Idaho Falls — One of Lori Vallow Daybell’s close cousins is shedding new light on her doomsday beliefs and the influence Chad Daybell may have had on her in the months leading up to the deaths of her children.
Braxton Southwick lived within an hour of Lori’s family growing up and is similar in age to her and her brother Adam. He tells EastIdahoNews.com they were “as close as cousins could be,” but really connected in 2001.
“I’ve always kind of been a prepper but really got into it after the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” Southwick says. “I’d say Lori started prepping a lot around the same time. We talked a lot about prepping. I’d call her and say, ‘Hey, have you read this book?’ and she’d call me, ‘Have you read this book?’ We kind of fueled the fire for passion and prepping with each other.”
Southwick appeared on two seasons of hit National Geographic show “Doomsday Preppers,” has been on multiple television programs discussing prepping and has traveled to several states speaking about preparing for the end of times.
He says Lori wasn’t into collecting food storage, fuel or physical items because she moved a lot. Instead, she focused on spiritual, religious preparation. Southwick recalls visiting Hawaii with his wife in 2017 and staying at Lori and Charles Vallow’s home for a week.
“Pretty much all we did was talk about prepping the whole time – books, our feelings about things – it was just something fun for us,” Southwick says. “It was huge in her life to be a part of it and experience it firsthand. That was what she really, really wanted.”
Around the time of their visit, Lori became obsessed with “Visions of Glory,” a book detailing near-death experiences and visions of a man as told to the author. It describes a plague, floods, earthquakes and the gathering of 144,000 righteous people ahead of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
“I thought it was a phenomenal book … but you just have to keep it vanilla. What she did was take it to the way extreme, and she (believed) a lot of stuff out of that book. We talked about that book all the time, and I think I’m the one that called her and told her about it when it first came out,” Southwick says.
When Kauai police served Lori with an order to produce her missing children in January 2020, body camera footage shows her lying next to a swimming pool with a ‘Visions of Glory’ book on her chair. Chad Daybell is in a chair next to her.
Southwick met Chad in Rexburg at a religious conference in 2018. He knew Chad was a book publisher but did not speak with him until the author called out of the blue in March 2020 asking if he could help come up with money to get Lori out of jail.
“He called me because they were talking about bailing her out. Of course I wanted to help, but at the same time, I’m like, ‘I’m not going to. I’m going to let this play out,'” Southwick recalls. “I would have had to put up my house to do it, and I wasn’t about to do that. … We talked three separate times, and he’s the most vanilla, plain, soft spoken guy. I was like, ‘What is going on here?’ It just didn’t add up for me.”
When his cousin was arrested, Southwick originally thought Lori was hiding her children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan. He quickly realized the situation didn’t make sense. He never imagined their bodies would be found buried on Chad’s property.
Lori was found guilty in May of conspiracy to commit murder and the first-degree murder of JJ and Tylee. She was also found guilty of grand theft and conspiracy to commit the murder of Tammy Daybell, Chad’s former wife.
“I was absolutely floored. I didn’t expect it from Lori, and I didn’t expect it from Chad,” Southwick says. “My whole life, Lori has been an absolutely phenomenal and impressive mother. This just came out of left field. And I think if Chad wasn’t in Lori’s life, she would still be a phenomenal mother. I think the two of them really ramped it up and just went haywire. I think it took the two of them, not just one.”
Southwick never heard Lori talk about dark spirits or zombies and believes Chad introduced those teachings to her. But he does recall Lori mentioning “all the time” that going through the Second Coming will be “absolutely horrific.” She commented on more than one occasion that she wanted to “drive us all off a cliff” to avoid the destruction.
“I think she didn’t want her kids to deal with what she thought was coming. I think Chad convinced her that the Second Coming was starting at the end of that year and nobody was going to know what they did,” Southwick says.
Southwick thinks Lori got caught up in Chad proclaiming he could see the future, and Chad got wrapped up in her admiration for him.
“Here’s a beautiful young woman who makes you feel good, and Chad’s like, ‘I have to keep up the image. I have to keep it going. I don’t want to lose that,'” Southwick says. “When you have a beautiful woman after you, you’ll just about do anything, including telling people you know the future. The most powerful person in the world is somebody that says, ‘I know the future,’ and Lori wanted that so bad, she clung to it.”
After Lori was arrested, Southwick called her in jail and told her he loved her. He says he still does, despite all that has happened.
“She’s a phenomenal cousin, and it breaks my heart what has happened to her and our family. She completely went off the wrong road, and I just feel horrible for her every day. I pray for her every day and I absolutely love her,” he says.