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How Lori Vallow's Dead Brother Helped Lead Investigators To The Remains Of Her Missing Kids

Investigators determined that Alex Cox, the uncle of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, was on Chad Daybell's property – where the children's bodies were found earlier this month – around the time they disappeared. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Human Remains Found At Home Connected To Lori Vallow

Lori Vallow’s now-deceased brother helped lead authorities to the remains of her missing children, according to newly released court documents.

Authorities made the grisly discovery earlier this month after using data from Alex Cox’s cell phone to track his movements in the days after Tylee Ryan, 17, and Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, disappeared in September. That led them to an area on Chad Daybell’s property where the remains of both children were discovered, according to an affidavit of probable cause statement released Friday and obtained by Oxygen.com

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Tylee’s body had been dismembered and burned on the property while JJ’s remains were wrapped in plastic and bound by duct tape.

Tylee’s Disappearance

Tylee was last seen during a family outing to Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019 with her mother, Cox and JJ. Officials released photos taken of the family on the day of the trip, documenting the last time Tylee was seen alive.

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Lt. Ron Ball of the Rexburg Police Department said in the affidavit that authorities used cell phone tracking techniques, including cell tower triangulation, GPS data and Wifi connections, to track Cox’s movements after he left the park that day to provide insight into Tylee’s whereabouts, according to the affidavit.

Investigators discovered that after leaving the park at 6:40 p.m. that night he stopped at a barbeque restaurant before returning to Rexburg, Idaho where he lived in the same complex as Vallow and her children, though in a different apartment.

In the early morning hours the next day, between 2:42 a.m. and 3:37 a.m., cell phone data shows that Cox was inside his sister’s home.

“This is significant, not only because he is there in the middle of the night, but also because this is the only time in September he appears to go over to Lori’s between midnight and 6 a.m.,” Ball wrote.

Using cell photo data, authorities were able to track Cox to Daybell’s property later that same morning. Data shows him on the property between 9:21 a.m. and 11:39 a.m. primarily in the area where Tylee’s remains were later found, according to the affidavit.

Shortly after police believe Cox left the property, Daybell allegedly texted his wife Tammy Daybell—who died in October under suspicious circumstances—to tell her that he had killed a raccoon.

In the message, sent at 11:53 a.m., Daybell told his wife that he had just buried a raccoon on the “pet cemetery” on the couple’s property.

“Well, I’ve had an interesting morning! I felt I should burn all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms,” Daybell allegedly wrote, according to the probable cause statement. “While I did so, I spotted a big raccoon along the fence. I hurried and got my gun, and he was still walking along. I got close enough that one shot did the trick. He is now in our pet cemetery. Fun times!”

Police believed this statement was unusual because raccoons are typically nocturnal animals.

Neighbors of the Daybells had also reported seeing an increasing number of bonfires on the couple’s property during the fall.

Vallow Believed Her Children Had Become ‘Zombies’

Authorities have not announced how they believe Tylee died; however, Vallow’s friend Melanie Gibb told police that Vallow believed her daughter had turned into a “zombie” before her death.

“Gibb was on the phone with Lori and heard Lori call Tylee a zombie to which Tylee responded, ‘Not me, mom,'” the affidavit noted about a conversation the friends allegedly had in the spring of 2019. “This arose out of Lori requiring Tylee to babysit JJ, and Tylee did not want to. Lori Vallow also told Gibb that Tylee had turned into a zombie when she was 12 or 13, which was approximately the same time Tylee had become ‘difficult’ to deal with.”

Gibb explained to police that Vallow used the term “zombie” to refer to someone whose mortal spirit had left their body, which then had become the host for another “dark spirit,” according to the affidavit. She said it was Vallow and Daybell’s mission to rid the world of these zombies.

Gibb also allegedly told authorities that Lori later told her JJ had turned into a zombie.

Gibb and her boyfriend David Warwick had visited Vallow in Idaho from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23—during the same timeframe in which investigators believe JJ disappeared.

Gibb told police that shortly after she arrived at Vallow’s apartment, Vallow told her she believed JJ had turned into a zombie and “pointed out behaviors such as sitting still and watching tv, claiming JJ said he loved Satan, and an increased vocabulary” as evidence that the young boy had become a zombie, according to the affidavit.

“Gibb observed JJ’s behavior and felt it to be the same as she had always observed it,” Ball wrote in the report.

Warwick also told police that on the night of Sept. 22, 2019 he had been about to record a podcast with Gibb and Vallow when JJ began to act up and Cox came to take him to his apartment.

“When Alex returned later that night he was carrying JJ who appeared to be asleep with his head on Alex’s shoulder,” the affidavit stated, adding that Warwick remembered the moment because at the time he saw it as a “tender moment.”

It would be the last time Gibb or Warwick would see the 7-year-old. When they woke up the next morning, JJ was not at the home and Vallow allegedly told the couple that JJ had been “acting like a zombie” and crawling on top of the kitchen cabinets so Cox—who died himself in December—had come and taken him.

“She informed Warwick and Gibb that when JJ had climbed upon the cabinetry that he had knocked a picture of Jesus off the refrigerator,” the probable cause statement said.

Finding JJ

Authorities determined through cell phone data that on the morning of Sept. 23, Cox was again on Daybell’s property—this time from 9:55 a.m. until 10:12 a.m. near a pond on the property.

While searching Daybell’s property, FBI officials discovered several large flat rocks under a layer of sod. The rocks were covering two pieces of flat paneling that sat on top of a round object covered in plastic.

“Upon exposing the round object covered in black plastic, a strong odor was noticed,” the affidavit said. “An FBI member used a small sharp instrument and made a small incision in the plastic and a layer of white plastic was observed. An incision was made into the white layer of plastic exposing what appeared to be human remains, the crown of a head covered in light brown hair.”

The remains were later positively identified as JJ. Officials have not said how the 7-year-old died.

Investigators also found “charred tissue and charred bones” in another area that had been used as a pet cemetery that were also identified as human remains.

While investigators were searching Daybell’s property, police said the religious author was “continuously watching” where officers were on the property.

“He was observed watching officers while sitting in his vehicle in his front driveway and while sitting in his vehicle across the street at his daughter’s residence,” the affidavit said.

When investigators found the site where JJ had been buried, Daybell allegedly drove away from the scene.

“I and the other officers pursued him in police vehicles, conducted a traffic stop and detained him due to the fact that human remains were discovered on his property,” Ball wrote.

Daybell is currently behind bars on two felony charges of concealment or destruction of evidence. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, according to local station KSL.

Vallow also remains behind bars on two felony charges of child abandonment as well as misdemeanor charges of obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt of court.

Daybell’s wife Tammy Daybell died in October at the age of 49 under what authorities believe are suspicious circumstances. The Idaho Attorney General’s office is now investigating that death.

Chad Daybell and Vallow got married just two weeks after Tammy had died.

Vallow’s fourth husband Charles Vallow also died in July 2019 after Cox shot him in what he told authorities at the time was self-defense during an argument.