Lori Vallow Daybell was once a loving mother, a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune,” and a beauty pageant contestant.
At some point, however, her religious views became more extreme, to the point where she referred to people who didn’t share her views as “zombies,” who needed to be dealt with. As her views veered off into the absurd, the people around her began dying, including her 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Tylee Ryan, and her adopted 7-year-old son Joshua Jaxon “J.J.” Vallow.
While there is no single moment to point to as the moment Lori started to go off the rails, many believe it happened when she met Chad Daybell, a married man who wrote doomsday fiction and religious books.
In 1996, with her second husband Joseph Ryan Jr., Lori had her first child, a son named Colby. Baby Tylee came in 2002. Lori would later divorce Ryan, who allegedly abused her and her children. On February 24, 2006, Lori married Charles Vallow, who raised Colby and Tylee as if they were his own.
In 2012, Charles Vallow’s nephew fathered a son, J.J., who at 2-years-old was adopted by Lori and Charles. The family moved to Kauai, Hawaii, at the end of 2014, and then to the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, in mid-2017. But only a year later Lori would met Chad Daybell, and soon the lives of everyone around them changed.
On February 8, 2018, Vallow filed for divorce from Lori, saying she threatened to kill him if he stood in the way of her preparations for Jesus Christ’s second coming, which she and Daybell said would happen in July 2020. Vallow called the cops on Lori, citing the murder threat and asking her to be placed in a mental institution to receive treatment. Police spoke to Lori and seemed to believe it was Vallow, not Lori, who was the one with mental health issues.
Then, on July 11, 2019, police in Chandler, Arizona, received a phone call from Alex Cox, Lori’s brother, who said he shot and killed Charles Vallow in self-defense. Lori began telling friends and family different versions of how Vallow died, from saying he had a heart attack, to suicide, to self-defense. She texted Vallow’s children from a previous marriage about his death, but stopped answering them when they asked her what happened. Alex Cox was never charged in the death.
Shortly after Charles Vallow’s death, Lori tried to collect on his million-dollar life insurance policy — only to learn that he switched the beneficiary to his sister, who is J.J.’s grandmother. After that, Lori reportedly never let J.J.s grandparents see him again.
By now, Colby had moved out on his own with his own wife, so he was spared from the horrors that were to follow.
In September 2019, Lori, along with Tylee and J.J., moved to Rexburg, Idaho, to be closer to Daybell, who said a voice told him to move there for the second coming of Christ. On September 8, 2019, Lori and her brother Alex, take Tylee and J.J. to Yellowstone National Park. Tylee was never seen alive again.
Two weeks later, on September 23, J.J., who is autistic, was last seen at his school in Idaho. The next day, Lori informed the school that he will be homeschooled instead.
On October 2, 2019, Lori’s nephew-in-law was the victim of a failed drive-by shooting in Gilbert, Arizona. The vehicle involved was registered to Lori’s ex-husband, Charles Vallow, who had been dead for months.
A few days later, Chad Daybell’s wife Tammy calls police to tell them a masked man tried to shoot her in her garage with what she thought was a paintball gun. Ten days later, Tammy was found dead in her home. Her death was initially ruled to be natural, but police have since opened an investigation into the matter.
Less than a month after Tammy died, Lori married Chad Daybell in Hawaii.
Three weeks later, after Lori and Daybell returned to Idaho, police conducted a welfare check on J.J. at the request of his grandmother. At the time, Lori told police that J.J. was with relatives in Arizona and that Tylee had gone to Brigham Young University-Idaho. By now, people are starting to question where J.J. and Tylee have gone, and suddenly, Lori and Daybell packed up and abandoned their home in Idaho on the same day police begin searching for the children.
Not long after, on December 12, Lori’s brother Alex died in Gilbert, Arizona, due to a reported blood clot. His death was not investigated further, as the condition ran in the family.
On December 20, police in Rexburg, Idaho, officially announced an investigation into the disappearance of J.J. and Tylee. A month later, Lori is served a court order to produce the children within five days. She and Daybell head back to Kauai.
When the deadline to produce the children passed, police began laying the groundwork to arrest Lori. They did so on February 20, 2020, arresting Lori in Kauai and charging her with two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children.
It wasn’t until June 9, 2020, when police were searching Chad Daybell’s property in Idaho, that the bodies of Tylee and J.J. were found. Daybell tried to flee from the scene, but was caught and charged with two felony counts of destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence.
Lori and Daybell wouldn’t be charged with the murders until May 25, 2021. In addition, they were also charged with murdering Daybell’s ex-wife Tammy. Lori was sent to a mental health facility to have her competency evaluated. Eventually, she was deemed competent to stand trial.
In early March, Lori and Daybell had their trials separated by a judge, with Lori’s trial set to being on April 3, with Daybell’s to occur later. The separation came after Lori tried to have the charges against her dismissed for lack of a speedy trial since she was arrested nearly three years ago.
If convicted, Lori and Daybell each face the death penalty.