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Lori Vallow's Brother Describes Moment He Knew Her Children Were Dead

“To me, there is no justice, no matter what happens. There is no justice for them," Adam Cox said of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow in the new UCP Audio podcast, "The Followers: Madness of Two." 

By Jill Sederstrom
Lori Vallow Faces New Charges After Children's Bodies Found

Lori Vallow’s brother Adam Cox remembers the exact moment he knew her children were dead.

For Adam, the telltale sign was what he described as his little sister’s evasive and aloof attitude about where her two children, Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, were as those across the nation grew increasingly concerned about the children’s welfare.

“I thought, ‘If they’re good, Lori, you tell me where these kids are,’” he recalled in the UCP Audio podcast “The Followers: Madness of Two.”  “If she says ‘I’m not going to tell you where these kids are’ that means the kids aren’t alive and I knew right then and there that the kids were dead.”

He called the realization “lonely and frustrating” as he said some of his family members still held onto the hope that the children—who disappeared, weeks apart, in September of 2019—would still be found alive.

“It’s hard for me, because I knew in my heart that the kids were dead and my mom and everybody thought that the kids were alive,” he said. “They thought that … Lori was hiding them somewhere in Hawaii.”

Chad Daybell Lori Vallow Ap

Adam’s worst fears were confirmed in June of 2020 when investigators found the children’s bodies buried on Chad Daybell’s property in Fremont County, Idaho. JJ, who was still wearing his red pajamas, been buried in a plastic bag covered in duct tape. His sister Tylee had been burned and dismembered, Rexburg Police Det. Ray Hermosillo later testified in court.  

Lori and Daybell—her fifth husband—are now each facing murder charges in the children’s deaths. Daybell is also facing murder charges in the death of his first wife Tammy, 49, who died in the couple’s home in October of 2019.

Both have pleaded not guilty. A judge has ruled Lori mentally unfit to stand trial in Idaho and she’s currently being held in a psychiatric treatment facility.

Adam says Lori, whom he remembers teaching how to play basketball as a child, has provided her family with few answers since her arrest about what led to the deaths.

“My mom and dad have written Lori in prison and the letters that they’ve got back from Lori are that Lori has not changed at all her stand or her persona,” he said. “Apparently, she’s not talking to anybody, so at this point she can’t defend herself because she doesn’t answer any of the questions that they ask her.”

Adam said from what he’s been told, the letters don’t discuss Daybell or mention details of the case, however, Lori has allegedly compared herself to Jesus who refused to talk when he was taken into prison.

“She’s just in a frame of mind to where she thinks she’s special,” he said.

He credited his sister’s “twisted” religious beliefs with leading her down the path where she is today.

“I think that part of the reason that she’s in this whole situation is that, you know, with scriptures they all got twisted up the way that Chad explained things and the way she interpreted things,” he said.

Investigators have alleged that Lori and Daybell, a religious author who wrote fictional stories about the end of days used their religious beliefs “for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying” the homicides, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.

Lori’s friend Melanie Gibb told investigators that Lori embraced religious ideas promoted by Daybell and believed that both JJ and Tylee had become “zombies” before their death, according to a probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com.

The term “zombies” was used to describe someone whose spirit had left their body and been replaced instead by a “dark spirit.”

“At some point after Gibb first learned of this doctrine from Vallow and Daybell, she was informed by Daybell and Vallow that they believed it was their mission to rid the world of zombies,” Lt. Ron Ball wrote in the court document.

Lori’s nephew, Zac Cox, had been living with Lori, her fourth husband Charles Vallow, Tylee and JJ in their Arizona home until January of 2019 and told podcast host Sarah Treleaven he observed Lori growing increasingly enmeshed in the religious doctrine.

According to Zac, Lori began spending six hours a day at the LDS temple in Gilbert, Arizona. It had become so consuming that Zac said he remembered talking about the radical shift to Charles.

“At the time, we had said you know, ‘Look she’s coming home, she’s making dinner, she’s picking up JJ from school. You know, she can believe whatever she wants to believe,’ but our thing was we would just nod our head and say ‘yeah’ to her and that’s one of the things I regret,” he said.

He now said he “doesn’t have any empathy” for his incarcerated aunt.

Charles died in July of 2019 after Lori’s other brother Alex Cox shot and killed him in what he claimed at the time was self-defense. Alex—who investigators believe had also played a role in the deaths of the children—died of natural causes later that year.

Adam said he and his siblings had grown up in southern California doing “normal things” like taking family vacations, swimming and playing sports together.

Lori had been a popular cheerleader who often caught the attention of teenage boys at her high school.

“Lori was an awesome sister. She was a great sibling. Her and I were super close,” he said.

After the shocking allegations against her, Adam said he now wonders whether there was something under the surface he didn’t see.

“I think maybe Lori had been mentally ill, maybe her whole life, a certain type of mental illness that maybe none of us detected,” he said.

While Adam said he’s not sure where Lori’s case will go from here or where she’ll end up, he is still haunted by JJ and Tylee’s deaths.

“I don’t know if there is justice for them,” he said. “To me, there is no justice, no matter what happens. There is no justice for them.”

Treleaven told Oxygen.com in an earlier interview that the six-episode podcast--including the bonus episode featuring Adam and Zac--attempts to delve deeply into what may have led to the shocking crimes

"You know, we really wanted to talk to people who could tell us how something that seemed unthinkable could possibly happen," she said. 

To learn more, tune in to UCP Audio’s podcast “The Followers: Madness of Two”  wherever you normally listen to podcasts.