The key players in doomsday mom Lori Vallow's grisly homicide trial - five husbands, two murdered children and a killer brother

Daily Mail, UK/April 14, 2023

By Will Porter

The grisly saga of 'doomsday cult mom' Lori Vallow has captured the nation's attention - but her convoluted family tree and a string of mysterious deaths has left many scratching their heads.

Vallow, 49, is currently on trial for murder in Boise, Idaho, after being accused of killing her two children, 16-year-old Tylee and seven-year-old adopted son JJ.

Prosecutors say Vallow killed her children as she hunted 'money, power and sex' with her husband Chad Daybell, 54 - who is also set to face trial after their bodies were discovered in his backyard.

The pair, who allegedly believed the second coming of Christ was imminent and that her children were 'zombies', are further accused of conspiring to murder Daybell's wife Tammy. Both deny the charges.

Here looks at the key individuals involved in this tangled tale of murder, lies and violent religious fantasies.

Lori Vallow  

Before her alleged crimes, Vallow was described by friends and family members as a doting mother.

She was a former contestant on Wheel of Fortune, where she won an impressive $17,500 in 2004. That same year, she competed in the Mrs Texas beauty pageant where she talked about being a good wife and mother - though ominously described herself as a 'ticking timebomb'.

She has been married five times, and has two biological children, Colby and Tylee Ryan, and an adopted son, JJ Vallow, all of whom she raised within the LDS Church - also known as Mormonism.

Vallow's descent into religious zealotry was fueled by her third marriage to Tylee's father Joseph Ryan. She claims that after discovering he had been sexually abusing her children, she told a bishop she was either going to 'murder' her husband, or devote herself to 'the temple'.

In 2017, she reportedly began reading a series of books by doomsday author Chad Daybell, leading her to seek out the father-of-five at a religious conference in 2018.

Her harrowing decline was detailed in the Netflix docuseries 'Sins of our Mother', which included audio snippets from her bizarre podcast 'Feel the Fire'.

She became obsessed with theories about the impending apocalypse and the second coming of Christ, and a friend told the docuseries she even threatened to drive her family off a cliff to spare them from the looming disaster.  

Soon after meeting Daybell, he joined an episode of her Mormon-based podcast, which would routinely espouse beliefs about the impending apocalypse.

Both Vallow and Daybell were convinced the second coming of Christ was imminent and only 144,000 people could be saved.

They also believed that people could be rated based on their 'light or dark' energy, leading them to vow to 'rid' evil spirits from these 'zombies'.

Vallow allegedly saw her own children as 'dark', and those who knew her reportedly saw her reference the youngsters as 'zombies'.

Chad Daybell

Chad Daybell, the fifth husband of Lori Vallow, is at the center of the harrowing investigation after the children's badly decomposed remains were found buried in his backyard in June 2020.

Daybell had earned a following as a self-proclaimed prophet and doomsday-inspired author. His tomes focused on preparing for the end of the world and religious foretelling, and included titles such as 'The Great Gathering', 'Days of Fury' and 'The Renewed Earth'.

He had been married to his wife Tammy since 1990, and the couple had five children. In 2015, Daybell claimed he heard a voice instructing him to relocate his family to Rexburg, Idaho.

Driving his 'teachings' was his claim that he'd had two near death experiences. In one instance, touched upon in the Netflix docuseries about his alleged murders, he claims he hit a rock face while cliff-diving, leading him to believe he earned powers of prediction.

In October 2019, a year after he met Vallow, Daybell's wife Tammy mysteriously died in her sleep. Her death was not initially considered suspicious, and despite the 49-year-old mother-of-five being seemingly healthy, her husband refused a post-mortem at the time.

Two months later, her body was exhumed, and it was determined she died by asphyxiation. Daybell and Vallow are both facing criminal charges related to her death.

Soon after Tammy's death, Daybell whisked Vallow off to Hawaii. Images of their seemingly joyous beach wedding on the island, which occurred while Tylee and JJ were missing in mainland America, caused widespread outrage.

However, Daybell's children have stood by their religious fantasist father, and claim he is innocent while insisting he was lured into a web of crime and deceit by Vallow.

Tammy Daybell

Chad Daybell's first wife Tammy has become a central figure in the ongoing murder trials of both Chad and Vallow following her suspect death in 2019.

According to an online obituary, she was originally from Pasadena, California, and met Daybell while a freshman at Brigham Young University. They married in 1990 and went on to have five children.

Those who knew her described her as a vivacious and energetic woman, and she worked at Chad's doomsday book publishing company, Spring Creek Book Company, while also working for the LDS Church and as a librarian.  

However, on October 19, 2019, the year after her husband met and became enamored by Lori Vallow, she died in suspicious circumstances at the Daybell family home in Salem, Idaho.

According to Chad's former sister-in-law, the cult fanatic called her after his wife's sudden death, allegedly claiming 'she'd been sick, had a coughing fit and passed away.'

Chad, who had reportedly upped Tammy's life insurance to the maximum policy soon before her death and received around $430,000, quickly refused an autopsy on his wife of 29-years.

Her body was exhumed two months later, and a coroner ruled she died by asphyxiation. Chad Daybell has been charged with first degree murder over her death, while Lori Vallow is facing charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

JJ Vallow

Joshua 'JJ' Vallow had been adopted by Lori and her fourth husband Charles Vallow in 2013. His biological grandmother, Kay Woodcock, described him as a 'happy child' and a 'very busy boy' who was 'always going a hundred miles an hour'.

Before she became obsessed by unhinged religious ideologies, relatives had previously described Lori Vallow as the ideal mother for the autistic child, who was a student at Kennedy Elementary School in Rexburg, Idaho.

He had been raised for the first ten months of his life by his grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, before he was adopted by Lori Vallow and her fourth husband Charles Vallow in 2013.

When the then-seven-year-old went missing in late 2019, his grandparents led the nationwide search for him, making numerous heartbreaking media appearances and offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to his return.  

The boy was last photographed in September 2019 in red pajamas that matched the description of what he was wearing his decaying remains were discovered in Chad Daybell's backyard in June 2020.

On the second day of Vallow's high-profile murder trial, audible gasps filled the courtroom when images of JJ's body, which was buried in a shallow grave for over 10 months, were displayed to jurors.

One of the officers on the scene, Detective Ray Hermosillo, gave gruesome testimony as he detailed how when the bag JJ was wrapped in was removed, he was found to have been heavily bound by duct tape - with 'a thick layer across his mouth from jawline to jawline.'

He was wearing red pajamas, a pull-up night diaper and covered in a blue child’s blanket - and was said to have visible bruises across his body.

Tylee Ryan 

The daughter of Lori Vallow and her third husband Joe Ryan, Tylee Ryan, was 16 years old when she went missing in September 2019.

Like her brother JJ, she was a student at Kennedy Elementary School in Idaho, and was just weeks shy of her 17th birthday when she was killed. Amid her disappearance, Vallow and Daybell told a variety of lies about her whereabouts, including that she had gone to college.  

The last known image of her was captured in September 2019, during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with JJ, her mother Lori, and Lori's brother Alex Cox.

Alarm bells began ringing when family members were unable to contact the teen. Her older half-brother Colby said he received troubling text messages and Venmo payments.

A nationwide manhunt was launched in the subsequent months for Tylee and her brother JJ in November 2019, where her mother Lori would consistently evade questions about their whereabouts.

Just over 10 months later, her remains, which had been dismembered and burned, were discovered nearby to JJ's on Chad Daybell's Idaho property.

Her body had been so badly damaged that the coroner was unable to perform an autopsy, with Detective Hermosillo giving horrifying testimony stating that all that was left was 'blobs of flesh that were falling apart'.

Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake told the court at the start of Lori Vallow's trial this month that Tylee was 'a vibrant young woman' with 'her whole life ahead of her'. 'She was just about to enter into adulthood and make her own way in the world,' Blake added.

He claims the messages didn't sound like they had been written by Tylee, and after calling out the disturbing messages, which included repeated insistence that she was 'safe', he became increasingly concerned.

Larry and Kay Woodcock

Tylee and JJ's grandparents Larry and Kay Woodcock have been among the most outspoken voices in the years since Vallow and Daybell's arrest, and led the public campaign to locate JJ and Tylee before their remains were discovered.

Larry, the husband of JJ's biological grandmother Kay Woodcock, was seen openly weeping on the second day of Vallow's murder trial after horrific images of the youngster's remains were shown to the court.

Larry and Kay cared for JJ for the first 20 months after he was born before he was later adopted by Kay's brother, Charles - the fourth husband of suspected killer Lori.

Remaining close to the family for years, Kay ultimately told a courtroom this month that Vallow 'seemed to be the kind of mom that every mom wants to be.'

'We were good friends, we talked all the time,' she added.  

However, Larry and Kay said they became increasingly concerned for the children's welfare in 2017 when Lori began adopting more outlandish religious beliefs.

This came to a head in February 2019, when Kay said Lori 'simply vanished' for around 58 days. Then, following Charles' death at the hands of Lori's brother Alex Cox in July 2019, Lori swept JJ and Tylee from their home to Idaho to be near Daybell, who was still married to his wife Tammy at the time.

Colby Ryan

The eldest son of Lori Vallow was a central figure in the hit Netflix docuseries 'Sins of our Mother', which saw him confront his mother for allegedly killing his siblings.

Colby Ryan offered insights into the disturbing family history of growing up with Lori  Vallow and her numerous husbands.

He detailed how her third husband, Joseph Ryan, sexually abused him as a child, an offence that Lori later noted as one of the driving forces towards her commitment to religious dogmatism.

Colby admitted during his appearance on the Netflix docuseries that he was uninvolved in his family's life in late 2019 due to his commitment to his wife, Kelsee, and their young daughter Riley - leading him to miss the many red flags before Tylee and JJ's deaths.  

However, Ryan would go on to face his own run in with the law, after he was arrested in September 2022 and charged with sexual assault.

His estranged wife Kelsee - who also appears in the Netflix show - accused him of rape in her Mesa, Arizona home. The charges were dismissed in the weeks following his arrest but he was ordered to not initiate any contact with his alleged victim.
Their concerns ultimately led Rexburg police to carry out welfare checks, starting the legal journey that has led to Vallow's murder trial being carried out this month.

Alex Cox

Among the most mysterious individuals involved in the ongoing case is Lori's brother Alex Cox, who shot dead her fourth husband Charles Vallow just months before his own death.

Alex was also deeply involved in the ideologies espoused by Chad Daybell, diving wholesale into his beliefs over individuals becoming 'zombies' based on their 'light or dark' energy rankings.

According to the Netflix docuseries about the murders, Lori even described her brother as her 'hit man', and he was linked to, but never charged with, a number of the mysterious deaths that permeate the family tree.

After gunning down Charles Vallow in July 2019, Cox was questioned by law enforcement but after successfully arguing the killing was self-defense, he walked free.  

However, months later the case was re-opened when the children vanished, and questions over the killing remain unanswered - including Charles' own predictions about his death.

Charles, who filed for divorce from Lori in February 2019, was found in court documents to have predicted that either Lori or her brother would kill him.

Speaking to FOX10 in January of 2020, Charles' lawyer Steven Ellsworth claimed his client told him: 'I'm afraid I'm gonna be killed, and I know who's gonna do it.

'I'm telling you, Steve, so that if something happens to me, I wanna make sure you let everyone know that something happens, I'm killed, that it's my wife Lori and her brother, Alex Cox.'

At Lori's high-profile trial this month, jurors were told how Alex had become wrapped up in the bizarre religious ideologies espoused by his sister and Daybell.

'Alex Cox would do whatever the defendant and Chad Daybell asked of him,' said prosecutor Lindsay Blake.

His faith also led him to marry another follower of Chad Daybell's ideology, Zulema Pastenes, in a rushed wedding in November 2019 that was suspected to have been carried out to meet a predicted deadline for the 'end times'.

Brandon Boudreaux

Brandon Boudreaux, the former brother-in-law of Lori Vallow, took to the stand at the start of her murder trial this week to deliver heartbreaking testimony.

Boudreaux married Vallow's niece Melanie in 2008, and grew to become quite close with her eclectic side of the family in the following years.

However, Melanie also reportedly became ensnared in the religious zealotry that plagued the family in recent years, leading to their divorce in 2019.

In October 2019, a month after Tylee and JJ were last seen, he was targeted in a drive-by shooting in Arizona.

Police would later identify the vehicle carrying the shooter as a Jeep registered to Lori's late husband Charles Vallow - who had died the previous July.

According to court filings, Boudreaux alleged that his wife had expressed concerns for JJ and Tylee's wellbeing, and noted that Vallow and Daybell believed 'their children had been possessed and had become zombies,' the documents said.  

During the first day of Lori Vallow's murder trial, Brandon sobbed while detailing how he was forced to identify the remains of JJ Vallow. 

Charles Vallow (and Lori's other ex-husbands)

Lori Vallow was married four times before she tied the knot with Chad Daybell.

Not much is known about her first husband, a man named Nelson Yanes who was her high school sweetheart.

After divorcing Yanes, Lori married her second husband William Lagioia in 1995, with whom she had her first child, Colby, when she was 22-years-old.

But their marriage ended after just a year, with Colby later remarking that his parents had a 'bad relationship'. '(Lori) didn't feel like she wanted me to be in that, so she took me from that situation.'

Lori's third husband was Joseph Ryan, with whom she had her daughter Tylee.  

He was described by Colby as initially 'sweet and lovable', before he allegedly began abusing him and Tylee. The abuse was documented in the Netflix show as the reason Vallow turned to religion.

'I had been married to someone who was very awful and who raped my children,' she claimed in an audio clip. 'I was going to murder him,' she added, before instead turning her 'life to the temple'.

Ryan died in 2018, and although his death was initially ruled as a heart attack, investigators re-opened the case after Lori's fourth husband Charles Vallow was shot dead the following year.

Lori's fourth husband, Charles Vallow, married the former beauty pageant winner in 2006, which was noted by Colby as partly being because he was 'financially secure'.

He moved to Hawaii with the family in 2014, the year after they adopted JJ. But the family returned to mainland America and settled in Arizona in 2016.

The longest marriage of Lori's life seemingly came to an end in February 2019, when Charles filed for divorce after repeatedly voicing concerns over her mental state.

In June, he confronted Lori about a letter she send in his name asking cult author Chad Daybell to help him write a book - which led him to accuse her to of having an affair with Chad and threaten to tell his wife Tammy.

On July 10, 2019 - the day before Charles was killed - Lori's brother Adam insisted upon staging an intervention regarding their 'radical beliefs', according to a probable cause statement following his death.

Lori found out about the planned intervention and texted Alex, 'We both need to stay here to defend ourselves ... It's coming to a head! This week will change everything.'

The next day, July 11, 2019, Charles went to Lori's home to pick up JJ at 7.35am, according to cell phone records.

He was shot just 14 minutes after he arrived, police said. The shooter, Alex, successfully argued self-defense after claiming he was attacked by Charles. But evidence suggested he fired shots into Charles' body after he already hit the floor, and never attempted to administer CPR.

Following a twisted family story that has involved multiple suspicious deaths, renewed interest has been placed upon the shooting by investigators and true-crime followers.

Within weeks of Charles' death, Lori moved her children to Rexburg, Idaho, mere miles from where Daybell lived with his family. By September, Tylee and JJ had vanished, with their remains only being found 10 months later in June 2020. 

Timeline of Lori Vallow's and Chad Daybell's alleged crimes

July 11, 2019: Lori Vallow's husband, Charles Vallow, is killed by her brother, Alex Cox, in Arizona. Police initially rule that Alex acted in self defense but reopen the case months later after the children are reported missing.

August, 2019: Lori moves children JJ and Tylee to Rexburg, Idaho, close to where her future husband Chad Daybell lives with his wife Tammy.

September 8, 2019: Tylee is seen alive for the last time during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Lori, JJ and Alex. In the following weeks Lori tells people that her daughter is studying at Brigham Young University's Idaho campus.

September 23, 2019: The last time JJ is seen at his school in Rexburg. Lori emails the school the following day claiming she is moving the family to California for a new job.

October 2, 2019: Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori's niece Melani Pawlowski, is targeted in a drive-by shooting in Arizona. Police identify the vehicle carrying the shooter as a Jeep registered to Charles Vallow, Lori's late husband.

October 19, 2019: Chad's wife Tammy, 49, dies at their Idaho home. An obituary states that she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Chad declines an autopsy and her death is listed as due to natural causes.

October 25, 2019: A friend of Tylee receives a vague 'miss you' text from her phone but says that it didn't sound like the teen.   

November 5, 2019: Lori and Chad tie the knot on a beach in Kauai. Receipts indicate that Lori purchased her own wedding ring from Amazon nearly three weeks prior to Tammy's death.

November 26, 2019: Out-of-state relatives ask Idaho police to perform a welfare check on JJ. Lori and Chad claim he is in Arizona with relatives and ask their friend, Melanie Gibb, to lie and say she took the boy there for Thanksgiving. Police soon learn that no one has seen JJ or Tylee, since September.

November 27, 2019: Police execute a search warrant related to the children at Lori's home and discover that she and Chad have fled Idaho.

December 11, 2019: Tammy's body is exhumed from a Utah cemetery and her death is reclassified as suspicious.

December 12, 2019: Lori's brother, Alex Cox, is found dead in a bathroom in his Arizona home. Months later an autopsy determines that he died of natural causes while he had the overdose drug Narcan in his system.

December 21, 2019: Rexburg police issue the first press release about JJ and Tylee, revealing they believe their disappearance could be linked to Tammy's death and asking the public for information.

December 24, 2019: Lori and Chad issue a statement through an attorney saying they love their son and daughter and look forward to addressing 'allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor'.

December 30, 2019: Police accuse Lori and Chad of lying to investigators and say they believe the couple know where the kids are or what happened to them.

January 3, 2020: Police search Chad's home in Salem and remove 43 items, including tech devices and journals. They also comb over sections of the snow-covered yard with rakes and metal detectors.

January 26, 2020: Lori and Chad are seen for the first time in months as police serve them with two search warrants in Kauai. Lori is also served with a court order to produce the children to authorities in Idaho in five days. The couple are approached by the media while officers serve the documents and refuse to say anything about the children.

January 30, 2020: Lori misses the court deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities.

February 20, 2020: Lori is arrested in Kauai and charged with two felony counts for desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, and one misdemeanor count each for resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime, and contempt of court.

March 5, 2020: Lori is extradited to Idaho, where she is held on $1million bond at Madison County Jail.

March 17, 2020: Lori professes her innocence in a statement through her attorney as two other members of her defense team quit and the judge removes himself from the case.

March 24, 2020: Court documents filed in the divorce of Lori's niece Melani and her husband Brandon Boudreaux allege that Lori told people she believed her children were zombies before they disappeared.

April 9, 2020: Authorities reveal they are investigating Lori and Chad for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with Tammy's death.

June 9, 2020: Police search Chad's home in Salem for the second time and discover human remains in the backyard. Chad is taken into police custody and charged with destruction or concealment of evidence.

May 25, 2021: Lori and Chad are charged with first degree murder in the deaths of the children. Chad is also charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife Tammy.

May 27, 2021: Lori is deemed incompetent to stand trial on the murder charges in Idaho.

August 5, 2021: Prosecution announces it will seek the death penalty for Chad.

April 11, 2022: Lori is restored competency. Criminal proceedings against her in Idaho are ordered to continue.

April 14, 2022: Lori is taken to the Madison County Jail in Rexburg, Idaho, by Fremont County Sheriff officers

April 10, 2023: Lori Vallow goes on trial for the murders of JJ, 7, and Tylee, 17

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