Why is Lori Vallow facing fresh murder conspiracy charges in Arizona?

 (Idaho Department of Correction/Fox 10 Phoenix/The Independent)
(Idaho Department of Correction/Fox 10 Phoenix/The Independent)

For more than four years, the world watched a frantic search for Lori Vallow’s children, the tragic discovery of their bodies buried in her new husband’s backyard, and ultimately, her conviction.

Now, two lesser-known victims in the case have their shot at justice.

The so-called “doomsday cult mom,” 50, was arraigned in December on murder charges relating to the 2019 shooting death of her fourth husband Charles Vallow and an attempt on the life of her niece’s ex-husband, Brandon Boudreaux, in Arizona.

Her trial is scheduled to begin on 1 August, but Judge Justin Beresky said it may not be a realistic start date given the substantial amount of evidence.

“We’ve waited over four horrific years for her [Lori Vallow] to face trial of murdering my sweet, kind, generous, loving and dearest brother Charles Vallow. Your justice is finally coming,” Charles’ sister Kay Woodcock wrote on social media after Lori was extradited from Idaho to Arizona in late November.

Charles and Lori Vallow pictured together. Lori is charged with conspiracy to murder Charles in Arizona (Provided)
Charles and Lori Vallow pictured together. Lori is charged with conspiracy to murder Charles in Arizona (Provided)

Ms Woodcock, who was also the grandmother of Lori’s slain seven-year-old son JJ Vallow, has been fighting for justice for years. “Another huge step forward! We are grateful those justice wheels do indeed turn,” she wrote.

Charles’ death was the first step in a wider plot by Lori and her current husband, alleged cult leader Chad Daybell, to rid their lives of “obstacles” as they termed their spouses and her children, according to text message evidence presented at her trial last year for the murders of young JJ and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan.

In May 2023, Lori was found guilty of the children’s murders and of conspiring to kill her husband’s former wife, Tammy Daybell. She was sentenced to three life terms.

Now, the saga that has gripped the nation since Tylee and JJ went missing in 2019 is taking another major turn.

The spotlight has shifted to Arizona, the site of an earlier chapter in the trail of death allegedly left by Lori and Chad during their plunge into dangerous Doomsday beliefs.

Lori Vallow’s return to Arizona

Lori will be tried in two separate cases in Arizona on two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, according to indictments unsealed shortly after extradition.

In one case, court records show that Lori, along with her brother Alex Cox, are accused of conspiring to kill her former husband Charles, who was shot and killed in July 2019.

In the months leading up to his death, Charles told local police he was concerned that Lori may hurt him or their children.

In the second case, Lori and Cox are accused of trying to kill her niece’s ex-husband, Mr Boudreaux, outside his home in Gilbert, Arizona, in October 2019. He survived the drive-by shooting.

A grand jury indicted Lori on the conspiracy charges for Charles’ death in 2021. However, she had to face charges in the deaths of her kids and Tammy Daybell in Idaho before she could face a judge in Arizona.

Lori is not able to bond out of jail because she is in Arizona on extradition warrants. After both cases are done in Maricopa County, she’ll have to go back to Idaho to continue serving those life sentences.

At Lori’s arraignment, the judge entered not-guilty pleas on both charges on her behalf.

The case was originally slated to go to trial on 4 April but has now been pushed back after being labelled “complex”. If it had started on 4 April, it would be just three days after Lori’s alleged cult leader husband Chad’s trial is set to begin in Idaho. He faces the same murder charges Lori was convicted of earlier this year.

In February, a smiling Lori sauntered into her scheduling conference in a Maricopa County Courtroom and asked for permission to not appear at her next hearing.

Judge Beresky allowed Lori to waive her right to appear on the day of that hearing, which was set for 24 April at 8.30am.

“A large amount of discovery is about to be disclosed – approximately 88,000 pages of discovery. I imagine that’s going to take some time for the defense to get through,” Judge Beresky added.

The defence also told the court that they are waiting for 20 terabytes of data to be turned over.

Charles Vallow: Lori’s fourth husband killed two months before children vanished

Lori, now 50, was once a beautician by trade, a mother of three, and a wife — five times over. Two of them are dead and her current husband, Mr Daybell, could face the death penalty if he’s convicted at his murder trial next spring.

Her first marriage, to a high school sweetheart when she was just 19, ended quickly. She married again in her early 20s, and had a son named Colby before divorcing.

In 2001, Lori married again, this time to a man named Joseph Ryan. The couple had a baby girl named Tylee in 2002 but divorced just a few years later. Ryan later died in his home of a suspected heart attack.

Charles, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, entered the picture several months later. Lori joined the LDS church and the pair married in 2006. They later adopted Joshua Jaxon “JJ” Vallow.

Charles Vallow (Leland Vallow Obituary)
Charles Vallow (Leland Vallow Obituary)

But by 2019, that marriage had also soured. Charles filed for divorce, contending in court papers that Lori also believed herself to be a deity tasked with helping to usher in the Biblical apocalypse.

That year was the last time Lori was in Arizona – until November when she was extradited there to face charges in Charles’ murder.

In 2019, Lori lived in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler with her children Tylee and JJ.

She was married to her fourth husband Charles, but he had filed for a divorce in February of that year based on claims that her religious beliefs were devolving into something far more sinister.

In one filing, he wrote that Lori had claimed to be a goddess sent to usher in the Biblical apocalypse. He had also allegedly expressed concerns that Lori was cheating on him with Chad, who shared her extreme beliefs.

Prior to Lori’s trial, police had released body-camera footage showing a concerned Charles reporting to detectives that his wife’s fanatical religious views had escalated, that she had become “unhinged” and was worried she might try to hurt him or the children.

He had called Gilbert Police in January 2019 after he was unable to speak to his two kids for a few days. He told the responding officer about the alarming beliefs his wife was sharing.

“She’s not here,” Charles said in the video. “She lost her reality.”

Charles then explained to the officers that Lori considered herself a “translated being” and a God who spoke with an ancient prophet and Jesus Christ daily. The religious views had been growing over the years, but had become more extreme and dangerous, he said.

He said Lori told him a man named Nick Schneider had taken over his body and she would have to kill him.

“I can murder you now with my powers,” she had told him, according to Charles, which prompted him to call the police for fear of his own safety and the safety of Tylee and JJ.

“I love her to death. This is killing me, officer,” Charles said.

Despite the imminent end to their marriage, Charles and Lori were tied together by their adoptive son, JJ.

Months before Charles was killed, Lori had called him and told him to take the kids. He was on a business trip in Houston at the time. When he returned, his truck was not at the airport and Lori had thrown out all of his clothes and drained their bank account.

More bodycam footage shows officers with him at the house, kicking in the door. They had an order to pick Lori up for a mental health exam and to check on the children.

“The only reason why we’re here is some of the statements that you made towards our dispatcher – that you provided to them … he (an officer) made the discussion to conduct the welfare check to make sure your children are safe,” an officer said.

No crime had not been committed, so the police left.

On 11 July, Charles went to Lori’s home for a custody exchange that turned deadly when he was shot by her brother, Alex Cox, at a home in Chandler, Arizona.

Cox told police he acted in self-defence, and he was never charged. He died suddenly aged 51 on 11 December 2019 – hours after Tammy’s body was exhumed.

His death was also ruled natural causes, with indications of a blood clot wedged in the arteries of his lungs. However, the overdose drug Narcan was also found in his system.

Meanwhile, Lori and her kids had moved to Idaho shortly after Charles died. At her murder trial, prosecutors said she made the move to be closer to her then-boyfriend Mr Daybell so they could continue their plot to remove any obstacle to their happiness.

Weeks after JJ and Tylee vanished without being reported missing by their mother, another member of the family faced an attack back in Arizona.

Brandon Boudreaux: Ex-husband of Lori’s niece was targeted in drive-by shooting

On 2 October, Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori’s niece, Melani Pawlowski, was targeted in a drive-by shooting outside his home in Gilbert.

The bullet missed his head by mere inches.

Melani Pawlowski (she remarried in November 2019 to Ian Pawlowski, who testified at Lori’s trial), was very close to Lori and believed in many of the same bizarre doomsday prophecies espoused by her and Mr Daybell.

This ultimately ended her marriage to Mr Boudreaux with whom she shared custody of their five children. From evidence heard at Lori’s trial, it is apparent that he too was considered an “obstacle” and — in their beliefs — a “dark” spirit had possessed him.

Google location data showed Alex Cox travelling to and from Gilbert, Arizona, from Idaho in early October 2019.

Brandon Boudreaux is seen in a court sketch (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Brandon Boudreaux is seen in a court sketch (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

On 2 October, an attempt was made on the life of Mr Boudreaux when he was shot at after returning home from the gym. He had earlier taken his older children to school and dropped the youngest off at Ms Pawlowski’s home.

The shots were fired from the back window of a grey Jeep Wrangler that had had its back spare tyre removed.

Video footage from a storage facility in Idaho showed Mr Cox and Vallow placing the spare tyre in a storage facility the day before he drove south to Maricopa County and then taking it back out a few days later.

When police were finally made aware of JJ and Tylee’s disappearance in November 2019 - weeks after the death of Chad’s first wife and his new marriage to Lori - Charles’ death and the alleged attempt on Mr Boudreaux’s life became key points in the investigation.

But it wasn’t until June 2020 - shortly after the children’s bodies were found on Mr Daybell’s Idaho property - that Lori was charged with conspiring to kill Charles. Her indictment for conspiring to kill Mr Boudreaux came days after her murder conviction in May 2023.

Mr Boudreaux gave heartbreaking testimony at Lori’s trial about the end of his marriage to Ms Pawlowski and broke down as he recalled having to be the person who identified JJ Vallow’s remains.

Questions linger over Ms Pawlowski’s involvement in the attempt on her former husband’s life. She was present in court in Boise for Lori’s trial as her husband testified, but did not take the stand herself much to the surprise of those closely watching the case.

Two women — Zulena Pastenes and Melanie Gibb — who were close to Lori and were involved in the strange rituals she conducted as part of their shared beliefs about the second coming did testify at her trial.

What’s next for the ‘Doomsday Mom’?

Jurors in Ada County Court in Boise, Idaho, took almost seven hours to find Lori guilty after hearing harrowing details about the doomsday mom’s path of deadly destruction and were shown graphic images of the murdered children’s remains.

JJ, who had autism, had been smothered with a plastic bag taped over his face, his little body still dressed in a pair of red pyjamas.

Tylee’s cause of death meanwhile has been impossible to establish as the teenager’s dismembered, charred bones and body parts were found scattered in the ground on Mr Daybell’s pet cemetery.

The state called over 60 witnesses to lay out its case that Lori was motivated by both her doomsday cult beliefs but also lust for Mr Daybell and financial greed when she conspired with him and her brother Cox to kill the three victims.

During closing arguments, prosecutors argued that Lori had been driven by “money, power and sex” to kill the three victims.

Since her sentencing in August, Lori has been incarcerated at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center in Idaho.

Now she’s back in Arizona after being extradited from Idaho in order to face the additional murder conspiracy charges.

Sheriff Paul Penzone said Lori was “very chatty” with deputies on the 18-hour drive from Idaho to Arizona in late November.

“I just understand that she was very sociable... talked the entire trip,”  Sheriff Penzone said.

He did not give details on what was said but added he was not aware that she gave any specific statements related to the investigation. “I just know she was very chatty.”

Lori is currently housed in the Estrella Jail and her next court date is set for 24 April 2024.