The case of two missing children in Idaho has taken a bizarre turn as a tangled web of conspiracy theories and unusual number of family deaths have complicated the investigation.
The suspects in question are Lori Vallow and her recent husband, Chad Daybell. Vallow's children, seven-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan were last seen in September 2019. In November, after authorities received a search warrant for their home and storage unit, Vallow and Daybell fled to Hawaii. This week, the East Idaho News published security camera footage from the Self Storage Plus facility that shows Vallow putting away items belonging to her children, causing further speculation about her involvement in their disappearance.
According to the East Idaho News, Vallow left behind a storage unit “full of children’s items, photos, clothing, and other things.” Surveillance footage indicates that she and a man who appears to be her brother, Alex Cox, made multiple visits to the storage facility in October and November. The publication reports that cameras show a man, also presumed to be Cox, coming by to store an assortment of items, including gun cases. On October 28, two men moved bikes into the unit. And on 24 November, in her final visit to the storage facility before fleeing to Hawaii, Vallow and an unnamed man stayed for just four minutes before leaving.
The hunt for Vallow and Daybell officially kicked off when the credit card she had on file at Self Storage Plus was denied several times. The facility contacted authorities who tracked down the couple in Hawaii, where they had been living since late November. On 25 January, Vallow and Daybell were stopped by investigators there and served with a court order to present her missing children to Idaho authorities on 30 January. Vallow failed to meet this deadline, clearing the way for prosecutors to have her extradited from Hawaii to Idaho for contempt of court.
Family members suspect foul play in the children's disappearance. Last week, JJ’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, opened up about her worst fears in a press conference. “The only word coming to mind right now is ‘monster,’” Woodcock said, according to The New York Times. “All this has just been very disheartening. I’m a lot less optimistic at the moment.”
Vallow and Daybell have been inconsistent in statements about their children’s whereabouts, initially saying they were with relatives in Arizona. But Daybell allegedly told someone that Vallow didn’t have kids, while Vallow herself allegedly told someone else that her daughter had died more than a year earlier, reports The Times.
And in another bizarre twist, there have been an unusual number of deaths on both sides of the couple's families that have occurred in a short period of time since the children’s disappearance. Cox, Vallow's brother, shot and killed his sister's estranged husband, Charles Vallow, last July, claiming it was in self-defence. And in December, Cox himself died of “unknown causes.” On Daybell’s side of the family, his previous wife, Tammy Daybell, died in October of 2019, reportedly of “natural causes.” But when Daybell and Vallow got married just two weeks later, authorities had Tammy’s remains exhumed.
In addition to the strange string of deaths, the couple is now believed to have radical "doomsday beliefs," with ties to "Preparing a People," a doomsday preparation group that is now dubbed a "religious cult." Divorce documents filed by Vallow’s late husband say that she believes she is “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020.” And Chad Daybell has authored apocalyptic novels “based loosely on Mormon religious theology.”
The missing children's grandmother and her husband are now offering a $20,000 (£15k) reward for information that could lead to a break in the case and bring to light the children’s whereabouts.