Everything We Know About Missing Idaho Kids' Mom Lori Vallow Daybell

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What kind of mother allegedly refuses to help find her missing children? It's the question people across the country are asking as more details emerge about Lori Vallow Daybell, the mother of two missing children who has been charged with deserting them and lying to the investigators desperate to find them. 

After initially fighting extradition from the Hawaiian island where she has been living with her fifth husband, Daybell waived extradition and will soon travel back to Idaho to face two counts of felony desertion of a child, as well as misdemeanor charges of resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt, according to the Madison County, Idaho, prosecutor's office.

Now, the criminal complaint and affidavit of probable cause filed by authorities in Idaho, as well as statements from her family and friends and a newly discovered email, are shedding new light on the mother of three and the events that culminated in her arrest in Hawaii Feb. 20. 

Lori's fifth husband, Chad Daybell, was seen packing up their rented home and leaving Hawaii as Lori awaits extradition from the island back to Rexburg, Idaho.

Chad has not been arrested or charged with a crime and both he and Lori have denied any wrongdoing. An attorney for the couple did not respond to InsideEdition.com's request for comment. 

Here's what we know about Lori Vallow Daybell, the 46-year-old woman at the center of a case involving two missing children, three suspicious deaths, two sizable life insurance policies and religious beliefs that some of her own family members have described as "cult-like." 

Lori Daybell, then known as Lori Cox.
A photo of Lori Cox taken by her friend, Bernadette Flores-Lopez, during high school cheer camp. Bernadette Flores-Lopez

Early life

Lori Norene Cox was born on June 26, 1973. Growing up, Lori had two brothers and two sisters, her childhood friend Bernadette Flores-Lopez said. Lori attended Eisenhower High School in Rialto, Calif., from 1987 to 1991.  

Cox and Flores-Lopez "clicked immediately" when they met during tryouts for the high school cheer squad.

"I just thought she was just a Barbie doll. She was a doll," Flores-Lopez told InsideEdition.com. "She was just really, really friendly, not overly friendly, but she was just really sweet. I was just so excited to get to know her." 

Lori spent a lot of time with her cheer friends. 

"As a cheer squad, we were always at Lori's house. Her mom and dad let us hang out there. We used to swim," Flores-Lopez said. "Everybody was just so welcoming. They had a big family."

The Cox family were "very, very devout Mormons," Flores-Lopez said, and Lori would attend religious education classes in the morning before school. 

"That takes a lot of dedication, in high school, to go before school started to seminary," Flores-Lopez said. "She never spoke about what it meant to be a Mormon or anything. I just know in her house, there was a giant book of the Book of Mormon." 

Lori Cox and her cheer squad teammates.
Lori Cox was on her California high school's cheer squad. Handout

Lori's parents didn't come to her cheer competitions, Flores-Lopez said, but that didn't seem to bother Lori. They were a quiet family and kept pretty much to themselves, she said. 

Lori was smart and got good grades, but when it came to what she would do after graduation, Lori's path seemed to be guided by her faith, Flores-Lopez said. She talked about attending Brigham Young University, a private university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

"Being a Mormon—this is what I got from her—they already knew she was going to go be a missionary for a couple of years and serve," Flores-Lopez said. "She already had a plan." 

At a bail hearing in Kaua'i last week, Lori told the judge the highest grade she had completed was 12th. 

When it came to dating, Lori "was a bombshell," her friend said, but she spent most of her high school years hanging out with her girlfriends. 

"It's weird because it wasn't until our senior year that she even had a boyfriend. She was very much to herself and she hung around just the girls," Flores-Lopez said. "There was hardly ever boys with us. But in senior year, that's when she started kind of like branching out a little bit." 

Marriages, divorces and children

Lori married her first husband, a boy from her high school, in 1992. But the marriage was short-lived. 

"I know the boy was not a Mormon, so that might've been a cause of [the breakup]," Flores-Lopez said. 

With her second husband, Lori had a son, whom they named Colby. After the couple's divorce, Lori married her third husband, Joseph Ryan, with whom she had a daughter,  Tylee. Colby also took Joseph's last name. 

Annie Cushing, Joseph Ryan's sister, told KSL-TV Tylee was her brother's only child and "he was over the moon" when she was born on Sep. 24, 2002. 

That period was also Lori's first taste of fame. She appeared on "Wheel of Fortune" and competed in the Mrs. Texas beauty pageant as a mother of two. She took it as a sign from above. 

"She told my brother that God told her she was going to be on 'Wheel of Fortune' before she auditioned," Annie Cushing told Inside Edition. 

Lori and Joseph Ryan divorced in 2004 when Tylee was 18 months old, Cushing said. A bitter custody battle ensued, which was referenced in Lori's recent court appearance in Hawaii. 

In arguing against Lori's bail reduction request Thursday, Kaua'i County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar referenced Lori's defiance of court orders regarding the custody of her kids in 2009 and 2011.

"What was telling in those reports is Joseph Ryan's statements that she has a history of disappearing when the child's custody is at issue," Kollar said. 

Joseph Ryan died from an apparent heart attack in 2018. Cushing said the last time she saw Tylee was when she visited Lori in Arizona shortly after her brother's death. 

“When I got there, it was as if nothing had happened,” Cushing told KSL-TV of that visit to Lori's home. "People were hardly talking about Joe and when Lori did, the tenor was — she would actually say, 'The world is a better place without Joe Ryan.'" 

After Joseph Ryan's death, Lori married her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, in Las Vegas. Although they both had children from previous marriages, they wanted a child to raise together, said Charles' brother-in-law, Larry Woodcock. 

Lori and Charles Vallow adopted Charles' biological nephew, Joshua Jaxon, from Kay and Larry Woodcock when he was a baby. They called him JJ.

"They each had two children by previous marriages, and they wanted a baby to raise. Kay and I, after months of deliberation, said it was probably best because Charles was a high earner, a hard worker and devout in his religion, him and Lori both," Larry Woodcock told InsideEdition.com of the adoption. 

"They were just good people, tremendous people. I was proud to have Charles and Lori, at that time, as a brother-in-law and sister-in-law," he added. 

Lori's friends

When Lori and Charles Vallow were still married, the couple lived together on Kaua'i, where Lori met and befriended April Raymond.

Raymond told Dateline Lori was "really fun, fun to be around, really positive, full of energy, full of life, really nice to me, really nice to my boys, just enveloped us really quickly into her life." 

Raymond said Lori had talked to her about the end times and invited Raymond to one of Lori's religious group's meetings, but she declined. 

"I know they were doing a lot of meetings and she invited me to some of them but I just didn't have any interest in participating in any way," Raymond told Dateline. 

Another of Lori's friends, Melanie Gibb, has been thrust Into the spotlight after the affidavit of probable cause revealed she was the friend Lori told police in Idaho JJ was staying with when they came to perform a welfare check at Lori's home on Nov. 26. 

In the affidavit, Lori told police in Rexburg on Nov. 26 that JJ was with Gibb in Gilbert, Ariz. But when police were unable to contact Gibb, they asked Lori to call her. 

"At this time, Lori told us that Melanie and [JJ] were at the movie 'Frozen 2' so it was unlikely Melanie would answer the phone. We instructed Lori to call Melanie Gibb and have her call us so we could verify the location of [JJ]," the affidavit states. 

But when Gilbert police questioned Gibb, she told them JJ "was not staying at her Arizona house and had not been there for several months."

Then, on Dec. 6, Gibb told police in Rexburg that both Chad and Lori had called her at separate times on Nov. 26 and "asked her to tell the police that she had [JJ] even though [JJ] was not with her."

According to her website, Gibb is the author of "Feel the Fire," a religious book with a foreword written by Chad Daybell. Gibb also appeared with Lori on the "Time To Warrior Up" podcast, which was distributed by Preparing A People, a media company with a mission to help "prepare the people of this Earth for the second coming of Jesus Christ." 

Gibb did not respond to InsideEdition.com's request for comment. 

Lori's religious beliefs

Before they wed, Lori and Chad appeared together on since-deleted podcasts distributed by Preparing A People. 

The company has denied being a cult and said in December it was "shocked" and "deeply disturbed" to learn of the investigation into the children's whereabouts. 

"We also do not share any of Chad Daybell’s or Lori Vallow’s beliefs if they are contrary to Christian principles of honesty, integrity and truth, or if they do not align with the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," owners Michael and Nancy James wrote on Preparing A People's website

How Lori's religious beliefs may factor into the disappearance of her children is something investigators and her family are still trying to figure out.

Larry Woodcock said that Lori was a good mother—until she became involved with a new religious group. 

"The first six years, you couldn't ask for a better mother than Lori," Larry Woodcock said. "I can't tell you a date she got involved in this cult, but I told Kay two or three years ago I thought Lori was changing. There was something about her that was not the Lori we loved."

Lori started "to read some books published by [Chad] Daybell and listen to other podcasts and things like that," Larry Woodcock said. "But up until that point, Lori was the quintessential mom: extremely athletic, loving, caring. You could not ask for a better mom. And then it all just went to hell in a hand basket, and Lori changed." 

The new religious group was a big part of why Charles Vallow filed for divorce from Lori in early 2019, Larry Woodcock said. 

In divorce papers, Charles Vallow claimed Lori had told him she was "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020," The Arizona Republic reported.

Lori had "become infatuated and, at times, obsessive about near-death experiences and spiritual visions," Charles Vallow said in court documents cited by the paper. 

Charles Vallows' concerns about Lori led him to change the beneficiary on his life insurance policy from Lori to his sister, Kay Woodcock, she said. But Charles ultimately dropped the divorce proceedings. 

Police in Chandler, Ariz., are now investigation an email Charles Vallow allegedly sent on June 29 to Lori's brother, Adam Cox, in which Charles "claimed Lori Vallow created an email alias for him and used it to send a message to Chad Daybell the day before, inviting him to visit Arizona and write a book," KSL-TV reported.

Weeks later, on July 11, Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori's brother, Alex Cox, in at the Chandler home where JJ and Tylee were living with their mother. Charles Vallow had come to pick up JJ. 

Alex Cox, Lori's brother, told police he acted in self-defense when he shot Vallow, according to body cam footage released by the Chandler Police Department. Cox was not charged in the incident, and died himself on Dec. 12. Both Cox and Charles' deaths are now under investigation. 

In a Facebook post, Kay Woodcock wrote Lori was a "wonderful, loving, attentive mother" until "things started changing over the past 18+ months when Lori began spending all her time with a new religious group." 

After Charles' death, Lori married her fifth and current husband, Chad Daybell, an end-times author and publisher living in Idaho. 

Chad's previous wife, Tammy, was found dead at their home in Rexburg on Oct. 19. Lori and Chad wed in Hawaii just weeks after Tammy's death. 

Tammy's death is currently under investigation. 

Lori Vallow Daybell
Lori Cox in her yearbook photo, and Lori Daybell today. Handout/CBS News

Lori's relationship with Chad 

It's not clear when Lori Vallow met Chad Daybell for the first time, or when their relationship became romantic. Julie Rowe is an author who published multiple books with Chad between May 2014 and March 2019 and considered him a friend. 

Rowe told InsideEdition.com she believes Lori and Chad met in October 2018, when a friend texted Rowe a photo of the two of them together with a group of people.

According to the email obtained by KSL-TV that Charles Vallow alleged Lori had sent to Chad pretending to be Charles, Chad had stayed with the couple in November 2018 when he attended a Preparing A People conference. 

The fall of 2018 is also when Rowe began noticing "shifts" in her friend Chad, she said.

"Lori was like a groupie, Chad's groupie. She really looked up to him, that's one of the reasons I didn't want anything to do with her," Rowe told InsideEdition.com

"I noticed Lori was like that with Chad, and quite a few people get like that. They just get enamored at the gifts that somebody has, and they get in awe, because they don't have those gifts," Rowe continued. 

"There's almost this weird worship energy that comes with it, and it's not okay. I think Lori was falling in love with Chad from a distance, she wanted this spiritual guy or something, and she was having her own marriage issues," Rowe said. 

Rowe said the last time she saw Chad in person was in December 2018. She said the cause of her falling out with her former publisher were the warnings she tried to give him about his current wife, Lori, as well as publishing issues.

Rowe said angels had come to warn her not to get involved with Lori Vallow or her niece, Melani Boudreaux

But Rowe said her warnings to Chad about Lori went unheeded. 

"I warned [Chad] and I told him exactly what my angels told me, and he told me, 'I've been married to her [Lori] before,'" Rowe said. "I got a big warning on that, and I looked into the future and I saw some stuff, and I was concerned.

"I tried three times to warn him, and not only did he blow me off, but he cut me off," Rowe added. 

Lori Vallow was arrested in Hawaii nearly five months after her children JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan were last seen.
Kauai PD

Back to Idaho

Lori will be extradited from Kaua'i to Idaho to face the charges against her. Chad has already traveled arrived in Rexburg, EastIdahoNews.com reported. 

As he left Hawaii, Chad Daybell told an ABC News reporter "the kids are safe," after previously saying he couldn't comment on the case. 

Lori is due to appear in court in Idaho on Friday. Meanwhile, the search for her missing children continues. 

The Rexburg Police Department asks anyone with information regarding JJ and Tylee's whereabouts or welfare to contact the department at 1-208-359-3000 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST.  

JJ has brown hair and brown eyes, is 4 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds. He has autism and "may be in need of medical attention," according to authorities. Tylee has blonde hair and blue eyes, is 5 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds. 

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