I Knew Right Then ... the Kids Were Dead: Lori Vallow's Brother Recounts Harrowing Conversation

"Lori talked about death a lot ... and how her kids won't have to suffer in the next life," says her brother Adam Cox in a new podcast

People/September 28, 2021

By Jeff Truesdell

Lori Vallow's older brother Adam Cox knew his sister to be a popular, fun-loving kid when they grew up with three other siblings within a Mormon household in Southern California.

They swam together. He taught her to play basketball. She became a cheerleader. But years later, Adam became concerned when Lori and another brother, Alex Cox, adopted religious beliefs that embraced doomsday prophecies. Even before Lori met her future fifth husband, Chad Daybell, an author who espoused such prophecies, she was listening to end-of-times podcasts, he says.

Adam's concerns grew more panicked after Lori's son, Joshua "J.J." Vallow, 7, and daughter, Tylee Ryan, 17, were reported missing in November 2019 by the adopted boy's grandparents around the same time Lori and Chad married, according to a new podcast.

"Knowing what Lori and Alex were going through with these people that were talking about the end of the world, and knowing how Lori was — and Lori talked about death a lot actually, talked about the next life, how great the next life is and how it's going to be perfect and how her kids won't have to suffer in the next life," Adam says.

"I thought, 'If they're good, Lori, you tell me where these kids are,'" he says in the podcast The Followers: Madness of Two, which drops a final bonus sixth episode on Wednesday. "If she says, 'Well, I'm not going to tell you where the kids are,' that means the kids aren't alive."

"I knew right then and there that the kids were dead," Adam says.

Lori Ruled Psychologically Incompetent to Stand Trial

Lori was arrested in January 2020 in Hawaii -- where she and Chad had relocated from Idaho while police searched for J.J. and Tylee -- when she defied a court order to produce the children for child welfare agents. The children's remains were discovered six months later buried on Chad's property outside Rexburg, Idaho.

Lori and Chad both are now charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the two deaths — and Lori's prosecution is on hold, after a judge ruled that she was psychologically incompetent to stand trial.

Chad also is charged with murder in connection with the death of his previous wife, Tammy Daybell, which occurred two weeks before he married Lori. Authorities further allege that Lori and Chad had conspired with Alex Cox to plot a murder attempt on Tammy Daybell that was not carried out.

Lori and Chad have entered pleas of not guilty to all charges against them. Alex, who died in 2019, was not charged.

"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, uh, persona," Adam says in the podcast. "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."

Chad's children have publicly defended their father, and suggested that Lori and Alex worked together to frame him.

But the indictments that charge Lori and Chad with the murders of J.J. and Tylee nonetheless allege that between Oct. 26, 2018 and June 9, 2020, the couple "did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying" the killings.

Lori, her brother Alex and the two children moved north from Arizona to Idaho, near Chad's publishing base, after the July 2019 shooting death of Lori's previous husband, Charles Vallow, by Alex during an alleged argument in Lori's home. Alex claimed self-defense and was not charged.

Lori Said Children Had Become 'Zombies'

Prior to that incident, Lori and Chad had participated together in a December 2018 podcast promoted by an entity called Preparing a People, which is run by a multimedia company that hosted lectures and promoted videos focused on "helping to prepare the people of this earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ," according to its website.

Lori also apparently had asked her future husband to gauge her children's "dark" and "light" spirits, allegedly telling a friend that her children had become "zombies," and that she was on a religious mission with Chad "to rid the world of 'zombies'" months before the children's remains were found.

Investigators who found the children's remains did so after tracking the cell phone activity of Alex, who was on Chad's property on two dates that align with the last time the children were seen, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by PEOPLE.

Alex's subsequent death eventually was attributed to natural causes. Tammy Daybell's death also initially was blamed on natural causes. But it was given a second look by investigators after Lori's children disappeared and the newlywed couple left Idaho as local authorities began raising questions.

No manner of death is revealed in the indictment that charges Chad with first-degree murder in Tammy's death, nor in the indictments charging Chad and Lori with first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder in the deaths of Lori's children.

J.J., who had autism, was last seen Sept. 23, 2019, at his school in Idaho before Lori withdrew him and told the principal she was considering home-schooling. The last known image of Tylee was captured Sept. 8, 2019, while she was on a day trip to Yellowstone National Park with her mother, brother and Alex Cox, according to a court filing.

Chad's trial, now set for November, is likely to be pushed into 2022, reports East Idaho News. Both he and Lori currently are jailed in Fremont County.

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