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'We're Not Gonna See These Kids Alive': Family Of Tylee Ryan And Joshua ‘J.J.’ Vallow Discuss Key Moments In Case
Colby Ryan, the oldest son of Lori Vallow, and Annie Cushing, the aunt of Tylee Ryan, both spoke out about the case in exclusive interviews in the season two premiere of "Injustice with Nancy Grace."
While Lori (sometimes referred to as Lori Daybell or Lori Vallow Daybell) and Daybell have been indicted on multiple charges related to the 2019 deaths of her two children — Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua "J.J." Vallow, 7 — murder charges have not been filed against Lori, Daybell, or anyone else who may be connected to the crime.
In the season two premiere of "Injustice with Nancy Grace," airing Thursdays at 9/8c on Oxygen, the former prosecutor and legal analyst shined a light on the legal injustices against Tylee and J.J. and included exclusive interviews with Lori Vallow's oldest son, Colby Ryan, and Tylee Ryan's aunt, Annie Cushing.
Although Lori was dubbed "Doomsday Mom" even before her children's bodies were found buried on Daybell's property, Colby remembered her as a "very upbeat" and "funny" mother whose first priority in life was family.
"She would jump in front of a bullet for us, like there's no doubt about that, that's not even a question," Colby told producers.
That all changed in fall 2018, however, when Lori attended a doomsday prepper conference and met Daybell, an author who had written multiple books chronicling the end of times that were marketed toward The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints followers. While the two had previously struck up an online correspondence a few years prior, this marked the first time they met in person, and as they grew closer, Lori's family noticed a negative change in her behavior.
"I did notice a tectonic shift in 2018, like her focus seemed to have kind of a dark cloud. She at one point said that the end times were going to be so scary, she just wondered if it would be better to just put her kids in the car and go over the side of a cliff," Cushing told "Injustice with Nancy Grace."
Daybell, who claimed he was able to receive direct messages from God after a near-death experience, touted that he was chosen to lead a select 144,000 people protected by God through doomsday, which he prophesied would occur July 22, 2020. He also said he was able to see people's souls and could determine whether they had light or dark spirits.
Daybell believed that those with dark spirits were "zombies" who could only be freed if their bodies were killed.
Cushing said Lori also believed she had premonitions and that in 2004, Lori claimed God told her she would be a contestant on "Wheel Of Fortune." Lori later auditioned for the show and made it on to an episode, winning $17,000.
"These types of things just cemented in Lori's mind that any crazy thought that came into her mind was somehow God speaking some message to her," Cushing said.
Daybell told Lori that her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, had become a zombie, according to online newspaper East Idaho News. Lori reportedly went on to believe both Tylee and J.J. had become possessed by evil spirts, and she relayed those fears to Charles, who, in January 2019, contacted police to report that Lori was "mentally unstable" and had "lost her mind." He told authorities that Lori had threatened his life and that he was concerned she would harm her children.
"Charles was actually fearful the kids could be in harm's way. You see the actions of a desperate father trying to do everything in his power to protect J.J. from the machinations of a crazed woman," Cushing told producers.
Charles later filed, and then withdrew, for divorce, which was "very acrimonious," according to Cushing.
"I can't even imagine what must have been running through Charles' mind at that point, the fear and the trauma that he must have been dealing with at that time. All of this chaos eventually crescendos on July 11, 2019," she told producers.
On the day in question, Charles attempted to pick up J.J. from Lori's house in Arizona, which resulted in an altercation. Lori's brother, Alex Cox, then shot Charles twice in the chest. He told responding officers that Charles had struck him in the head with a bat and that he had gunned him down in self-defense.
"I'm at work, and I get a call from my mom. And she said that Charles had a heart attack. I remember driving over there just in shock. Tylee answered the door, and she hugged me and she just started bawling," Colby recalled, adding that Lori later told him what had really happened.
"I've never felt anything like that in my life. It was just every emotion that you can have at one time," he told producers.
The following month, Lori and Cox left Arizona with Tylee and J.J. and moved to Rexburg, Idaho, where Daybell lived with his wife, Tammy Daybell, who later passed away. Lori and Daybell reportedly began having an affair, and that September, both children went missing. The Rexburg Police Department subsequently opened a missing persons case alongside the FBI.
"The detectives came the day before Thanksgiving , and they're like, 'Have you seen Tylee or J.J.?'" Colby told producers. "And I remember calling my mom, and I was just like, 'What is going on? Where are they?' And she was really fast and brief, and she said, 'I'll take care of it.' I called her the next day. The phone is disconnected, and then I remember just having this feeling in my gut about Tylee and J.J. That's when I just first ever felt concern about them."
After getting married in Hawaii, Lori and Daybell relocated to the island of Kauai, and back in Idaho, the media released footage of a storage unit rented by Lori that had been searched by authorities. Inside were multiple items connected to the missing children, including two quilts made from photographs of Tylee and J.J.
"That was just staggering for me. It just signaled just a complete severing of her attachment to her children," Cushing told producers. "What mother can not only go off to Hawaii with her new husband, but leave all evidence of her children's lives in a storage unit? That was really the moment where I just thought, 'I don't think we're gonna see these kids alive.'"
Later that year, cell phone records led authorities to search Daybell's property in Rexburg, where they found two sets of remains that were identified as Tylee and J.J.
Daybell has since been charged with two felony counts of destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence and two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence. He pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set for January 2021.
Lori has been indicted on two charges of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence, and three misdemeanor charges — resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, and contempt of court. She has pleaded not guilty. Her first trial for the misdemeanors is set for January 2021, and the trial for her two felony counts is scheduled to take place April 2021.
Police are currently investigating Lori's potential involvement in Charles' death, and the remains of Daybell's former wife, Tammy, have been exhumed for an autopsy after investigators deemed her death suspicious.
While Colby has had to witness his family "literally just explode from the inside," he said he prays for Lori "every day" and believes she was a victim of Daybell's cult-like influence.
"I just miss my mom being my mom. To just hear her so convinced and some of the things that she says about the end of the world... it's just hard because it's unrecognizable and it just makes me feel like I just lost her a while ago," he told producers.
Both Colby and Cushing remember Tylee and J.J. as wildly humorous and sweet children who were a joy to be around, and Cushing believes justice will be served.
"You have at least four local jurisdictions working in concert with the FBI, and I think they are mounting a very compelling case against Lori and Chad," she told producers.
To learn more about the case, watch "Injustice with Nancy Grace," streaming now on Oxygen.com.