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We can always count on a Dateline episode being a good story, but Lori Vallow's is especially enthralling. Here's why.

Lori Vallow: The ‘Dateline’ episode that helped crack the case

For most Dateline episodes, Keith Morrison and the team are called in after the dust has settled, telling the story of an overturned wrong conviction, or of a cold case that was finally brought to justice. However, every now and again Dateline proves that they’re a step ahead. The Dateline episode “Where are the Children” did just that.

Instead of ripping the story from the headlines, the grandfather of true-crime himself, Keith Morrison jumped right in. The story has completely captured the public eye, and somehow, Dateline managed to get the scoop right before it completely blew up. 

Before the cults and murders, how the story began

We can always count on a Dateline episode being a good story, but this one is especially enthralling. The Lori Vallow case is a story filled with twists and turns we didn’t see coming. It all begins with a seemingly perfect mother, Lori Vallow.

The story begins with Lori Vallow’s fourth marriage, although unlucky in love, her relationship with her husband Charles, seemed perfect. Lori’s friends all gushed over how amazing of a mother she was, and how incredible of a husband and father Charles was. The couple, who were very active in their church, even adopted an autistic son, JJ.  

According to the Dateline episode, JJ’s biological grandparents were able to maintain an active relationship with him even after his adoption. Eventually, Charles, Lori, JJ, and Lori’sdaughter from a previous marriage, Tylee moved from Idaho to Hawaii, where they integrated into the church community there. 

When Charles’s business began to struggle from being based in Kauai, HI, he and Lori decided to move their family to Phoenix, Arizona. It was about 9 months later than things spun out of control.

In February 2019, Lori becomes a god

As the Dateline episode reveals, not quite a year after Charles and Lori Vallow’s move back to Phoenix, Lori returns to Kauai as a whole new person. With 16-year-old daughter Tylee in tow, Lori arrives on the doorstep of a friend from her church, claiming her marriage to Charles was in ruins. 

Lori’s friend April, who was interviewed in the Dateline episode, said that the Lori that arrived at her home in Kauai was a very different person than the one she previously knew. Lori claimed that Charles was cheating on her, that he was violent, and that there was “a demon living inside of him”. This didn’t track with anything April knew about Charles. 

In his divorce filing, Charles states that Lori had stolen $35,000 from his business and that Lori claimed she was “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020”.

Additionally, Charles was afraid that Lori was plotting his death. Court documents state that she told him she had “an angel there to help her dispose of the body”. Charles also took out an order of protection against Lori.

Meanwhile, Lori is in Kauai recruiting her old friend April. In April’s interview for the Dateline episode, she describes Lori in an almost manic state. April confirms that Lori now believes herself to be a god, sent to save 144,000. Lori told April that she was there to save her, that April was to be one of the chosen 144,000.

The suspicious deaths begin with Charles Vallow

Lori leaves Kauai as quickly as she arrived, disappearing with Tylee after a couple of months, she returns to Phoenix. According to the Dateline episode, she and Charles are now separated. On July 11th, 2019, Charles is shot and killed by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox. Alex claims that he and Charles had an altercation, and he shot Charles in self-defense.

Footage from first responders at the scene is shown in the Dateline episode, and it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to see how bizarrely calm and almost jovial Lori was immediately after Charles’s murder. Lori texted Charles’s sons from a previous marriage to let them know their father was dead. It’s okay, she sent a heart emoji.

It’s worth noting that Alex Cox admitted in court to trying (and failing) to kill Lori’s previous husband, Joseph Ryan in 2007. Joseph Ryan died in an apparent heart attack in 2018. 

Lori’s new love becomes a widower

After Charles Vallow’s death, Lori and her children move back to Idaho, where she connects Chad Daybell. Chad is also a believer in Lori’s status as a god who is meant to save the 144k chosen ones. Chad is a charismatic author who wrote novels about his near-death experiences and apocalyptic beliefs. 

Within months of moving to Idaho, Chad’s wife of 30 years, Tammy Daybell died in her sleep. The Dateline episode uncovers that Tammy’s death comes after crazy shootings, where people connected to Chad and Lori are shot at near their cars. The shooter was driving Charles Vallow’s old car and looks eerily similar to Lori’s brother Alex Cox.

10 days after being shot at, with what she believes to be a paintball gun, Chad Daybell’s wife, Tammy Daybell died on October 19th, 2019. Chad Daybell married Lori Vallow on November 2nd, 2019 in Hawaii, fourteen days after Tammy’s death.

“Where are the children?”

It isn’t until November that friends and family of Tylee and JJ begin to piece together that no one has seen the children since September 23rd, 2019. 

In the last few calls that JJ had with his grandparents, they said he sounded awkward like he was reading cue cards. Then he stopped coming to the phone at all. Lori always had an excuse “JJ is at a friend’s house” or “JJ is in the shower”, before long, no one had seen or heard from JJ or Tylee in months. 

JJ’s grandparents finally call the police, who go to perform a welfare check at Lori Vallow’s home. Lori claims, once again, that JJ is at a friend’s home. When the police call the friend, the friend says that they believe JJ is at the grandparents. The police return to Lori’s home, to find that she and Chad have packed up their belongings and ran. Now the police are truly alarmed. It is at this time that Dateline picks up the story. 

It comes out that Lori has sold JJ’s service dog, and packed up Tylee and JJ’s belongings. With the children confirmed missing, Chad and Lori are in Hawaii, ignoring police’s requests for proof of life for JJ and Tylee. The new friends Chad and Lori meet are told that the couple has no children, or that Tylee died years ago. 

With two missing children and two deceased spouses, Chad and Lori have yet another suspicious death connected to them. Alex Cox, Lori’s brother died suddenly on December 12th in Phoenix, Arizona. According to the Dateline episode, no one knows exactly where Chad and Lori were where this happened. Alex was enmeshed in Chad and Lori’s doomsday cult as well.

Lori Vallow is arrested

The Dateline episode, “Where are the Children?” aired on February 14th, 2020. Keith Morrison tracks down a tip, uncovering Lori and Chad hiding in Hawaii. The couple is living their lives, and congregating with their “church”. The couple never responds to questions about where her children are.

There are 2 unaccounted for weeks in Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow’s saga. Between their hasty departure in Idaho and their arrival in Hawaii, no one knows exactly where the couple was. Alex Cox’s death was at the tail end of this window. 

Repeatedly failing to prove that her children are alive, even after presented with a court order demanding proof of life, Lori is arrested on February 20th, 2020. Tammy Daybell’s body is exhumed by police in order to perform an autopsy. Alex Cox’s death remains under investigation. Lori Vallow is being held in police custody in Idaho, with bail set at $5 million. Her court date has not been set. The children are still missing.

The Dateline episode “Where are the Children?” is available to stream online. An audio adaptation of the episode is available on the Dateline podcast.

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  • I just am learning more about this, but is there any references to what happens to the “chosen ones” and how will they be saved? Or about kids in any of his books? Also, have the police attempted to “Bluff” and approach the Mom and make her think that they have located the get a response? Just my few thoughts I got on this..cell phones they had seems like the police could track their movements for the time period they were AWOL.

    Hope the kids are found alive! So sad and Evil.

    May 10, 2020
  • Isn’t Lori being held in Idaho?

    June 20, 2020
    • Yes, thanks for pointing this out!

      June 24, 2020

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