PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Lori Vallow appeared to be a loving wife and the "perfect" mother, but that all changed when her kids went missing, her husband was shot by her brother, and she started feeding lies to law enforcement. It's a twisted case that captivated the world, and it all started in Chandler.
In July 2019, Charles Vallow, Lori's fourth husband, was shot and killed by Lori's brother, Alex Cox.
Charles and Lori were going through a messy divorce. Earlier that year, he requested a mental health evaluation for Lori, who started talking about the "end times" and "preparing the 144,000 for the Second Coming of Christ." In his divorce paperwork, Charles noted that she told him she would kill him if he tried to get in her way.
Shooting death of Charles Vallow
On the morning he was killed, Charles was stopping by the Chandler home to pick up their adopted son, JJ, for school. Tylee, Charles' 17-year-old stepdaughter, was also there. According to Chandler police, Cox said the two got into an argument and Charles hit him in the head with the bat. Cox, who didn't live in that home, went into a bedroom and got a gun and shot Charles. He died at the scene.
At the time, Cox claimed self-defense. Chandler police are still investigating this shooting and detectives say they're looking at potential conspiracy charges for Lori. Cox died in December before ever answering to the law.
Shortly after Charles died, Lori took Tylee and JJ and abruptly moved to Rexburg, Idaho, in late August.
JJ's grandmother, Kay Woodcock, was having a hard time getting ahold of him. Kay is Charles' sister. Charles adopted JJ from his nephew, who couldn't care for him.
Kay tried reaching out to Lori so she could speak to JJ for months, but Lori stopped responding. At the time, she had no idea the kids and Lori moved to Idaho. Kay requested a welfare check for JJ, and that's where the lies began.
The search for JJ and Tylee
When Rexburg police first arrived at Lori's townhome in late November, Cox and another man named Chad Daybell were there. Cox said the kids weren't there and neither was Lori. Eventually, they made contact with Lori, who said JJ was with a friend in Arizona and Tylee was at BYU-Idaho.
Lori enlisted a friend, Melanie Gibb, to corroborate her story that JJ was with a friend in Arizona.
Overnight, with still no sight of the kids, Lori and Daybell moved. Daybell is an author of doomsday books and considers himself a "visionary" having witnessed Jesus Christ. Both Lori and Daybell claim to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rexburg police issued a press release to help find the kids and their grandparents--Kay and Larry Woodcock--spearheaded a massive search for them.
Lori and Daybell were found to be living in Kauai like two teenagers on the run. It was later discovered they married the first week of November, about two and a half weeks after Chad's wife Tammy Daybell died in her sleep.
Gibb reached out to law enforcement and said JJ was not with her and that Lori asked her to lie. Lori told other people--like JJ's school--that he was with his grandmother in Louisiana.
"Lying to law enforcement about it was a big deal. And then to make matters worse, contacting her friend, Melanie, and urging Melanie to lie to law enforcement on her behalf," said Rich Robertson, a private investigator working on the case.
Soon, everything unraveled. In December, Cox died at his home in Gilbert a day after Tammy's body was exhumed for further investigation.
With two dead spouses, two missing kids, and a dead brother, the investigation picked up and now the world was watching.
Kauai Police helped Rexburg Police with a search warrant on Lori and Chad. They found JJ and Tylee's birth certificates, JJ's laptop, and Tylee's license--but no sign the kids were living with them on the island.
In January, the Madison County Attorney's Office in Idaho served Lori with a court order to produce the kids within five days to prove they're OK. She never showed up.
By February 2020, Lori was arrested in Kauai and held on a $5 million bond for contempt of court and two counts of desertion of a child. She was extradited back to Idaho in March, where her bond was lowered to $1 million. Lori maintained JJ and Tylee were OK. Many asked her, if the kids are OK, why not just say where they are.
Lori Vallow, the Idaho woman charged in connection with the disappearance of her children, a…
Months went by with no answers. But on June 10, 2020, a grim discovery in Chad's backyard in Idaho. Law enforcement from several different agencies--including the FBI--swarmed his home, which was on a 3.2-acre lot. Detectives were methodically digging in the backyard.
JJ's body was found between a fire pit and the pet cemetery, bound by trash bags and duct tape. Tylee's body was also found nearby, burned and dismembered.
"Why? Why is the question on all these issues about every aspect of this case. It's just so baffling," Robertson said.
Chad, Lori's new husband, was in his home's driveway when investigators were in the backyard digging. He called Lori, who was in jail, and updated her that police were looking for the kids.
At some point, while investigators were in his backyard, Chad drove away. Police caught up with him down the road and arrested him. Chad and Lori were both charged with destruction, alteration and concealment of evidence.
According to police reports, detectives linked Cox's phone to Chad's house on the respective days the kids were last seen. Tylee was last seen on Sept. 8, 2019, JJ on Sept. 23. Investigators used the pings from the cell towers around Chad's home to pinpoint where exactly Cox was down to the key areas in Chad's backyard.
So far, no one is charged with murder.
Questions remain about family deaths
Cox's autopsy report came back as a natural death due to blood clots in the lungs. Dr. Frank Lovecchio, who works in toxicology and poison control but is not linked to this case, says a lot can be missed on a routine autopsy.
"There's (sic) different levels of a toxicological screen and testing and they did a basic one, which is totally appropriate in this case. Maybe it doesn't seem so now that there are so many extenuating circumstances around it," Dr. Lovecchio said. "It's nearly impossible to kill somebody with a toxin or a drug and not get caught. However, if you don't look for it, you're not going to find it."
Tammy's autopsy has yet to be released.
"You can still learn a lot from someone who is exhumed," Dr. Lovecchio said.
Joe Ryan, Lori's third husband, died in 2018 of an apparent heart attack. Phoenix police took a second look at his case after a recording surfaced of Lori threatening to kill him--though the recording took place four months after his death.
The somber June 9 recording from Lori Daybell to Chad Daybell at his rural home came the same day authorities found the bodies on his property.
"I went through a lot of years of this kind of hard stuff and I was going to murder him. I was going to kill him, like the scripture say--if I kill just to stop the pain and to stop him coming after me and to stop him coming after my children," Lori said on the recording, which was in front of a church group of other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Phoenix police ultimately concluded the cause of his death will remain natural.
Chad and Lori are now codefendants and currently awaiting trial for the destruction of evidence charges. The trial is currently set for summer 2021.