REXBURG — The search for two missing Rexburg children continues as friends and family members worry about what may have happened to them.
The Post Register reached out to family members of both the missing children, 7-year-old Joshua Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.
Lori Vallow and her recent husband, Chad Daybell, came under scrutiny after the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the death of Tammy Daybell. Tammy died in October, just a few weeks before Chad married Vallow.
Tammy’s death at her home was originally deemed natural, but her body, which was buried in Utah, was exhumed by law enforcement, citing suspicious circumstances. During the investigation into the children’s whereabouts, family members raised concerns that they had not seen the children in months. When Rexburg Police Department officers interviewed Vallow and Chad Daybell on Nov. 26, they falsely claimed the kids were with relatives in Arizona. Police returned the the Rexburg couple’s home next day for more questioning only to find the couple had left the city.
Kay Vallow Woodcock, Joshua Vallow’s grandmother, had briefly adopted her grandson before deciding to allow her brother, Charles Vallow, Lori Vallow’s deceased husband, to raise him.
Charles Vallow was killed by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, in July in Arizona. Charles and Lori Vallow were estranged at the time of Charles’ death. Cox said he was acting in self defense.
Woodcock believes her brother would not have attacked anyone, and referred to the incident as murder. The Chandler (Ariz.) Police Department is investigating the shooting.
Cox died on Dec. 12 in Gilbert, Ariz., adding to the intrigue. The details of his death have not been released, and it is under investigation.
Law enforcement in Arizona and Idaho are working with the FBI to coordinate the investigations.
Woodcock said Charles and Lori were separated for a few months before his death after Charles suspected her of infidelity. She said Lori was financially dependent on Charles.
Woodcock believed Lori had joined a cult after listening to religious podcasts she made discussing the “end of days” published by Preparing a People, based in Highland, Utah.
When the Post Register contacted Michael and Nancy James, who manage the Preparing a People website, they said it is a media publishing organization. The couple said much of their content includes religious podcasts and videos relating to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but that Preparing a People is not a religion.
Michael James said Daybell had been involved with the organization as a speaker and that they talked occasionally. The last he heard from Daybell was when he heard of his marriage to Lori Vallow. He said Daybell was an author who wrote books discussing the “end days.”
Though Preparing a People published podcasts that included Lori as a speaker, the Jameses said they had not met her in person. They published a letter, titled “On a very sad note,” on the website discussing the news of the children’s disappearance.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Tammy Daybell, the wife of Chad Daybell, but could not attend the funeral. We considered Chad Daybell a good friend, but have since learned of things we had no idea about.”
Michael and Nancy James said they have spoken to investigators and hope the children are found safe.
Podcasts and other content involving the couple have been removed from the website.
The Post Register spoke to a family member of Daybell’s who said the family has hired Sean Bartholick of Rigby, Andrus & Rigby as an attorney. Bartholick did not return a request for comment.
Woodcock said she has not seen or spoken to Joshua Vallow since they chatted via video in August. The disappearance of her grandson after the loss of her brother has left her family devastated, and she asked the couple to provide evidence the children are safe.
“We want him to come home and I want to tell him that we love him and we miss him,” Woodcock said.
Anyone who has seen the family is asked to call 208-359-3000 or 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678).