It was the extended family who grew suspicious first, and then at their urging, local police: Seven-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and his 17-year-old sister Tylee Ryan hadn’t been seen in far too long, and their mother wouldn’t give a straight answer about where they were.
Soon strangers around the world were following the case, transfixed by the increasingly strange circumstances surrounding Lori Vallow Daybell and her new husband, Chad Daybell.
The investigation grew to include the mysterious deaths of their former spouses and their sudden move to Hawaii.
The case took a grim turn Tuesday when investigators announced they found human remains while searching Chad Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.
In a field near his house, the FBI and local authorities erected canopies, draped blue tarps on the ground and brought in heavy equipment to dig. Victim advocates began calling family members, telling them about the remains.
Authorities have not released the identities of the bodies discovered on the property, however, JJ’s grandfather Larry Woodcock told the Post Register in Idaho Falls that “both children are no longer with us.”
Relatives of the family also released a statement share by Justin Lum of Fox10 on Twitter.
“The Woodcock’s and The Ryan’s are confirming that the human remains found by Law enforcement on Chad Daybell’s property are indeed our beloved JJ and Tylee,” the statement said.
“We are filled with unfathomable sadness that these two bright stars were stolen from us, and only hope that they died without pain or suffering. Official statements from The Rexburg Police, The Medical Examiner and the FBI will be released soon.”
Daybell was arrested Tuesday and appeared in court Wednesday. In court documents, Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood said he believes Chad Daybell either concealed or helped hide the remains knowing that they were about to be used as evidence in court.
Wood said the first body was hidden or destroyed some time on or after Sept. 8 — the last known day that Tylee was seen — and the second on or after Sept. 22, the last known day that JJ was seen.
Lori Daybell has already been charged with child abandonment, obstructing an investigation, contempt of court and soliciting a crime.
Her attorney has said she intends to defend herself against the charges. She’s in jail on $1 million bond.
Court documents suggest that things began to unravel for the family early last year, when Lori was still married to Charles Vallow. The couple were estranged and Vallow had filed for divorce, saying he feared she would kill him and that she had developed cult-like beliefs.
The family was living in a Phoenix suburb in July when Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, shot and killed Vallow. He asserted that the shooting was in self-defense after Vallow came at him with a baseball bat.
Police investigated, but the case didn’t go far before Cox died of a blood clot in his lung in December.
Lori Vallow moved to Idaho with the kids, getting an apartment in the small town of Rexburg and spending time with Chad Daybell.
At the time, he was married to Tammy Daybell, a 49-year-old school librarian who helped him run a small publishing company. Chad Daybell also had written several books, largely focused on doomsday scenarios.
Tammy Daybell died in October, her obituary saying she passed away in her sleep of natural causes. The family declined an autopsy before she was buried in Utah.
About two weeks later, Chad Daybell married Lori Vallow.
The quick marriage drew the suspicion of officers, who had Tammy Daybell’s body exhumed for an investigation. The results of that autopsy have not yet been released.
Meanwhile, JJ’s grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock of Louisiana, were growing increasingly worried about the kids.
They said once-regular phone calls with JJ had grown infrequent and then stopped altogether. They said Lori Daybell wouldn’t tell them why the boy was always unavailable.
Tylee was last seen in September headed into Yellowstone National Park with her mom and other family members for a day trip, and JJ was last seen by school officials several days later.
The Woodcocks asked Rexburg police to check on the kids. When officers stopped by to question Lori Daybell, they said she and Chad Daybell lied about the children’s whereabouts.
When investigators returned the next day to follow up, the Daybells were gone.
The couple had moved to Hawaii, and the investigation pushed forward in Idaho, Arizona and Utah, where Tammy Daybell was buried. Eventually, a judge ordered Lori Daybell to prove the children were safe by bringing them to officials. She refused and was charged with child abandonment and other crimes, then extradited to Idaho.
In the weeks since, the Idaho attorney general’s office took over the investigation into Tammy Daybell’s death, while Lori Daybell has tried and failed to get her bond lowered.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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