Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan were found dead on the property of their step-father’s home this week, police say, a horrific discovery that brought a tragic end to the search for two Idaho children not seen for months.
Police had found human remains on Chad Daybell’s property on Tuesday. Days after family members told media that the remains belonged to the children, Rexburg, Idaho, police confirmed Saturday that after an autopsy had been conducted, the bodies had been identified as the missing children.
“It is with heavy hearts that we now confirm that those remains have now been officially identified as those of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan,” Rexburg police said in a Saturday release.
Lori Vallow, the children’s mother, and Daybell, her husband, were both in custody in Fremont County, Idaho, on various felony charges tied to the case. Vallow was arrested in February and Daybell was arrested Tuesday after authorities executed a search warrant at his home.
JJ, who would have turned 8 in May, and Tylee, 17, were last seen in September. Police first alerted the public that the children were missing in December after JJ’s grandmother hadn’t heard from the boy for months.
“We are filled with unfathomable sadness that these two bright stars were stolen from us and only hope that they died without pain or suffering,” said a statement attributed to JJ’s biological grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock, according to East Idaho News.
The twisting case spanned multiple states, suspicious death investigations involving former spouses and allegations of cult-like beliefs as the children’s family and friends awaited answers on their whereabouts.
A boy with ‘the biggest heart’ and protective older sister
Kay Woodcock described the boy as “precious,” “beautiful” and “intelligent.”
Kay Woodcock is Charles Vallow’s sister. Charles Vallow was Lori Vallow’s ex-husband before his death in July 2019. The couple adopted JJ in 2014.
JJ had “the biggest heart” and “most beautiful smile,” Woodcock wrote in a December Facebook post.
The boy was born to Woodcock’s son and his wife, but Woodcock and her husband, Larry, cared for him as his biological parents were unable to. JJ was diagnosed with autism, and the Woodcocks said they were busy running a business, so the Vallows offered to adopt the child.
More on the Lori Vallow case: Lori Vallow denied reduced bail
Colby Ryan, the children’s older brother, described JJ in a YouTube video as “such a character.”
“He loves surgery. I don’t know why. He was so obsessed with having surgery or giving people surgery. He would sit there and give me fake surgeries,” Colby Ryan said.
He said JJ was growing up fast, getting taller and developing quickly.
Videos Woodcock shared on social media show JJ singing into a microphone on a tour bus and gleefully playing with toys.
“JJ had no fear,” Larry Woodcock told NBC’s “Dateline.”
Anne Cushing, Tylee’s aunt, described the girl as someone with a “strong sense of right and wrong.”
“Tylee doesn’t hold back,” she told “Dateline.”
Tylee welcomed the role of big sister when JJ was adopted.
“Tylee kind of turned into like a second mom in a sense to JJ, started taking care of him,” Colby Ryan previously told KSAZ-TV.
“She’s feisty,” Colby Ryan said. “She has very dry humor. She loves ‘Friends’ and ‘The Office,’ and we just started getting to that point where we just started to really joke around more.”
In January, the Woodcocks offered a reward for information leading to the children’s location.
“Please give them back to us. They are the most unbelievable children you’ll ever meet,” Larry Woodcock said a press conference.
How the Vallow case of missing children unfolded
Rexburg police announced in December that the children had not been seen since September, their mother had been uncooperative with authorities and the children were in possible danger.
At the same time, the department said they had exhumed the remains of Tammy Daybell, Daybell’s previous wife who died in October under what police say may be “suspicious circumstances.”
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The couple had been married for roughly 30 years. Two weeks after her death, Daybell and Vallow married on a Hawaiian beach, with Vallow’s children nowhere to be seen, police said.
Photos showed Vallow and Chad Daybell moving between Hawaiian islands.
That ended Feb. 20 when Vallow was arrested by the Kauai Police Department on felony child desertion charges in Idaho. Vallow also was charged with resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime and contempt of court.
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By early March, the mother was extradited to Idaho to face charges.
While the coronavirus pandemic delayed Vallow’s case, she remained in custody in Idaho. Most recently, a judge denied her request for a lower bail. Previously Vallow’s bail had been lowered from $5 million to $1 million.
A break in the case came when authorities searched Daybell’s home and uncovered what they initially said were unidentified human remains.
Lori Vallow: From perfect family to ‘doomsday mom’
By all accounts, Vallow and her children were a typical family. Vallow was a “normal” mom for years, Cushing told “Dateline.”
“They were just this bustling, busy family,” Woodcock told “Dateline,” with their lives “built around” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
They lived in the Phoenix area for years, at one point relocating to Hawaii for two years.
However, around the beginning of 2019, things began changing for the family. In February 2019, Vallow fled to Hawaii with Tylee, according to “Dateline,” and she soon became involved with a podcast group that focused on divergent, “prepper” beliefs.
Woodcock has described the group as a “cult.” According to East Idaho News, Vallow and Chad Daybell first appeared on a podcast together almost a year before the children were announced missing.
Vallow said she was ‘a god’: What to know about her cult-like beliefs
Divorce documents filed by Charles Vallow in Maricopa County Superior Court last February provide insight into the mother’s apparent state of mind months before his death and her children’s disappearance.
Charles Vallow claimed Lori Vallow didn’t want anything to do with him or JJ “because she had a more important mission to carry out.” He said she claimed she was “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020,” the court documents said.
She told Charles Vallow that she would kill him if he got in her way and that she had “an angel there to help her dispose of the body,” court documents said. Shortly after her alleged threats, he took out an order of protection against her, according to court documents.
He claimed that she had “become infatuated and, at times, obsessive about near-death experiences and spiritual visions,” according to court documents. He said he attempted to get her help; however, she refused to visit a doctor because “they would discover that she is a translated being,” court documents said.
Chad Daybell and the ‘upcoming foreign invasion of America’
For years, Daybell, a father of five, had been an author, self-publishing dozens of books on near-death experiences and apocalyptic beliefs.
In his 2017 autobiography, Daybell says his first near-death experience came in high school when he was cliff jumping. When he jumped off the cliff into the water, he said it felt like his head hit concrete but he soon realized “my spirit was partly out of my body,” Daybell wrote.
He and his late wife, Tammy, went to the same high school and began dating after he returned from his mission, a period for young Mormon adults to proselytize or otherwise serve beyond their homes. They got engaged after dating for 10 weeks and married in March 1990, he wrote.
While traveling in San Diego as a young father, Daybell said he had his second near-death experience when a 15-foot wave barreled toward him as he was near a rock formation on the beach. Daybell wrote a voice told him to cling to a rock as the wave crashed down.
“Then my surroundings changed and I found myself in the proverbial tunnel of light. It wasn’t a bright white light, but more like a yellow heat lamp. It felt like I was wrapped in a warm blanket or a cocoon, and I felt extremely happy,” he wrote.
He said he saw two relatives, including his late grandfather, who “explained the tasks I needed to accomplish” and “asked if I would be willing to fulfill the assignments he had outlined, and I agreed to do so.”
In the early 2000s, Daybell was working at a Mormon book publisher and left after three years to start his own publishing company, where he published novels based on visions of “the decline and downfall of the United States” and an “upcoming foreign invasion of America.”
Another vision in 2015 led the Daybells to move to Rexburg, where he said his wife and children were happy.
“This is not an indication anyone else needs to pack up and head to Idaho. It just happens to be what our family needed to do at this time,” he wrote.
Daybell wrote he believed in an ominous vision coming true: “I don’t know when an earthquake will come, but I have seen in vision the damage it will cause. I hope we still have a few years before it strikes, but it would be best to be prepared if it comes sooner.”
The string of suspicious deaths
Meanwhile, Charles and Lori Vallow were not getting along. Lori Vallow was living in Arizona with her children, when on July 11, an argument broke out between her and Charles Vallow.
Police in Chandler, Arizona, said authorities were called to the scene after Alex Cox, Lori Vallow’s brother, called 911 and said he fatally shot Charles Vallow.
Cox claimed self-defense, saying that Charles Vallow had a baseball bat. But on the “Dateline” special, detectives said details in Cox’s and Lori Vallow’s stories did not add up and they exhibited strange behavior not typical of family members whose relative had just died.
Kay Woodcock told “Dateline” her brother was not a violent man.
Chandler police had an open homicide investigation into the incident, but no arrests were made.
In December, Cox was found unresponsive in Arizona. An autopsy report released in May said that Cox died from a pulmonary blood clot. Police in Gilbert said at the time detectives investigating his death would review the autopsy report and that the case was still active.
Shortly after Charles Vallow’s death, Lori Vallow and her children moved to Rexburg, Idaho. Records show that JJ was enrolled at a local elementary school.
Tylee Ryan was last seen Sept. 8 in Yellowstone National Park in photographs with her family. Days later, on Sept. 23, JJ was last seen when his mother told his school he would no longer be attending.