Lori Vallow, the doomsday-obsessed mother of two missing children, won a preliminary legal battle on Friday after a judge lowered her bail during her first court appearance in Idaho.
Vallow, 46, faces several charges, including desertion and nonsupport of children, in relation to her missing children—17-year-old Tylee Ryan Vallow and 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow—who have not been seen since September, according to a criminal complaint filed in Idaho.
Authorities allege Vallow also failed to comply with a court order to produce her two children in January, obstructed police efforts to find them, and asked a friend to falsely tell police she was watching her son. She has denied the allegations.
Throughout the case that has garnered national attention, the Idaho mother and her new husband, 51-year-old Chad Daybell, have not been cooperative—only adding to the mystery of where the two children are. The two are members of a community of doomsday preppers and were married weeks after Daybell was widowed. Vallow’s estranged husband, Charles, also died months before the marriage, shot dead by Vallow’s brother, Alex, who claimed it was an act of self-defense. Both deaths are under investigation.
Daybell, the author of apocalyptic novels for a Mormon audience, has not been charged with anything but is listed as a person of interest in the case.
Dressed in an orange and white striped prison jumpsuit, with red lipstick and curly blond hair, Vallow appeared to smirk as she entered the courtroom and looked around to see who was in attendance on Friday. She asked Judge Faren Eddins to call her Mrs. Daybell.
Eddins granted the defense lawyer’s request to lower Vallow’s bail, reducing it from $5 million to $1 million. Vallow, who left the courtroom smiling after her 30-minute hearing, must now wear an ankle monitor and remain within a four-county area in Idaho in accordance with her new bail conditions.
J.J’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, and Vallow’s son from another relationship, Colby Ryan, were in the room along with several people wearing t-shirts saying “Where Are The Children?”
Daybell attended the hearing and sat on the opposite side of the room, avoiding eye contact with his wife’s family. His appearance was met with an audible “gasp,” according to reporters.
Dozens of media outlets and curious citizens gathered outside the Madison County Courthouse hours before Vallow’s hearing. Some carried signs saying “Welcome Back Lori” and handed out blue and pink “Tylee and J.J.” ribbons.
“To not know where Tylee and J.J. are, to be in a position like this, it’s like a nightmare,” Colby Ryan told reporters before the hearing. “It has destroyed us on pretty much every level.”
Vallow’s attorney Edwina Elcox argued for a reduction in her client’s $5 million bond to $10,000—a request mentioned in a Wednesday motion for “information, evidence, and materials” on the case.
“This is not a court of public opinion but a court of law,” Elcox said on Friday, adding that the bail was “unreasonable and astronomically excessive” and that over her decade of experience she had “never seen a crime of desertion charged.”
Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood argued against a bail reduction, saying the charges did not stem from a criminal investigation but a missing persons case in which Vallow gave police false information and fled after a welfare check.
“The children are still missing and the defendant has not only misled law enforcement in their efforts to find the children but she has completely and utterly refused to aid in any attempts to find the children,” Wood said, noting Vallow continued to collect Tylee and J.J.’s social security benefits after their disappearance.
During Wood’s address, Vallow occasionally rolled her eyes and stared at the other side of the courtroom.
The hearing came after Vallow was extradited to Idaho from Hawaii, where she was arrested last month. In a brief hearing in Hawaii before she was put on a red-eye flight, the 49-year-old’s attorney said he was invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Vallow’s Hawaii lawyer claimed Thursday the mom didn’t produce her two children to authorities because she didn’t want them to go into foster care—an excuse that doesn’t explain why she allegedly lied to police who came to her house to check on them back in January.
According to Rexburg police, Vallow and Daybell said 7-year-old J.J. was staying with a family friend in Arizona—which investigators later learned was false.
The FBI on Thursday released photos of Vallow, her two missing children, and her brother during a Sept. 8 visit to Yellowstone National Park and have asked anybody who visited the park that day “to submit any images, video, or other information that may assist in the investigation.”
The trip may have been the last time Tylee was seen—with her stepbrother vanishing weeks later, officials said.
Tylee and J.J’s disappearance has put newfound scrutiny on the deaths of Vallow’s and Daybell’s previous spouses. Daybell’s wife Tammy died of unknown causes in October and Daybell declined an autopsy. Lori Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, claimed in July he shot Charles Vallow, who was divorcing his sister, in self-defense during a domestic dispute. While he and his sister were questioned by police, neither was charged. Cox has since died of unknown causes.
In divorce documents before his death, Charles Vallow claimed his wife believed she was reincarnated to lead people during the second coming of Jesus in July 2020. According to Charles, his wife threatened that if he got in the way of her saving humanity, she would kill him, according to NBC News.
Police have exhumed the body of Tammy Daybell, whose death was originally ruled as natural after she was found dead in her home. It has since been classified as suspicious but an autopsy report has not yet been released.
Wood on Friday mentioned Daybell’s first wife, stating that the doomsday author had received funds from Tammy’s life insurance policy—from which Vallow could profit. He also stressed Vallow was a flight risk, saying that she moved interstate after her former husband was killed.
Vallow’s next preliminary hearing in Idaho has been set for March 19.