Lori Vallow ‘Went Over The Edge’ Before String of Unexplained Deaths in Family, Says Sister-In-Law

Steve Helling
·4 min read

From the time she was young, Lori Vallow was a devoted member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She attended church regularly and raised her children with the same faith.

But in 2018, everything changed. That's when Vallow met Chad Daybell, a doomsday writer and self-proclaimed prophet who focused on the end times. According to friends and family, that fateful meeting changed Vallow's life.

"I thought Lori was great, very loving," says her former sister-in-law, Annie Cushing, in PEOPLE's new issue. "But there was a tectonic shift in her, and she went over the edge." (The case is also featured on Thursday's episode of PEOPLE (the TV show!).)

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Vallow's former father-in-law agrees. "I saw a change in 2018," Larry Woodcock tells PEOPLE. "It was ... just crazy. I couldn't believe that she was falling for it."

Shortly after meeting Daybell, Vallow was surrounded by a string of suspicious deaths. Police are currently investigating the 2018 death of her third husband, Joseph Ryan, whose death was previously ruled a heart attack.

Vallow's fourth husband, Charles -- who was Kay Woodcock's brother -- was shot to death during a July 2019 altercation by Vallow's brother, Alex Cox, who claimed he was acting in self-defense and was never charged. Three months later, Daybell's wife, Tammy, was found dead in her bed -- a death police later called "suspicious."

Her body has been exhumed.

Cox was later found dead under mysterious circumstances.

All of these mysterious deaths came to light in late 2019 after authorities began searching for Vallow's two children, J.J. Vallow, 7, and his 17-year-old half-sister, Tylee Ryan.

J.J. was last seen on September 23, 2019 in Rexburg, Idaho, when his mother withdrew him from school, telling the principal she planned to homeschool him. Tylee was last seen at a Sept. 8 day trip to Yellowstone National Park. After they hadn't heard from the children in months, the Woodcocks called authorities.

• For more on the ever-evolving Lori Vallow case, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

But Vallow and Daybell would not give answers. In January, authorities gave Lori Vallow five days to produce the children and prove they were safe. After she failed to do that, she was arrested.

RELATED: FBI Now Investigating Death of Lori Vallow's Previous Husband, Which Was Ruled a Heart Attack

In June 2020, authorities made a grisly discovery: the charred, buried remains of both children on Daybell's property.

The disturbing case has been covered on PEOPLE (the TV show!) a new 30-minute program from PEOPLE.

Vallow has been charged with desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, contempt of court and willful disobedience of court process or order. Daybell was charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.

They have both pleaded not guilty to all charges. More charges could be pending. An attorney for Vallow and Daybell has not returned PEOPLE's calls for comment.

RELATED: Lori Vallow, Husband Under Investigation for Possible Murder Charges as Her 2 Kids Remain Missing

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Now, the Woodcocks are continuing to search for answers -- and hope to someday reconcile the latest events with the woman they said "loved her daughter and loved J.J."

RELATED: Before Kids Vanished, Lori Vallow Asked Husband to Gauge Their 'Dark' and 'Light; Spirits: Report

"There are just so many unanswered questions that Kay and I have," Larry Woodcock tells PEOPLE. "If [Vallow] would just be half-honest. She doesn't even have to be completely honest. Just be half honest and give us answers because we just don't understand it."

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• With reporting by KATIE GREEN