The remains of 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and her 7-year-old adopted brother JJ Vallow were found in shallow graves in June 2020. The children hadn’t been seen alive since the fall of 2019.
East Idaho News reported the chilling condition in which Tylee and JJ were found. JJ was wrapped in plastic and bound by duct tape while Tylee’s body had been dismembered and burned. People magazine reported that a plastic bag was also around JJ’s head, secured by duct tape. It’s possible that JJ died from asphyxiation.
But investigative news reporter and CBS News consultant Morgan Loew thinks JJ may have still been alive when he was buried. Loew reported, “Why do you bind somebody’s feet and hands and mouth in duct tape? You do it to keep them from — yelling or talking. The way they found that body leads you to believe that JJ was still alive … Because you don’t go through all that trouble to somebody who’s already dead.”
As for Tylee, the cause of death was less obvious. Loew said of Tylee, “because of the condition of — of Tylee’s remains, it’s hard to tell what happened to her. The only thing we — we can know for sure is that … At one point, whoever did this, dismembered her body and burned it.”
Who Killed JJ and Tylee?
Making the murder of JJ and Tylee all the more tragic is the role their own mother, Lori Daybell, played in the horrific crimes. The trouble started in 2017 when Lori (then Lori Vallow) started reading Chad Daybell’s books.
Chad was a novelist and podcaster with niche religious beliefs. CBS News reported that Daybell prepared his audience for the end of the world and claimed he could communicate with angels and remember past lives.
His most disturbing belief was that some people living on earth were just zombies whose souls had left their bodies. His solution for releasing these lost souls back to heaven? Killing their bodily forms.
Chad and Lori met in 2018 and formed a relationship, even though they were both married at the time. CBS News reports that Lori began telling people she was chosen by God to complete a mission, a mission that included ridding the Earth of evil beings.
In 2019, Lori married Chad. In 2020, the remains of her children were found on his property.
Charles Vallow Tried to Get Lori Help
According to Idaho News, Lori and Charles Vallow were married in 2006. Lori had a daughter, Tylee, from a previous marriage. Charles and Lori would later adopt JJ, the grandson of Charles’s sister.
According to Fox10, Charles filed for divorce in 2010. Charles was worried about Lori’s mental state, as she viewed herself as a supernatural being appointed by God. He also feared for his life, saying that Lori had threatened to kill him.
Documents obtained by Fox10 show that Charles filed a petition for Lori to stay at Community Bridges Healthcare to receive psychiatric help. Lori refused to get treatment. Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, shot and killed Charles on July 11, 2019. The police department of Chandler Arizona initially ruled the shooting self-defense.
CBS News reported that Lori blatantly lied to JJ’s school, telling an administrator that Charles had committed suicide.
Lori Moves the Family to Idaho
Shortly after the death of her estranged husband, Lori moved to Rexburg, Idaho with JJ, Tylee, her brother (Cox), and her niece, Melanie Boudreaux. Chad Daybell lived nearby.
No one saw JJ or Tylee alive after the fall of 2019. Idaho News reports that Lori unenrolled JJ from school on September 23, claiming she would homeschool him. At this point, Lori and Chad were eliminating any obstacles that got in their way. On October 9, 2019, Tammy Daybell, Chad’s wife, posted about a strange incident on Facebook.
A man wearing a ski mask shot at her with a paintball gun as she was getting out of her car one night. “I have no idea what his motive was,” Tammy wrote in the post. Ten days later, she died mysteriously in her sleep. Within weeks, Lori and Chad were married.
According to Idaho News, in the weeks after their wedding, Chad claimed that Lori didn’t have any children under the age of eighteen while Lori spread the lie that Tylee had been dead for years.
Police Realize that JJ and Tylee are Missing
Eventually, JJ and Tylee’s extended family grew suspicious and requested a welfare check for JJ. Idaho News reports that the Rexburg police went to the Daybell residence on November 27, 2019. Lori and Chad claimed JJ was staying in Arizona. Their story didn’t check out. Lori went so far as to ask her friend Melanie Gibb to lie to the police and say JJ was with her, but Gibb wouldn’t do it.
The police later obtained a warrant to search the Daybell residence, but when they arrived, Lori and Chad were gone. They flew to Hawaii on December 1, without JJ or Tylee. On December 21, police declared Lori and Chad persons of interest in the disappearance of JJ and Tylee.
JJ and Tylee Are Found
As for why JJ and Tylee were murdered, Lori’s former friend April Raymond has some thoughts. She told CBS News that Tylee may have been considered a liability. “Remember, Tylee was there the day Charles Vallow was killed. At the time, she went along with the self-defense story, but could she have changed her mind?” Raymond wondered.
Then there’s the other motive of religious fanaticism gone horribly wrong. In the spring of 2019, Lori told Raymond that Tylee had turned into a zombie. “She had described Tylee as having a dark spirit,” Raymond told CBS News.
Raymond added, “In the end, Chad and Lori’s belief in evil may prove to be true. But they got one thing wrong. Authorities believe it is was they who embraced the darkness. And the children who embraced the light.”