On Wednesday, investigators found the remains of 7-year-old J.J. Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan on Chad Daybell's property in eastern Idaho. In the wake of this tragedy, many are looking back on the disappearance of J.J. and his older sister, Tylee, to understand what went wrong. This ongoing case has played out over the years, with hard to spot connections along the way.
Authorities have been looking for J.J. since September when he was reported missing by school officials and by other family members. His older sister went missing around the same time, but the thing that made the case stand out was the apparent lack of concern from their mother, Lori Vallow. With Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, now under arrest, a clear picture of their family's scandal is just beginning to emerge.
Vallow was arrested back in February after evading Idaho authorities for weeks. Daybell was not taken into custody until this week, though police have searched his Idaho property twice, according to a report by Fox 10. All the while, answers about the whereabouts of J.J. and Tylee were hard to find.
Between their frequent relocations around the country and their sparse interactions with other family members, there was plenty about Vallow and her children's lives that looked suspicious from the outside. However, separating the confusing points from the dangerous ones have proven challenging. Here is everything essential to know about the disappearance of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
Lori Vallow married twice before tying the knot with Tylee's father, Joseph Anthony Ryan Jr. She even had an older son, Colby, in a previous marriage. Vallow and Ryan had Tylee in 2002 and divorced in 2005. After that, Ryan had a tense and sometimes violent relationship with Vallow and her family — particularly her brother, Alex Cox.
Vallow re-married a few months after divorcing Ryan, to a man named Charles Vallow. The two said their vows in Las Vegas, though Charles was a devout follower of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This marriage lasted longer than Vallow's previous entanglements, and in 2013, she and Charles adopted Vallow's grandnephew, J.J. The two then moved briefly to Kauai in 2014.
Other members of Vallow's family who may be relevant to the case include her niece, Melani Boudreaux and her estranged husband, Brandon Boudreaux. In addition, J.J.'s grandparents were the ones to draw the authorities' attention to the children's disappearances.prevnext
Friends and family became concerned about Vallow's state of mind and her children's safety long before any alleged crimes were committed or mysterious deaths occured. In 2015, Vallow first read Daybell's book series titled Standing in Holy Places, and quickly became "obsessed." Starting in December of 2018, Vallow became an occasional guest on Daybell's podcast, Preparing a People. On it, they discussed the second coming of Jesus Christ, which they believe is impending very soon, and related doomsday-prepping topics.
That same year, Tylee's father Joseph Ryan passed away from a myocardian infarction. In an interview with KSL-TV, Ryan's sister Annie Cushing recalled that Vallow had acted strangely at the funeral, and that Tylee had seemed frightened of her. She remembered thinking that Vallow might be a "sociopath."
According to another report by KSL-TV, Vallow told her husband that "she no longer cared about him or J.J." in February of 2019. She then disappeared for 58 days. At the time, Charles filed for divorce, claiming in his paperwork that Vallow had stolen $35,000 from him and "threaten[ed] to murder him." However, the following month Charles withdrew that petition, saying that he "wanted to make the marriage work."prevnext
Meanwhile, Daybell — five years Vallow's senior — was building up his career as an author and a speaker, particularly in Mormon-oriented religious circles. According to a report by The Post Register, Daybell claimed to have heard a voice telling him to relocate to Rexburg, Idaho on two occasions in 2015. Taking these as spiritual instructions, he did so with his wife of 25 years, Tammy. The couple had five children.
Tammy Daybell was assaulted in her driveway in October of 2019 by a masked man. The perpetrator was never caught, but Tammy passed away ten days later. Her death was attributed to natural causes, but later events caused the authorities to exhume her remains and reconsider this judgment.
Much of Daybell's writing and other content concerned his belief that some kind of apocalypse is imminent. This topic resonated with Vallow as well, and after reading his books, she reportedly told a friend that she believed she was the reincarnation of Joseph Smith's wife.prevnext
Arizona to Idaho
The Vallow family was living in Arizona in the summer of 2019, when suspicious tragedy first began to mount up around them. In July, Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori's brother Alex Cox — who had previously assaulted her ex-husband as well. Cox claimed to have shot Vallow in self-defense, and he passed away in December due to unknown causes.
After his death, Vallow discovered that Charles had changed his sizable life insurance policy so that J.J.'s grandmother, Kay Woodcock was now the beneficiary rather than her. Woodcock claims that she last spoke to J.J. in mid-August. in September, Vallow abruptly moved to Rexburg, Idaho with Tylee and J.J., for the express purpose of being close to Daybell.
Tylee was last seen entering Yellowstone National Park for a day trip on Sept. 8 with J.J., Vallow and Cox. J.J. himself was last seen on Sept. 23 at Kennedy Elementary School in Rexburg. The following day, Vallow called the school to say she would be homeschooling J.J. instead.
Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Vallow's niece's estranged husband, Brandon Boudreaux, was shot at in the driveway of his home. The shots came from a car registered to Charles Vallow, shocking Boudreaux enough that he hired a private investigator to look into the attack. This detective observed that Vallow's children seemed to be missing. They also tracked Vallow's niece, Melani Boudreaux, as she packed up her home in Arizona with the help of Cox and drove to Rexburg, Idaho. Along the way, they left children's items on the curb.
While all of this was going on, Tammy Daybell's mysterious death happened as well near the end of October. Two weeks after that, Daybell and Vallow were married in Hawaii.prevnext
In October, Vallow rented a storage unit in Idaho, which she filled with J.J. and Tylee's belongings. Security footage shows Alex Cox making frequent trips there alone during the month as well.
The other big trace of the kids during this time frame came from Tylee's cell phone, which remained active. In mid-October, it was used to send Venmo payments to Vallow's older son, Colby. According to The Post Register, one payment came with the message: "we love you," while another followed with a simple heart emoji. Colby reportedly tried to call his sister to ask about the money, but she repeatedly did not answer.
The text messages he got instead assured him that Tylee was fine, but that she did not have time to talk. Colby eventually began posting videos on YouTube, speaking directly to his mother and asking her to come clean about what was going on.prevnext
When investigators finally began to take the search for J.J. and Tylee seriously, Vallow and Daybell shocked the world by being apparently unconcerned with it. The Rexburg police conducted their first well-being check at Daybell's home on Nov. 26, but Vallow claimed that J.J. was back in Arizona while Tylee was away at college. The following day, they abandoned their home and everything in it, fleeing to Hawaii.
Police searched Daybell's home, as well as Boudreaux's new apartment and Vallow's storage unit. They had plenty of leads to follow in Idaho, but they did not discover that Daybell and Vallow were in Kauai, Hawaii, until late January.prevnext
Although authorities had found Vallow and Daybell and were actively investigating them, they were trapped in a stalemate due to extradition laws and other factors in the legal system. On Jan. 25, local authorities in Hawaii served Vallow with a court order requiring her to produce her children within five days. Vallow missed this deadline, but was still not arrested. She and Daybell reportedly moved from Kauai to Maui on Feb. 16, where Vallow was finally arrested a few days later.
Vallow was charged with two counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. Her bail was set at $5 million, and she was extradited to Idaho a few weeks later, where she remains in jail. Local bail bondsmen have refused to work with her.prevnext
On Wednesday, Woodcock told reporters that one set of human remains found on Daybell's property were J.J.'s remains. Daybell was in custody, and on Wednesday he was finally charged with two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Afterwards, they added that Tylee's remains were found on the scene as well.
As for Vallow, she is now facing additional charges of arrests and seizures, resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, contempt of court, and willful disobedience of court process or order. It is not clear when she will be back in court. Authorities are still investigating their findings and making sense of this case.prev