Teacher Recalls Last Day She Saw Joshua 'JJ' Vallow After His Dad Charles Was Shot and Killed by Alex Cox

Teachers, classmates and friends gathered to remember 7-year-old JJ at Lauren’s Institute for Education in Gilbert, Arizona.

Teachers, classmates and friends gathered to remember Joshua "JJ" Vallow at the school he attended in Gilbert, Arizona. "I miss his smile, his laughter, our Friday dance parties. He was just a fun boy to be around and really did love everyone," Nicole Rapp, his former teacher at Laurens Institute For Education, told CBS affiliate KPHO

Rapp had JJ in her class for Kindergarten and first grade at the school, which is also known as LIFE Academy. Rapp said she thought JJ's mother, Lori Vallow, was a caring parent who was "on top of it with school." JJ had special needs, including autism. 

"She dropped him off every day. He would run to the classroom and be so excited, and she's running after him to catch up, " Rapp told the station. "She’d stay ask about how he was doing." 

But the family seemed to begin to unravel in 2019. JJ's dad, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed by Lori's brother, Alex Cox, on July 11, 2019. Alex claimed he fired in self-defense and wasn't charged in the incident. But Lori told the school's CEO a different story about Charles' death, she said.

"[Lori] said that Charles had killed himself yesterday and we were like, 'What?'" Margaret Travillion, LIFE Academy's co-founded and CEO, told KPHO. "And something didn’t feel right." 

Shortly after, Lori told the school she would be pulling JJ out and moving to California, administrators said. 

"His very last day with us, he came in very angry. He kept saying, 'My dad’s not dead my dad’s not in heaven, my dad’s just traveling," Julia Allen, JJ's second grade teacher, told KPHO.

Instead, Lori moved JJ and his 17-year-old sister, Tylee Ryan, to Rexburg, Idaho, on or about Sept. 1, and shortly after, the children were never seen again, according to police. 

Tylee was last seen on Sept. 8 at Yellowstone National Park and JJ was last seen at home on Sept. 22, according to an affidavit of probable cause written by Lt. Ron Ball of the Rexburg Police Department, the lead detective on the case. 

Rexburg Police believe the children were buried on property belonging to Lori's fifth husband, Chad Daybell, by their uncle, Alex Cox, shortly after they were last seen in September, according to the affidavit. 

Lori is now being held on $1 million bond on felony charges of deserting JJ and Tylee, as well as misdemeanor charges of resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt. Lori has pleaded not guilty, and is due to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on July 9.

Chad was arrested and charged with two felony counts of willfully destroying, concealing or altering evidence. He is currently being held on $1 million bond at the Fremont County jail. Chad has pleaded not guilty and denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

Neither Lori's attorney, Mark Means, nor Chad's attorney, John Prior, responded to Inside Edition Digital's request for comment.