Meet Lori Vallow Daybell, The Apocalypse-Obsessed Mom Who Allegedly Killed Her Kids Because They Were ‘Possessed’

Published November 10, 2021
Updated May 17, 2022

In September 2019, Lori Vallow's children J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan suddenly vanished without a trace. Their remains would later be found on her new husband Chad Daybell's property.

At first glance, Lori Vallow seemed like a regular Idaho mom. But then, in 2019, her two young children mysteriously disappeared, one after the other. Sixteen-year-old Tylee Ryan was last seen on September 8, 2019, and seven-year-old J.J. Vallow vanished on September 22, 2019. While most parents would be absolutely devastated to learn that two of their children had gone missing, Lori Vallow did not seem bothered by the news at all.

From the start, Vallow was reluctant to help authorities search for her children, making her a person of interest in their disappearances almost immediately. And as police further investigated the case, a closer look at Vallow’s background raised even more eyebrows. Just a couple of months earlier, her husband Charles had died under suspicious circumstances.

Vallow also had a strange new boyfriend, the doomsday-obsessed author Chad Daybell. And it wasn’t long before authorities turned their attention toward him as a suspect in the case of the missing kids as well. In October, Daybell’s own wife mysteriously died. But by November, Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell were married in a laughter-filled ceremony in Hawaii.

The newlyweds seemed thoroughly unbothered by the missing children — and their recently deceased spouses. Increasingly suspicious authorities demanded that Vallow produce the children or else face justice. When the deadline to bring her kids to the police came and went, she was arrested in Hawaii in February 2020 and extradited to Idaho soon afterward.

Finally, in June 2020, authorities found the remains of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan on Chad Daybell’s Idaho property. Daybell was arrested soon afterward, joining his new wife in police custody. But while we have an answer about the children’s fate, there’s much more to sort through in this horrific case.

How A Trail Of Disturbing Deaths And Disappearances Began To Follow Lori Vallow

Lori Vallow

Rexburg Police DepartmentLori Vallow (left) became obsessed with the apocalyptic writings of Chad Daybell (right) before the two began an affair that ended with their spouses and her children — Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow — dead.

Lori Vallow was born on June 26, 1973, in Rialto, California. Raised by a Mormon family, Vallow was often described as “sweet” and “quiet” growing up. As she got older, she experienced a turbulent love life — which ultimately included at least five marriages — but it wasn’t until she was on husband number four that her behavior began to change drastically.

Starting around 2017, Lori Vallow became increasingly obsessed with the doomsday literature of Chad Daybell, an apocalyptic author from Utah who also worked as a gravedigger and cemetery sexton. Daybell claimed that he could see the future, hear voices speaking prophecies meant only for him, and that the end of the world was near — and Vallow bought into all of it.

Vallow and Daybell’s paths first crossed in 2018, when Vallow appeared on his podcast, which was purportedly focused on “helping to prepare the people of this earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” The two not only discussed the apocalypse but also their shared belief in the existence of “zombies,” or people whose souls had been replaced by dark spirits.

Though both Vallow and Daybell were married to other people when they met, it was clear that they felt an instant connection. And while Vallow lived in Arizona at the time, and Daybell resided in Idaho, the two began an affair anyway. And worryingly, as Vallow dived into this new relationship headfirst, she soon began to refer to her husband and young children as “zombies.”

By January 2019, Lori Vallow’s husband Charles Vallow — who was her fourth spouse after three unsuccessful marriages — was extremely concerned about his wife’s behavior and increasingly unhinged obsession with bizarre religious literature. He even went to the police for help, claiming that his wife believed that she was a “god” preparing for the impending apocalypse.

Charles And Lori Vallow

Idaho Cold CasesCharles Vallow (left) was killed in Arizona by his former wife’s brother, Alex Cox.

Shortly thereafter, Charles Vallow filed for divorce. He also expressed concerns for the safety of the couple’s adopted son, Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, and his wife’s daughter from a previous marriage, Tylee Ryan. (Lori Vallow also had one other son from a prior marriage, Colby Ryan, but he was already in his early 20s and did not need to live under his mother’s roof.)

According to Charles Vallow, Lori Vallow believed that she was “assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020 and that if Father [Charles] got in her way of her mission she would murder him” and that she had “an angel there to help her dispose of the body.”

That ominous threat proved all too real in July 2019, when Charles Vallow was shot to death at the family’s home in Chandler, Arizona. Lori Vallow’s brother Alex Cox was the one who pulled the trigger, although he subsequently claimed that he had only fired the shot in self-defense.

According to CBS News, Cox told the police that he shot Charles Vallow to “protect” his sister Lori Vallow after the two had gotten into a fight. Lori Vallow and her daughter Tylee Ryan both backed up this story.

While Cox wasn’t immediately charged with a crime, the death spawned the first investigation that would put Vallow on the radar of the police.

Inside The Shocking Disappearances Of Tylee Ryan And J.J. Vallow

J.J. Vallow And Tylee Ryan

Public DomainJ.J. Vallow (left) and Tylee Ryan (right) both vanished in Idaho in September 2019.

By September 2019, Lori Vallow had relocated her two young children — and her brother Alex Cox — to Rexburg, Idaho, in order to be closer to her boyfriend Chad Daybell. This is where the kids would vanish.

It was September 8th when Tylee Ryan, then 16 years old, disappeared. On that day, she, her brother J.J. Vallow, her mother Lori Vallow, and her uncle Alex Cox went on a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Around that same time, Lori Vallow had been reportedly calling her daughter a “zombie.”

Then, just a couple of weeks later, J.J. Vallow would vanish on September 22nd. According to People magazine, Lori Vallow contacted her son’s school shortly after his disappearance to say that she was disenrolling him so that she could homeschool him. Eerily, Lori Vallow also reportedly referred to her son as a “zombie” around this time, just as she had with her daughter.

Though the exact circumstances of the children’s disappearances remain unknown, Alex Cox’s cellphone GPS would later place him at Chad Daybell’s property on the day after Tylee Ryan vanished — and also on the day after J.J. Vallow disappeared. Disturbingly, after Cox had left the property the first time around, Chad Daybell texted his wife, Tammy Daybell, about a “big raccoon” he had supposedly killed and buried in the yard.

Then, on October 19th, Tammy Daybell suddenly died. According to Chad Daybell, his wife had fallen asleep with a cough and never woken up again. Chad Daybell’s five children later told 48 Hours that the coroner said that their mother had likely died of natural causes. Since Tammy Daybell had suffered from poor health in her final days, they accepted the explanation.

But in light of everything that followed, Tammy Daybell’s death became yet another entry in this dark and mysterious saga. Her demise was soon declared “suspicious” by the authorities — and for good reason.

Chad And Lori Vallow Daybell

Fox 10 PhoenixLori Vallow married Chad Daybell in a laughter-filled ceremony in Hawaii shortly after her children went missing.

Just a couple of weeks after Tammy Daybell’s death, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow flew to Hawaii and got married in a carefree ceremony on the beach in Kaua’i on November 5th. With both of their former spouses dead, the two of them now married, and Lori Vallow Daybell’s children still unaccounted for, the authorities started questioning them about the kids.

By that point, the couple had already been caught lying about the children. “In the weeks after Tammy Daybell’s death, Lori Vallow/Daybell and Chad Daybell told witnesses that Lori’s daughter had died a year before the death of her father, which is untrue,” police documents said. “Around that same time, Chad told another witness that Lori had no minor children.”

But the ruse didn’t last long. After J.J. Vallow’s concerned grandparents Kay and Larry Woodcock called Rexburg police on November 26, 2019, and explained that J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan hadn’t been seen since September, police officially opened missing person cases for the children.

Authorities quickly disproved Lori Vallow Daybell’s claims that J.J. was with a friend. They also searched her and Chad Daybell’s new home — which they found “abruptly vacated” by the couple. Police then said that they “strongly believe that J.J. and Tylee’s lives are in danger,” and that Vallow Daybell “refused to work with law enforcement to help us resolve this matter.”

In December, Lori Vallow Daybell’s brother Alex Cox — who had killed Charles Vallow — was found dead in Arizona. According to NBC News, the cause of death was natural. He died due to a pulmonary embolism, which causes one or more arteries in the lungs to become blocked by a blood clot.

But with yet another dead body and the primary suspects in other deaths and disappearances gone, the case only grew darker from there. And before long, Lori Vallow Daybell’s loved ones began to reveal the bizarre religious beliefs that she and Chad Daybell shared in their “doomsday cult.”

How Chad Daybell And Lori Vallow Daybell Were Finally Captured

Doomsday Cult Mom

KVTBLori Vallow Daybell was arrested in February 2020 in Hawaii.

Authorities finally located Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell in Hawaii on January 25, 2020. By that point, the pair had been staying in Kaua’i for an “unconfirmed period of time.” Police later stated that “there is no evidence” that Lori Vallow Daybell’s children were ever on the island with them.

Shortly after the authorities found the couple, they ordered Lori Vallow Daybell to present her kids in Idaho within five days. She failed to do so and was arrested on February 20th. Then, dark truths about her apocalyptic fervor emerged, as her relatives and friends began to speak out.

According to Lori Vallow Daybell’s niece, Melani Pawlowski, Vallow Daybell believed that her children had become zombies. Pawlowski believes that she had been planning to kill her children because they were now “possessed” — and that she’d kill others close to her who had become evil as well.

For instance, Vallow Daybell reportedly said that Pawlowski’s former husband Brandon Boudreaux needed to die. And then, he was shot outside his home by an unknown assailant driving a car registered to Charles Vallow on October 2, 2019, but ultimately survived the attack. According to KSL.com, Alex Cox was believed to have been the man behind the attempted murder.

Pawlowski further elaborated on Vallow Daybell’s state of mind around the time of this unsettling crime: “She explained zombies and her fears about what Chad and Lori stated concerning the original spirits being caught in limbo until the body’s death. She stated that Brandon had been possessed by a demon or another dark entity sometime after June of this year.”

“She was told either through revelation or by Chad that something needed to happen to (Boudreaux) in order for his spirit to progress and for the Lord’s plan to continue. She didn’t take well to the idea of her husband dying as part of the Lord’s plan, but didn’t think action would be taken by anyone.”

Chad Daybell

Public DomainA mugshot of Chad Daybell, on whose property the remains of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan were found in June 2020.

Meanwhile, former friends of the couple like Melanie Gibb, who used to share their views, also opened up more about their belief system. Aside from the obsession with “zombies” and “possession,” Gibb said that the couple also believed that they couldn’t divorce their former spouses because of information that they were receiving “from the other side of the veil.” Alarmingly, they also believed they were chosen to lead 144,000 people.

But although Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell are now often described as a “doomsday cult” couple, it’s unclear exactly how many people shared their beliefs. According to Gibb, Chad Daybell preferred one-on-one meetings with people, and never held any official gatherings. But it’s clear that he had a powerful influence on those that he did connect with. As Gibb put it: “I often see [Chad] as the hand and [Lori] as the puppet on the hand.”

Tragically, it was this dangerous situation that allegedly led Lori Vallow Daybell to muse about a future without her children in her life. One family member even told People that she once said, “Sometimes, I think it would be better just to put my kids in a car and go off the side of a cliff.”

Following her February 2020 arrest, Vallow Daybell was charged with two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. She was then extradited back to Idaho to face her charges. But authorities soon learned that the true fate of her kids was much worse than desertion.

On June 9, 2020, the FBI, Rexburg Police, and Fremont County Sheriff’s Office performed an extensive search of Chad Daybell’s property in Idaho. They ultimately discovered the remains of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan buried there. Seven-year-old J.J. Vallow was found wrapped head to toe in duct tape, and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan had been dismembered and burned.

Shortly after the grisly discovery, Chad Daybell was arrested.

The Aftermath Of The Gruesome Crimes

Chad And Tammy Daybell

Daybell Family PhotoIn addition to the shocking murders of Charles Vallow, J.J. Vallow, and Tylee Ryan, the death of Chad Daybell’s first wife Tammy Daybell (right) is now also being investigated as a murder.

In May 2021, Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell were charged with first-degree murder for the deaths of Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow. They were also charged in connection with the deaths of Tammy Daybell and Charles Vallow.

Authorities also believe that Alex Cox played a crucial role in all four of these deaths — as well as multiple attempted murders — and they would have brought charges against him as well if he were still alive.

By August 2021, prosecutors said that they would seek the death penalty against Chad Daybell if he’s found guilty of his crimes. In May 2022, it was announced that Lori Vallow Daybell could face the death penalty as well.

As reported by Deseret News, the trial for Lori Vallow Daybell is currently set to take place at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho. It will stretch from October 11, 2022, to December 16, 2022. As for Chad Daybell, his trial is currently scheduled to begin in January 2023, in the same courthouse.

With both Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell in custody, it now falls to authorities to build cases against them for all of these disturbing crimes.


After learning about the case of Lori Vallow Daybell, take a look at the tragic story of Etan Patz, one of the original missing “milk carton” kids. Then, read the disturbing story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who was abused by her mother for years — until she convinced her boyfriend to kill her mom.

Marco Margaritoff
A staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff has also published work at outlets including People, VICE, and Complex, covering everything from film to finance to technology. He holds dual bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a master's degree from New York University.