Two siblings from Idaho have been missing for months and their mother, Lori Vallow, has now been arrested in connection with their disappearance.
Lori Vallow, the mother of two missing Idaho kids, appeared in court Friday for the first time in almost two months as mystery still shrouds the twisting case that spans multiple states, suspicious deaths and allegations of apocalyptic religious beliefs.
Michelle Mallard – a magistrate judge in Idaho’s Seventh Judicial District – denied a request to reduce Vallow’s bail again in a court appearance that lasted about two hours. Previously Vallow’s bail had been lowered from $5 million to $1 million.
Citing a variety of concerns, some related to economic and logistical difficulties stemming from COVID-19, defense attorney Mark Means argued bail should be reduced to between $100,000 and $250,000. At particular issue: Allegations from Means that prosecutors had improper access to recordings of attorney-client conversations that occurred while Vallow was incarcerated.
The bail hearing had been pushed back amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Vallow, who says she prefers to be called Lori Daybell after her recent marriage to Chad Daybell, is facing felony child desertion charges and other misdemeanors. Her children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, haven’t been seen since September, and Vallow and Daybell have not been cooperative in the search, police say.
Since Vallow last appeared in court on March 6, the Idaho attorney general has agreed to investigate Vallow and her new husband, according to an April 9 document obtained by USA TODAY.
Fremont County prosecutor Marcia Murdoch asked Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to consider the possibility of filing conspiracy, attempted murder and murder charges against Lori and Chad Daybell in connection with the death of his first wife, Tammy Daybell.
Tammy Daybell died in October, weeks before Vallow and Chad Daybell married on a Hawaiian beach while JJ and Tylee were nowhere to be seen.
Two other suspicious deaths circle the case: Charles Vallow died in July when Lori Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, shot him in what Cox said was self-defense. Police still had a homicide investigation open when Cox died in December. Autopsy results from Cox’s death have not been released.
Underpinning the investigation are the fanatic and doomsday religious beliefs family members say Vallow developed along with Daybell.
March 6: Judge reduces bail for Lori Vallow, mom of two missing Idaho children, to $1 million
March 5: With Lori Vallow due in court, FBI says Yellowstone National Park tourists’ photos may help find missing Idaho kids
Where is Lori Vallow?
Vallow remains in custody in Madison County, Idaho, despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has plagued some jails and prisons across the country. Sgt. Isaac Payne, a spokesman for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, told East Idaho News in April that no inmates, including Vallow, have been released due to the virus.
Vallow was arrested Feb. 20 in Hawaii after she failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to return her children to authorities in Rexburg, Idaho, where the children were living before going missing.
She faces felony child desertion charges, resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime and contempt of court.
In March, she was extradited to Idaho and held on a $5 million bond, which was later reduced.
Where are Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan?
The disappearance of JJ and Tylee went public in December, when police said the children had not been seen since September and were not found during a welfare check.
During the November welfare check at their Rexburg apartment complex, Vallow, Daybell and Cox allegedly lied to police, according to court documents. Vallow said the boy was staying in Arizona with a family friend, but police soon learned the child was not there. When police returned the next day, Vallow and Daybell had fled, court documents say.
Police performed the check when Larry and Kay Woodcock, JJ’s biological grandparents, said they hadn’t heard from the boy in months.
JJ was adopted by Lori Vallow and her late ex-husband, Charles Vallow, in 2014. The boy was born to Kay Woodcock’s son, and Kay, who is Charles Vallow’s sister, initially cared for him with her husband, Larry.
JJ was diagnosed with autism, and the Woodcocks said they were busy running a business, so the Vallows offered to adopt the child. Old videos Woodcock shared on social media show the boy singing into a microphone on a tour bus and gleefully playing with toys.
Tylee welcomed the role of big sister when Joshua was adopted.
“Tylee kind of turned into like a second mom in a sense to JJ, started taking care of him,” Colby Ryan, Lori Vallow’s eldest son and Tylee’s sister, told KSAZ-TV.
Anne Cushing, Tylee’s aunt, described the girl as someone with a “strong sense of right and wrong.”
Police say Joshua was last seen Sept. 23 when his mother told his Rexburg school he’d no longer be attending. Tylee was last seen Sept. 8 in Yellowstone National Park with her mother, brother and late uncle.
Where is Chad Daybell?
Chad Daybell, who married Vallow in November, currently does not face charges in any case related to the missing children or suspicious deaths.
He and Vallow now have the same attorney, Mark Means, East Idaho News reported. In December, when police first announced the children were missing, an attorney for both Daybell and Vallow, Sean Bartholick, denied any wrongdoing by the couple, calling Daybell “a loving husband” and Vallow “a devoted mother.”
Daybell and his late wife, Tammy Daybell, had been married for 30 years with five children before Tammy died Oct. 19. Daybell’s death initially was said to be due to natural causes as Chad said she died in her sleep. But police exhumed her remains in December and said the circumstances “may be suspicious.”
Within two weeks of her death, with JJ and Tylee having been missing for almost two months, photos showed Vallow and Daybell marrying on a beach in Hawaii. The couple later fled to Hawaii in December, where they stayed until Vallow was extradited.
What are the ‘doomsday’ beliefs that Vallow and Daybell allegedly have?
In divorce filings, Charles Vallow said Lori Vallow believed she was “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020.”
But by all accounts, Lori and Charles Vallow had a typical family before. “They were just this bustling, busy family,” Woodcock told “Dateline” in a special that aired on NBC in February before Vallow’s arrest. Woodcock said her brother and sister-in-law had their lives “built around” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The family lived in the Phoenix area for years, at one point relocating to Hawaii for two years. But around 2019, things changed, and Vallow began delving deeper into divergent, “prepper” beliefs, friends and family told “Dateline.”
According to East Idaho News, Vallow and Chad Daybell first appeared on a podcast together almost a year before the children were announced missing.
Daybell has published dozens of books on near-death experiences and written about visions of “the decline and downfall of the United States” and an “upcoming foreign invasion of America.”
In Charles Vallow’s divorce filings, he said that Lori Vallow said she would kill him if he got in her way and that she had “an angel there to help her dispose of the body.” Shortly after her alleged threats, Charles took out an order of protection against Lori Vallow, according to court documents.
Charles claimed that Lori Vallow had “become infatuated and, at times, obsessive about near-death experiences and spiritual visions.”
On Friday, NBC’s “Dateline” is promising another special on the case, teasing interviews with Vallow’s family members who haven’t previously spoken to media.
“It hurts so much. And on top of that, we have a million questions. So you can’t call your own mom. You can’t go to your house or her house and see your siblings. You’re just out in the cold,” Vallow’s son, Colby Ryan, said in a preview of the special.
Contributing: Ashley May, The Associated Press
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