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Authorities believe the mother of two missing Idaho children knows where they are, but is refusing to cooperate with authorities.
Rexburg Police “strongly believe” that the lives of missing children Joshua Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, “are in danger” as the weeks stretch on since the children were last seen, but their mother Lori Vallow Daybell “has completely refused” to help in the investigation into their disappearance and instead has left the state with her new husband, Chad Daybell, according to a news release issued by police.
“We know that the children are not with Lori and Chad Daybell and we also have information indicating that Lori knows either the location of the children or what has happened to them,” police said. “Despite having this knowledge, she has refused to work with law enforcement to help us resolve this matter. It is astonishing that rather than work with law enforcement to help us locate her own children, Lori Vallow has chosen instead to leave the state with her new husband.”
The children were reported missing Nov. 26 after police went to the family’s home to conduct a welfare check on Joshua, NBC News reports. Relatives had grown concerned about the 7-year-old—who has special needs and was adopted by Lori Vallow Daybell—after they hadn’t heard from him since September.
The couple told police that Joshua had been staying with a friend in Arizona, but authorities soon discovered that was not true, police said. When they returned to the family’s home a short time later, they discovered the couple “had abruptly vacated their residence and left,” police said.
Investigators learned that Vallow Daybell’s teenage daughter was also missing and also hasn’t been seen since September.
Earlier this month, police said it’s possible the children’s disappearance is related to the “suspicious” death of Chad Daybell’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, according to East Idaho News.
Tammy Daybell was found dead in her home on Oct. 19, CNN reports. Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell got married just a few weeks later.
Lori Vallow Daybell’s first husband, Charles Vallow, also died earlier this year. He was shot to death in July by a family member after getting into an argument with Lori that escalated into a physical confrontation, NBC News reports. No charges have been filed in Charles Vallow’s death.
It's suspected that both Vallow Daybell and Daybell are part of a doomsday religious sect, according to Fox News.
Chad Daybell has also been linked to the group Preparing A People, an organization that seeks to "prepare the people of this earth for the second coming of Jesus Christ." According to the group's website "Preparing A People" was a series of lectures focusing on "self-reliance and personal preparation."
*Chad Daybell was an author and began publishing books over 20 years ago under the name of 'Spring Creek Book Company.' He spoke at some of the 'Preparing A People' events, but had no ownership in it, nor was he a founder," Michael and Nancy James wrote in a statement on the organization's website. "Mr. Daybell was simply one of many speakers at the events."
Friends have also said the couple often talked about the end of the world, USA Today reports.
Investigators said their primary focus now is to find the missing children.
“Since we first received a missing child report on November 26th, our number one priority has been finding Joshua and Tylee,” police said in the news release. “We have taken every step available to us, including executing multiple search warrants, interviewing multiple sources, and running down every lead we have found.”
Investigators are publicly calling for the couple to “do the right thing” and come forward with any information they may have about the missing children. Police also highlighted several unsettling comments the couple has allegedly made in the past about the children.
According to police, the couple told witnesses that Lori’s daughter had died a year before her father passed away—a statement which police said is “untrue.”
“Around that same time Chad told another witness that Lori had no minor children,” police said.
Last week, the couple’s attorney Sean Bartholick told the East Idaho News that Chad Daybell was a “loving husband” and described Lori Vallow Daybell as “a devoted mother.” He said that she “resents assertions to the contrary.”
“We look forward to addressing the allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor,” he said.
Although police have described the couple as “persons of interest” in the disappearances, police said Monday that they have not filed charges in the case because the primary concern remains finding Joshua and Tylee.
“If we find that harm was done to these children within our jurisdiction, we will prosecute whoever caused that harm,” they said.
As investigators continue to search for answers, the children’s grandmother Kay Vallow Woodcock told CNN the family is concerned about their welfare and that they can “hardly function because we’re just fearing the worst.”
Anyone with information about the missing children is urged to contact authorities.
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