Doomsday cult mom Lori Vallow once allegedly told a friend she pretended to have cancer to convince her son’s grandmother to care for him—but investigators believe her son was already dead at the time of the lie.
Investigators discovered the bodies of Vallow’s children Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow on the Idaho property of Vallow’s new husband, Chad Daybell on June 9 and both Daybell and Vallow are currently behind bars on charges connected to the disappearance and deaths of the children.
As the investigation continues, new details are emerging about the disappearance, the condition of the bodies and what Vallow allegedly told others in the weeks after the children disappeared in September.
Police have said JJ was last seen alive on Sept. 22 at his Rexburg, Idaho home.
Vallow’s friend Melanie Gibb and Gibb’s boyfriend David Warwick had been visiting Vallow at the time.
Gibb later told investigators that a few days before she last saw the 7-year-old, Vallow told her that JJ had “become 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 JJ was now a zombie,” according to a an updated probable cause affidavit released in the case.
Vallow had used the term “zombie” to refer to someone whose original spirit had left their body and was taken over instead by a dark spirit.
Gibb and Warwick told investigators the last time they saw JJ was on the night of Sept. 22, 2019 as Gibb, Vallow and Warwick were getting ready to do a podcast together. JJ began acting up, so Vallow’s brother Alex Cox came to take him to his own nearby apartment.
“When Cox returned later that night he was carrying JJ who appeared to be asleep with his head on Cox’s shoulder,” the affidavit said. “Warwick specifically remembered this because he saw it as a tender moment.”
But the next day, JJ was not at home and when Warwick asked where he was, Vallow allegedly told him that JJ had “been acting like a zombie and had been crawling on the kitchen cabinetry and had gotten on top of the cabinetry in a space between the cabinetry and the ceiling,” the affidavit said.
Vallow said that JJ also knocked a picture of Jesus off the refrigerator and her brother had come over and taken him once again to his apartment.
Gibb and Warwick never saw JJ again but about a week after their trip to Idaho, Vallow told Gibb that JJ had gone to stay with his grandmother, Gibb told authorities.
“Vallow further told Gibb she had told Kay that she had cancer in order to convince Kay Woodcock to take JJ,” the affidavit stated.
Vallow allegedly told Gibb that she had traveled with JJ and handed him off to his grandmother at an airport.
But Kay Woodcock had never taken JJ and later reported him missing to police—sparking a multi-month search for JJ and his older sister Tylee, who was 16 years old when she disappeared.
Police had previously said Tylee was 17 but now believe she died before her 17th birthday, according to the affidavit. The teen was last seen on a family outing to Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019—just weeks before JJ would disappear.
Authorities discovered the bodies of the children on Daybell’s property on June 9 after executing a search warrant.
Investigators went to the area after analyzing cell phone data from Cox’s cell phone—which had placed him on Daybell’s property shortly after each child was last seen alive.
JJ was discovered wrapped in plastic and buried on the property. An autopsy on June 11 confirmed the body belonged to the young boy.
“The body was well preserved,” Det. Ron Bell wrote in the probable cause statement. “While [I] had never met JJ Vallow during his life, [I] was familiar with his face due to seeing many pictures and videos of him.”
Tylee’s remains were also found on Daybell’s property near an area that had been used as a pet cemetery. She had been dismembered and burned.
“It was not possible to identify those remains simply [by] looking at them as they were too damaged by fire and dismemberment and no longer had any recognizable features,” Bell wrote in the affidavit.
An orthodontist was able to identify the remains by matching an irregular jawline with an X-ray taken of Tylee when she was alive.
Authorities are also in the process of obtaining DNA verification using soft tissue that had not been burnt.
Vallow was arrested in February in Kauai after failing to produce her missing children by a deadline given by authorities. She was charged with felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children and is being held on a $1 million bond.
Earlier this week, prosecutors also charged her with two counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
Daybell, a religious author who often wrote about the end times, is also facing four charges connected to the disappearance, including two charges of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence and two charges of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, according to a criminal complaint filed earlier this week
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.