In June 2020, two bodies were excavated from the Rexburg, Idaho backyard of LDS doomsday author Chad Daybell. The two children of Chad’s wife, Lori Vallow Daybell ,had been missing for ten months, since September 2019. After a nationwide search covered extensively in the media, Tylee Ryan, age 17, and JJ Vallow, age 7, had been found.
A new, stomach-turning Netflix documentary, Sins of Our Mother, documents Lori Vallow’s life. It tracing the extremist religious journey that eventually resulted in the deaths of two of her youngest children, as well as her previous husband Charles Vallow, her brother Alex Cox, and Chad Daybell’s former wife Tammy Daybell. As Netflix’s doc explains, Chad Daybell believed that the world was imminently ending, and that he had the power to determine who had a “light” spirit, and therefore would survive the apocalypse, and whose spirit was “dark.” According to Daybell, the only way to exercise a dark spirit, which he called a zombie, was to kill the earthly body.
After Lori Vallow met Chad Daybell in 2018, her marriage to Charles Vallow began to fall apart. Charles filed for divorce in February 2019, claiming to the police that Lori had threatened to murder him and that he was worried for the safety of their children. In Arizona, during July 2019, Lori Vallow’s brother Alex Cox shot and killed Charles Vallow, claiming it was in self-defense. According to Netflix’s documentary, Lori then attempted to take out Charles’s $1 million life insurance policy—though she found out she was no longer the beneficiary—before moving with her brother Alex and her two children Tylee and JJ to Rexburg, Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived. In October 2019, Chad’s wife Tammy Daybell also died of what authorities at the time determined to be natural causes. Chad Daybell took out her life insurance policy as well. Two weeks later, in early November, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow married.
Meanwhile, JJ’s paternal grandmother called in a welfare check to the Idaho police in late November, as she had not seen her grandson since August on FaceTime, and Lori would not return her calls. The police visited the apartment complex where Lori lived, and she claimed that her children were with a friend in Arizona. Her friend denied this. The following day when the police returned to Lori’s apartment, it had been vacated. A nationwide search kicked off for the missing children. In December 2019, Lori’s brother Alex Cox died, also of what authorities determined to be natural causes. In Netflix’s documentary, his wife recalls him telling her before he died: “I think I am being their fall guy.”
In February 2020, authorities located Chad and Lori in Kauai, Hawaii and arrested Lori on felony charges of desertion and nonsupport of her dependent children after she failed to produce them. Lori’s family members, including her mother and her eldest son Colby, who both feature in the new documentary, begged her to explain where the children were, but to no avail.
Ten months after the search began in June 2020, Kylee Ryan and JJ Vallow’s remains were found buried in shallow graves in Chad Daybell’s Idaho yard. Alex Cox’s phone records placed him at the location of these graves around the time they disappeared.
Lori and Chad Daybell were charged with first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Tylee and JJ. They have both pleaded not guilty on all counts, and they face the death penalty if they are found guilty in their January 2023 joint trial. Charles Daybell is also charged with an additional count of first-degree murder in the case of his late wife Tammy Daybell, whose body was exhumed after authorities began searching for Tylee and JJ in 2019. Lori is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Arizona in connection with the death of her former husband, Charles Vallow. Those proceedings are on hold while the joint Idaho case is underway. Authorities maintain that Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, died of natural causes.
In early September, a week before Netflix’s documentary was set to air, Lori’s eldest son Colby was arrested for sexually assaulting his estranged wife, who appears in Sins of Our Mother alongside him. He faces two counts of sexual assault.
Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell are both currently incarcerated in Idaho, with their joint trial set to begin on January 9, 2023. It does not appear that their beliefs have wavered since their arrests. “I’ve done everything to protect them, their whole lives, as you know,” Lori says of Tylee and JJ over the phone from jail to her eldest son Colby in the series. “I’m sorry that you don’t really fully understand the situation… You will see one day.”
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