In the six weeks since Idaho police announced that Tylee and J.J. Vallow were missing, the investigation into the siblings’ disappearance has taken more turns than one of their stepfather’s Mormon apocalypse novels.
And it took another one Thursday when their mother, Lori Vallow, blew the court-ordered deadline to produce them or face a contempt of court charge and possible arrest and extradition from Hawaii.
That’s where she and husband Chad Daybell have been holed up since cops started looking into the whereabouts of their children, the deaths of their previous spouses, and other bizarre incidents connected to the couple.
Last weekend, police on the island of Kauai served Vallow with a court order signed by an Idaho judge, giving her five days to turn up with 17-year-old Tylee and 7-year-old J.J., who was adopted and is autistic.
Ominously, police found no sign of the kids or any indication that they had been in Hawaii. Authorities and family members waited all day Thursday to see if Vallow would comply and bring an end to the troubling mystery.
But the 5 p.m. MT deadline came and went with no sign of Vallow or her children.
Kauai Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar told The Daily Beast this week that he’s been involved in other missing persons cases over the last decade, “but I’ve never seen one with so many twists and turns.”
He did not know if Vallow and Daybell had ever left Hawaii for Idaho, and Kauai police did not return calls for comment. In Idaho, authorities are being very close-lipped because much of the child-protection case is sealed.
“We hope and pray that the children will be produced or found and that they are safe and healthy,” Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood said in a statement.
A reporter for East Idaho News, who was in Kauai when police stopped the couple with a search warrant last weekend and seized their vehicle, pelted them with questions about the children that they refused to answer. Told that people were praying for Tylee and J.J., Vallow had a two-word response: “That’s great.”
Beyond that, the newlyweds have only commented on the situation in a single, brief statement from an Idaho attorney.
“Chad Daybell was a loving husband and has the support of his children in this matter. Lori (Vallow) Daybell is a devoted mother and resents assertions to the contrary. We look forward to addressing the allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor,” lawyer Sean Bartholick said.
Idaho police maintain there’s a lot more than speculation at play. No one has seen the children since late September. Daybell and Vallow got hitched soon after their previous spouses died—deaths that are now under new scrutiny. And they have refused to assist police in any way.
“We strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger,” Rexburg police said last month.
Chad Daybell, 51, is a prolific author of books aimed at a Mormon audience. With titles like Days of Fury, Evading Babylon, and The Rise of Zion, they focus on doomsday scenarios and near-death situations.
A memoir, Living on the Edge of Heaven, catalogs what he says were his own near-death experiences, during a cliff-jumping incident when he was 17 and being hit by a wave at La Jolla Cove in California in his 20s.
“While his body was being tossed by the wave, his spirit was visiting with his grandfather, who showed him future events involving his still-unborn children,” an Amazon summary of the book reads. “This accident caused his veil that separates mortal life from the Spirit World to stay partially open, so he often feels as if he has a foot in both worlds.”
Lori Vallow, 46, was living in Hawaii with her fourth husband, Charles, Tylee, and J.J. when she reportedly began reading Daybell’s florid end-times prose and became obsessed with his worldview.
It’s not clear exactly how or when they met, but by 2018, she was involved with a group called Preparing a People that puts on conferences, lectures, and podcasts for those who, as its website says, “look forward to the rapidly coming changes to our current Telestial way of life, and rejoice in the hope of a far better world to soon come!”
By then, Lori and Charles had moved from Hawaii to Arizona—and their 12-year marriage was on the rocks.
Family members have said that Lori took Tylee and J.J. and disappeared for weeks. Charles filed for divorce in February 2019, painting a disturbing picture of his wife.
He said she had become “obsessive about near-death experiences and spiritual visions” and refused to see a mental health professional. She claimed to be “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020,” Charles wrote in his petition, obtained by the Arizona Republic. He said she threatened to him kill him if he interfered with her plans.
Charles didn’t go through with the divorce, though, withdrawing the petition a month later. He decamped to Texas while Lori stayed in Arizona. Four months later, he was dead.
On July 11, 2019, he showed up at Lori’s home to see J.J. and was shot to death by her brother, Alex Cox, who told police it was self-defense. By his account, Charles got into an argument with Lori, became physical and then came at him with a baseball bat.
“We knew immediately that was wrong,” Charles’ sister Kay Woodcock, who is also J.J,’s grandmother, said at a press conference earlier this month. “It was a setup.”
Cox was not charged at the time and was found dead himself five months later of unknown causes. Arizona police have said the case was still open at the time.
Within weeks of Charles Vallow’s killing, Lori moved to Idaho with Tylee and J.J. Kay Woodcock and her husband, Larry, who live in Louisiana, said their contact with the little boy became more limited. “That was very concerning to us,” Kay said. By the end of September, J.J. was reportedly no longer attending Rexburg Elementary School.
Over the next couple of weeks, police in Arizona and Idaho were alerted to two strange incidents that have since taken on greater significance.
On Oct. 2, Brandon Boudreaux—who was in the midst of a divorce from Lori Vallow’s niece—was driving home from the gym in Gilbert, Arizona, when a bullet came whizzing into his vehicle. He has said police told him the Jeep that raced away from the scene was registered to the late Charles Vallow.
A week later, in Salem, Idaho, Chad Daybell’s wife, Tammy, 49, had just returned from the grocery store when, as she described to police, she was ambushed by someone clad in black and a ski mask who pointed what appeared to be a paintball gun at her. She called for Chad and the person took off.
“She wasn’t shot, and there wasn’t any evidence to who it was. She figured it was a prankster. That’s what we wrote it up as,” Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries told the Rexburg Standard Journal. “She wasn’t injured. Beyond what she told us, we had nothing to go on.”
Ten days later, there was another call from the house. Tammy was dead.
An obituary said the mother of five grown children “passed away peacefully in her sleep.” Her father, Ron Douglas, told a Salt Lake City TV station Chad called him crying, saying Tammy had a coughing fit the night before and simply never woke up. Chad turned down an autopsy and the death was listed as natural causes.
According to the obituary, Tammy and Chad had met when she was a freshman at Brigham Young University and quickly married. She supported the family while he continued his education and helped him build the Spring Creek Book Company, which published his novels.
Tammy and Chad had been married for nearly 30 years, but within weeks of her death, he remarried—reportedly traveling to Hawaii to tie the knot with Lori.
By late November, the Woodcocks had grown very worried about J.J. and Tylee and asked authorities to check on them. When police showed up, Chad and Lori said the children were with relatives in Arizona. A quick check showed that was not true, but when cops returned the next day, the couple were gone. Investigators learned the children had not been seen in two months and, chillingly, that the couple had told people that Tylee was dead or that Lori did not have children.
Now police were just as concerned as the Woodcocks—and not just about Tylee and J.J. In early December, they secured permission to exhume Tammy Daybell’s body to determine if there was foul play. (Autopsy results are not yet available.) And police in Arizona began investigating Charles Vallow’s death with a new eye.
Others began to reassess the couple, as well. Nancy and Michael James, who run Preparing a People—which they describe as a media company, not a religious organization—wrote on their website that they returned from a vacation to news of Tammy’s death.
“We considered Chad Daybell a good friend, but have since learned of things we had no idea about,” they wrote last month in a post that has since been removed. “We recently learned of Chad's new marriage to Lori Vallow a couple weeks after Tammy Daybell died... We did not know Lori as well as we thought we knew Chad.”
The Jameses announced they were removing all content on their site from Daybell and Vallow. “We pray for the truth of whatever happened to be quickly manifest,” they wrote.
Those prayers would not be answered. On Dec. 30, Rexburg police issued an extraordinary statement, publicly blasting Vallow for refusing to cooperate with their search for her children.
“We know that the children are not with Lori and Chad Daybell and we also have information indicating that Lori knows either the location of the children or what has happened to them. Despite having this knowledge, she has refused to work with law enforcement to help us resolve this matter,” they said.
Police said Vallow had left Idaho, but they did not say where she was. That became clear over the weekend when East Idaho News revealed that they were in Hawaii. They moved into a townhouse condo in a gated community bordering a golf course where neighbors said they kept to themselves.
On Saturday, Kauai police served Vallow with the child protective order requiring her to produce the children in Idaho by Jan. 30. On Sunday, they stopped the couple at the Kauai Beach Resort, served search warrants, and took their SUV away.
On Wednesday, the Woodcocks—who have put up a $20,000 reward for information leading to the return of Tylee and J.J.—flew from Louisiana to Idaho in the hopes that Vallow would show up with the children.
It’s what everyone hoped, even though nearly every development in the case has only raised more questions. As Tammy Daybell’s father, Ron Douglas, told Fox 13: “Every time you peel a layer off the onion it makes you scratch your head.”