Lori Vallow's Niece Claims 2 Kids Are Safe, Protected From People 'Trying to Harm Them'

The niece of Lori Vallow, the Idaho mother in jail on charges connected to the disappearance of her two children, claims Lori is simply protecting 7-year-old Joshua "J.J." Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan "from the people that are trying to harm them." The niece, Melani Boudreaux, said in a new interview with Phoenix TV station KPHO that she "absolutely" expects to see both children again, despite them not being seen since September.

Boudreaux did not reveal who or what she thought was such a threat to the children. "I know Lori wouldn't ever do anything to hurt her kids. ... I don't have the answers as to why she does the things she does, and why she hasn't spoken as to where they are, but I can't judge her because I don't know what she's going through," she told the station. "I can only love and support her, and hope for everyone to be safe."

Melani has her own involvement in the case after ex-husband Brandon alleged in court documents that she was part of an attempted murder plot to have him killed and collect insurance money "to help support the cult that she is believed to be a part of." Melani has denied any wrongdoing in the case and has not been charged with a crime.

Melani also denied being part of a cult led by Lori's new husband, Chad Daybell, the author of religious apocalyptic books whose last wife died two weeks before he and Lori married in November. "I didn't move [to Rexburg, Idaho] to be in a 'cult,' I didn't move down there to be solely by Lori, Lori's very independent and does her own thing, and I had my own reasons for, you know, kind of having a fresh start and trying to work through my custody battle with my ex," she said, admitting she was surprised not to see J.J. and Tylee when she got there.

"As soon as I moved up there in November, I see some of their stuff but I don't see them there, and Lori says that they're safe and they're doing everything that they can to keep them from the people that are trying to harm them," Melani said. "I believed that."

Lori's mom, Janis Cox, had similar faith in her daughter in an interview last week with CBS News. "I'm positive beyond any doubt that she hasn't harmed those kids. She's invested her whole life in those children. So we know there's another whole side to this. We don't know what it is. But we know her," she said.

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As police attempt to determine the whereabouts of her children, Lori remains in an Idaho jail after pleading not guilty in regards to her February arrest on felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime and contempt of court and willful disobedience of court process or order for failing to produce the two kids when ordered by authorities.

Lori is also reportedly being investigated for possible murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in relation to the death of her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, who died in an alleged altercation ahead of her wedding to Daybell at Lori's Arizona home with Lori's brother Alex Cox. Alex claimed he shot Vallow in self-defense and has not been charged. No charges have been filed against anyone in connection to his death.