The saga of doomsday couple Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell—from the missing kids to the dead spouses—has been one strange twist after another. But even those who have been following along may be shocked by a series of newly emerged text messages.
The messages, obtained by East Idaho News, start with Vallow informing her then-husband Charles’ grown children that their father had “passed away” the day before.
Of course, Charles Vallow had not simply passed away. He was shot dead on July 11 by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, who told police it was a case of self-defense. But Lori refused to tell her stepsons that, or provide them with any useful information, the text messages reveal.
“Hi boys. I have very sad news,” she wrote. “Your dad passed away yesterday. I’m working on making arrangements and I’ll keep you informed with what’s going on. Im still not sure how to handle things. Just want you to know I love you and so did your dad!!”
The sons pressed for more information over the course of the afternoon, but received nothing in response.
“Lori it’s been 3 hours. You’re not that busy. I don’t care what you’re doing,” one wrote.
She replied, “I'm sorry you are so upset. I’m so upset too... I’m waiting to hear back from the Medical examiner to make sense out of all this for myself. Please be patient with me. It’s a crushing situation all around.”
It’s not clear why she would have needed to hear from the medical examiner to make sense of Charles’ death; police have said she was there when Cox shot her husband, in front of 17-year-old Tylee and 7-year-old J.J.—Lori‘s two children who are now missing.
The increasingly exasperated sons pressed for funeral arrangements and explanations. None came.
“Okay Lori. It’s been 3 days. You let us know our father passed away over a text message,” one wrote to her. “We need any information you have. What happened, when did it happen, how did it happen. Where is he now. Are there any funeral plans and can [we] be a part of it...
“This isn’t a nonchalant topic you can just throw a text at and be done with it.”
Lori’s response was that “these are your dads wishes.”
“He and I discussed this a lot over the years we have been together. My plan is to have him cremated as he wished and then take all 5 of you kids to Hawaii to spread his ashes. He did not want a funeral. He wants a celebration of his life,” she wrote.
One of the sons told East Idaho News that he and his brother figured out which mortuary had their father’s body and just showed up, but the funeral director was just as tight-lipped as their stepmother.
“He was very shaky and nervous. We asked him for information, and he said something like, ‘I can’t tell you that. It was requested that I tell you nothing,’” the son said.
The sons arranged a memorial service for their dad. Lori didn’t show up.
At the time Charles was shot dead, he and Lori were estranged. She had begun reading the writings of Chad Daybell, a prolific Idaho-based author of apocalyptic novels for Mormon audiences, and she got involved with Preparing a People, a community of doomsday preppers where Daybell was a prominent voice.
According to a divorce petition Charles Vallow filed in February 2019 and later withdrew, she had become “obsessive about near-death experiences and spiritual visions” and claimed to be “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020.” He also claimed she threatened to kill him if he interfered with her plans.
By July, Charles was living in Texas and Lori was in Arizona with Tylee and J.J., who was adopted and autistic. Charles traveled to see the children and, according to Lori, got into a physical confrontation with her, forcing Cox to rush to her rescue and shoot him.
After Charles was killed, Lori moved with Tylee and J.J. to Idaho, where Daybell lived with his wife of nearly 30 years, Tammy. By October, Tammy was dead, too.
Daybell said she felt sick, went to bed and never woke up. He declined an autopsy, and authorities listed the cause of death as natural. Two weeks later, he married Lori in Hawaii—where she had once lived with Charles and where she supposedly had planned to scatter his ashes.
It does not appear that Tylee and J.J. were at the wedding. In fact, no one has seen Tylee since a family trip to Yellowstone National Park in early September, and J.J. has not been seen or heard from since Sept. 23.
He stopped going to school, Lori got rid of his service animal, and some of the children’s belongings were put in a storage bin. According to Idaho police, Lori and Chad lied to neighbors about whether she even had children, or where they were.
Alerted by extended family, police in Rexburg, Idaho turned up in December to check on the children. A police narrative included in court documents says Lori claimed J.J. was with a friend in Arizona and then called the friend in an unsuccessful effort to get her to lie.
When cops returned the next day to probe further, Lori and Chad were gone. After they surfaced in Hawaii, an Idaho judge issued a court order demanding Lori return within a few days and produce the children.
She didn’t show, and the judge signed an arrest warrant—allowing Hawaii police to take her into custody. Held on $5 million bail, she agreed Wednesday to waive extradition and return to Idaho to face charges of child desertion, contempt of court, and promoting criminal behavior.
Through their Idaho attorney, both Vallow and Daybell have denied wrongdoing. In court in Hawaii on Wednesday, Vallow’s lawyer said the only reason she didn’t comply with the court order was because the judge planned to put the children in foster case—though he also provided no details about their whereabouts.