The aunt of missing teen Tylee Ryan, 17, is speaking out about her mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, saying the two seemed to have a strained relationship and that she believes Lori is a "sociopath."
Tylee's cellphone was found in her mother's possession in Hawaii, although Idaho authorities have previously said "there is no evidence" that Tylee and her adopted 7-year-old brother, Joshua "JJ" Vallow, "were ever in Hawaii."
The information about Tylee's phone comes after it was revealed that Lori rented a storage unit in Rexburg, Idaho, on Oct. 1, 2019, and abandoned some of the children's things there.
"Inside the storage unit, officers found bikes, a scooter, winter clothing, a photo album with pictures of JJ and Tylee, sports equipment, a backpack with JJ’s initials and a jersey with Colby Ryan’s (Lori Daybell’s oldest son) name on it. There were blankets showing photos of the children – one focused on JJ, and the other had pictures of Tylee," EastIdahoNews.com reported.
Lori Vallow Daybell did not show up or produce the children to authorities in Rexburg by the Jan. 30 deadline set by authorities. Lori and her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, have been named persons of interest in the children's disappearance, but no arrests have been made and both have denied any wrongdoing.
JJ's biological grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the children's safe return. The couple have also launched a website, FindJJandTylee.com, to help collect leads.
Tylee's aunt calls Lori a 'sociopath'
Annie Cushing, the sister of Tylee's late father, Joseph Ryan, told KSL-TV Tylee was her brother's only child and "he was over the moon" when she was born on Sep. 24, 2002. Lori and Joseph Ryan divorced in 2004 when Tylee was 18 months old, Cushing said.
Cushing said the last time she saw Tylee was when she visited Lori in Arizona shortly after Joseph Ryan's death from an apparent heart attack in March 2018.
“When I got there, it was as if nothing had happened,” Cushing told the station. "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.'"
“There was also a lot of tension between Tylee and Lori,” Cushing added.
Cushing also thinks that Lori's religious beliefs disturbed her.
“It’s like she wanted me to be afraid of the end times,” Cushing told KSL-TV. “There was one time where she was talking about it and she says, sometimes, I think it would be better just to get put my kids in a car and go off the side of a cliff.”
“That’s what makes me feel Lori was a sociopath. To her, this was all a game. She had no empathy for the suffering anyone else was experiencing, including Tylee,” Cushing added.
Tylee's phone found
Cushing and Tylee's brother, Colby Ryan, have spoken out about the teen, who went missing with JJ in September 2019.
In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Colby Ryan described Tylee as "feisty, she's funny, she has very dry humor," adding that, "she's so strong and sweet and she's been growing into her own. She has really stepped up, she's so strong and I miss her, I miss being around her."
Colby Ryan has used his YouTube channel to plead with his mother for his siblings' safe return.
But while authorities know JJ was last seen at his school on Sept. 23, 2019, because Tylee didn't attend school, questions remain about when exactly she was last seen, Cushing told KSL-TV.
Tylee's phone had been used on a few occasions since she disappeared, but it's not clear by whom. In October, a text had been sent from Tylee’s phone to a friend who was worried about her, but her friend said what Tylee allegedly wrote didn’t sound like her, CBS News reported.
Also in October, two Venmo payments were made from Tylee's account to her brother, Colby Ryan. The memo for one payment on Oct. 16, 2019 is a heart emoji, and the message for another payment from Oct. 10, 2019 reads "we love you."
Colby Ryan previously told KSAZ-TV his mom used Venmo to transfer money within the family.
"My mom is not tech-savvy, so Tylee's account for Venmo was the account she used to transfer money to us," he told the station. Whether Tylee or Lori made the transfers is unknown.
Witness to a shooting?
Tylee was also in the house on July 11, 2019, the day that Lori's brother, Alex Cox, shot her fourth husband, Charles Vallow.
In police body cam footage released by the Chandler Police Department, Cox told police he acted in self-defense when he shot Vallow. Cox also claimed Vallow came at him with a baseball bat after fighting with Lori and that Tylee had tried to defend her mother with a bat.
Cox was not charged in the incident, and died himself on Dec. 12. Both Cox and Charles Vallows' deaths are now under investigation.
Idaho authorities have previously said the children's proximities to multiple deaths worries them.
"There is a lot of concern for the safety of the kids," Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries told EastIdahoNews.com. “The information that is coming out of Arizona in reference to deaths of multiple people is concerning."
How the public can help
The Rexburg Police Department asks anyone with information regarding the children'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.