryan.
In January, her credit card was declined, and Self Storage Plus notified authorities.
"Self Storage Plus hopes for a speedy and safe return of Joshua 'JJ' Vallow and Tylee Ryan," the company said in a statement on Facebook. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those people who have been affected by this tragedy. Self Storage Plus is working with local authorities who are investigating this matter and so as not to jeopardize their investigation, will not be providing any further information at this time."
Human remains found on Chad Daybell's property
On June 9, 2020, the answer to, "Where are JJ and Tylee?" had finally been answered.
That Tuesday, Rexburg police, along with investigators from the FBI and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, began searching Chad Daybell’s Salem, Idaho, home for the second time. The search warrant was sealed.
Two sets of human remains were found on his property.
The next day, family members confirmed to FOX 10 that the human remains belonged to 7-year-old JJ and 17-year-old Tylee.
Chad was taken into custody and arrested with a bail set at $1 million.
In court documents, Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood said he believes Chad Daybell either concealed or helped hide the remains knowing that they were about to be used as evidence in court. Wood said the first body was hidden or destroyed sometime on or after Sept. 8 — the last known day that Tylee was seen — and the second on or after Sept. 22, the last known day that JJ was seen.
Prosecutors also say Lori conspired with Chad to hide or destroy the kids' bodies. On June 29 she was charged with two counts to conceal, destroy, or alter evidence in the case.
An Idaho judge ruled to combine Lori and Chad's cases into one case in September. Judge Steven Boyce said he made the ruling based on Chad and Lori sharing a common plan linked to the couple's allegations. This move would also prevent holding duplicate trials with the same witnesses, according to the judge.
Their trial date has been set for some time in January 2021.