An Idaho woman accused of killing her two children conspired to have her ex-husband murdered so she could marry her new lover and fulfill a religious prophecy, according to investigators.
Lori Vallow, who is already facing murder charges in the deaths of her son, 7-year-old J.J. Vallow, and daughter, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, believed she was an “exalted goddess” with teleportation abilities, and had been selected to prepare for the end of the world, states a 2019 arrest warrant affidavit provided to The Daily Beast by the Chandler, Arizona Police Department.
The latest charge against her—an indictment by a Maricopa County grand jury this week on one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree for the 2019 death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow—marks the fourth murder linked to Vallow or her present husband, Mormon doomsday author Chad Daybell. Daybell, Vallow’s fifth husband, also stands accused of killing his former wife weeks before he married Vallow.
Investigators say a bizarre set of apocalyptic beliefs are at the center of the string of killings.
Vallow is temporarily confined to a mental health facility following a court ruling that she is not competent to stand trial with Daybell in the deaths of J.J. and Tylee. They disappeared in September 2019, shortly after Vallow and the kids moved to Idaho so she could be with Daybell in the wake of their respective spouses’ deaths. Cops said Vallow and Daybell lied to investigators about the children’s whereabouts and traveled to Hawaii to get married on a beach rather than help with the search. Vallow’s attorney, Mark L. Means, did not respond to a request for comment.
The investigation into Charles Vallow’s murder began with a phone call, according to the 2019 arrest affidavit. Shortly after 8:30 a.m. on July 11 of that year, Alex Cox, Lori Vallow’s brother, is said to have dialed the Chandler Police Department and said he had just shot his brother-in-law. Cox, 51, claimed he fired at his sister’s husband in self-defense. Vallow died at the scene, according to authorities.
But detectives didn’t buy into the self-defense claim and launched an investigation that revealed Lori and Charles had separated after she accused him of being unfaithful, the affidavit reveals. Lori’s behavior had become erratic at that time, with the mother of two claiming she “was selected to prepare 144,000 people for the end of the world,” the probable cause statement continues. Charles—whom Lori now believed was “possessed by a dark spirit by the name of Ned Schneider”—petitioned the court to order that she undergo a mental health evaluation.
Alex Cox had also previously wound up on police’s radar.
In October 2019, someone in the back of a parked Jeep Wrangler shot at a Gilbert, Arizona, man named Brandon Boudreaux as he got out of his car. Boudreaux, who was married to Lori Vallow’s niece, told police he suspected the shooter may have been Alex Cox. The affidavit states Boudreaux then “provided authorities with insight into the extreme religious beliefs of Lori Vallow and Alex Cox,” which he “suspected ...led him to lose his wife and also led to the murder of Charles Vallow.”
While this was going on, investigators learned that Charles Vallow’s death was viewed as “necessary in order for Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow to marry and fulfill their religious prophecy,” says the affidavit.
“It was discovered that Lori Vallow believed she was an exalted Goddess and she and Chad were directed to lead 144,000 people in preparing for the end of the world,” it continues, noting that Lori and Chad “believed that they had extraordinary abilities.”
“Some of these abilities included the power to teleport and cause harm to others, the ability to call up natural disasters, the ability to pray away demonic spirits attached to others and also visionary capabilities,” states the affidavit. “Because of these abilities provided to them, they felt that they were qualified to tell whether someone had a ‘light’ or ‘dark’ scale associated with them. This scale would indicate whether or not they had demonic spirits attached to them. Lori and Chad would often refer to these dark spirits by actual name, by a certain level of spirit or by using the term zombies… Coincidentally, if you shared their belief system, your score was favorable. If you offered any opposition to their belief or their destiny, you were seen as possessed.”
Investigators also turned up incriminating text messages laying out the plot to kill Charles Vallow, according to the affidavit. In one text sent by Alex Cox’s widow, Zulema Pastenes, sent to Lori, she said she was “told by God that she is to protect Lori.” In another, Pastenes told Lori that she “had a vision that she could create storms and fire and will have the eye of the Lord.” In a text Lori sent to Pastenes in February 2019, she claimed that Charles—whom she had by now started referring to as “Hiplos” or “Ned”— “was blocking her gifts.”
“Let’s go spiritually tonight and work on him,” Lori is said to have texted Pastenes five weeks before Charles was murdered. “We give the timing to the Lord but we don’t need to relent. This is war.”
Detectives examined Lori’s online search history, and found she had been looking into Social Security disability benefits, authorities say. A week after Charles’ death, Lori texted her new husband Chad Daybell: “So I talked to the insurance company. He changed it in March. So it was probably Ned before we got rid of him. They can’t tell me to who [sic] of course but it’s done. I’ll still get the $4K a month from SS.”
Shortly before he was killed, Charles Vallow began talking to Lori and Alex’s brother about Lori’s “radical beliefs,” and the two started planning an intervention. They agreed to sit her down on Jul. 10 and get Lori help. But after Lori’s mother told her what was about to happen, Lori warned Alex that something was afoot.
“Thank you for standing by me,” she texted him. “It’s all coming to a head this week. I will be like nephi I am told ! And so will you.” (Nephi is the name of a prophet in the Book of Mormon, according to the affidavit.)
The next morning, Charles Vallow was dead. Following the shooting, Lori—who apparently believed Charles was planning to kill her for the life insurance money—took Charles’ rental car and phone, grabbed J.J. and Tylee, and went to Burger King to get food for J.J. and Walgreens to buy flip flops for herself and Tylee. Charles lay dying on the floor for 43 minutes before Alex called 911, the affidavit states.
“When reporting the incident, Alex indicated that it just happened,” it explains. “He was provided with CPR instructions and he acted as if he was performing life-saving measures on Charles. It was not until emergency personnel began life saving measures that they saw blood coming from Charles’ body. This would indicate that Alex performed no emergency aid.”
Alex told cops he shot Charles twice in the chest. In the affidavit, investigators said they did not have solid evidence that Chad Daybell was directly involved in carrying out Charles’ murder.
In the aftermath, two witnesses told police that Lori told both of them that Charles had died long before he was actually killed, and that his body had been taken over by evil spirits. They said Lori asked them to “try and pray the spirits out of his body” so Charles’ soul could be freed.
“Based on the above synopsis and a myriad of other facts gathered in this case, it is recommended that Lori Vallow...be charged with conspiracy to commit murder for the death of her husband Charles Vallow on 07/11/2019,” the affidavit concludes.
Cox died after collapsing at his home in December 2019. The Maricopa medical examiner later declared the cause of death to have been a blood clot.
In a statement, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said, “Complex, difficult cases of this nature take time to properly investigate and solve. I appreciate the tremendous number of hours the dedicated officers of the Chandler Police Department have invested, and my office is equally committed to bringing those responsible for Charles Vallow’s death to justice.”