June 15, 2024

What did Lori Vallow do: Who is the ‘cult mom’ convicted at trial for children’s murders?

Lori Vallow was once seen as a doting mother.

But after reviewing damning evidence in the five weeks of Vallow’s murder trial at the Ada County Court in Boise, Idaho, a jury found her guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to murder and grand theft over the deaths of her two youngest children in a chilling case with a doomsday cult at its core.

She was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of her new husband Chad Daybell’s first wife Tammy Daybell, 49.

Vallow’s daughter Tylee Ryan, 16, and son Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, vanished without a trace in September 2019. Shortly after, Tammy died suddenly.

Almost one year later, the children’s bodies were found buried on the grounds of Mr Daybell’s property in Idaho.

In an explosive six-week trial that began on 3 April 2023, prosecutors successfully convinced a jury that Vallow and Mr Daybell conspired with her brother Alex Cox to kill the three victims as part of their doomsday beliefs – but also so they could collect life insurance money and the kids’ social security and survivor benefits.

Following the guilty verdict on 12 May, Vallow faces a maximum of life in prison at her sentencing on 31 July.

Beyond the Idaho murder case, Vallow is also awaiting trial in Arizona for conspiring to murder her fourth husband Charles Vallow.

But who really is Lori Vallow and how did she end up here?

Vallow has been everything from a beauty pageant queen to a TV game show contestant to a hairdresser – and now an accused killer.

Born in 1973 in California, the 49-year-old has been married five times and has three children.

It was 1992 when she married her first husband, high school sweetheart Nelson Yanes.

The marriage was brief and – after they divorced – she married her second husband William Lagioia in 1995. The couple had a son, Colby Ryan, but also divorced after around a year of marriage.

Lori Vallow pictured during a court appearance in August 2022

(AP)

In 2001, Vallow married for a third time to Joseph Ryan and the couple had a daughter Tylee Ryan.

During this time, she made several TV appearances – including as a contestant in the Mrs Texas Beauty Pageant where she spoke about the importance of being “a good mom”.

“Being a good mom is very important to me,” she said, adding she is also a “good wife and a good worker”.

In a chilling foreboding statement, she added: “Being all those things together is not easy… I’m basically a ticking time bomb.”

That 2004 appearance came around the same time that she appeared on the game show “Wheel of Fortune” where she gushed about her then-husband Mr Ryan.

Months later they divorced.

Vallow then went on to meet and marry Charles Vallow.

The couple later adopted JJ, who was the biological grandson of Vallow’s sister, and the family lived together with Tylee for years.

They moved to Hawaii for a few years before setting up home in Arizona in 2017.

Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan

(AP)

But it was around this time that Vallow was reading Mr Daybell’s doomsday books and friends say her behaviour started to change.

Her religious beliefs grew increasingly extreme – and moved further and further away from the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

After following the doomsday cult author’s teachings for some time, the pair finally met in person in October 2018 at a religious conference in Utah.

It was from then that their alleged love affair and murderous spiral unfolded with almost everyone close to the couple winding up dead.

As part of their cult beliefs, the couple allegedly believed in a “rating system of light and dark” for how they ranked the spirits of the people around them.

Over time, this evolved into the belief that some people – including the children – were “zombies” and the only way to get rid of the zombies was for the human body to be destroyed.

At the time, both were still married – Vallow to Charles and Mr Daybell to Tammy.

Soon after, Charles filed for divorce citing his wife’s bizarre cult beliefs and his fear for his life and that of Tylee and JJ.

In July 2019, he was shot dead by Vallow’s brother Alex Cox in a conspiracy allegedly arranged by the two siblings.

Now a free agent, Vallow moved to Idaho to be with Mr Daybell and – that September – Tylee and JJ vanished. Tammy then died in October.

And one month later, in November, Vallow and Mr Daybell married on a beach in Hawaii.

For months, Vallow refused to reveal where her children were to distraught family members and authorities before their bodies were discovered in June 2020.

Lori Vallow with her attorneys in a courtroom sketch

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Little JJ was wrapped in duct tape and a plastic bag. While the 49-year-old’s only daughter Tylee was dismembered and burned, her remains incapable of any autopsy.

During opening statements, prosecutors said that Vallow was driven to kill by a combination of “money, power and sex”.

The once-doting mother used her doomsday cult beliefs to “justify” the killings, claiming she was on a religious mission to gather the 144,000 and that her children, husband and others had been taken over by “dark spirits”.

Vallow conspired with her new husband and brother to murder Tylee, JJ and Tammy, laying out a trail of suspicious financial movements in the lead-up to and aftermath of each of their deaths.

During her murder trial, Vallow appeared to have tried to show jurors a glimpse of herself as the doting mother she was once thought to be.

When her only surviving child Colby Ryan took the stand, she was seen mouthing “Oh my baby”.

And when graphic details and photos of JJ and Tylee’s remains were shown to the court, she briefly fled the room.

But when the time came to present her defence, Vallow’s attorneys said they were ready for closing arguments without calling witnesses to the stand.

Now, following the jury’s unanimous guilty verdict on six counts, Vallow faces life in prison for killing her children and conspiring to kill Tammy at her sentencing on 31 July. Her husband is set to stand trial next year.

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