The Wildest Details of the Lori Vallow 'Doomsday Mom' Murder Case
It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl, boy and girl begin preparing for the end times they have pinpointed to a hilariously specific date, boy and girl’s respective spouses mysteriously die and leave them conveniently free to marry each other. Basically, the story of Lori Vallow, A.K.A. the “Doomsday Mom,” was bonkers even before her children went missing, and it hasn’t gotten less weird from there.
Before she met Chad Daybell, Vallow ran a business with her husband, Charles, and lived in Texas, Hawaii, and Arizona with him, her two children from previous marriages, and their adopted son. The only thing that seemed to be weird about her on paper was that she was a thrice-divorced Mormon, but plenty of those live perfectly boring lives.
Daybell’s relationship history is surprisingly more stable, having been married to a librarian named Tamara, with whom he had five children, since 1990. He’s a bestselling author of Mormon-flavored apocalyptic novels, which is how he met Vallow.
Preparing a Person
Sometime in the mid 2010s, Vallow became obsessed with Daybell’s books and met him through Preparing a People, an organization that, well, prepares a people for the second coming. He told her she was an “eternal being” because doomsday weirdos can’t just say “I think you’re hot,” and she came to believe she was "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020” and somehow also the reincarnated wife of Joseph Smith. By 2019, she disowned her family and disappeared, which is what finally pushed the apparently incredibly patient Charles Vallow to file for divorce.
The Death of Charles Vallow
It turned out not to be necessary because Charles Vallow was shot by his wife’s brother, Alex Cox, in July 2019 in what was determined to be self-defense. It went overlooked at the time that Vallow and her lover had both stated a belief that her husband had already been killed and replaced by a demon named Nick Schnieder, apparently the demon of sports marketing or something.
In September, Vallow moved with her daughter, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, and son with Charles, seven-year-old J.J. Vallow, to Idaho to be near Daybell, and no one ever saw the children again. Vallow’s niece’s husband at the time, Brandon Boudreaux, later said Vallow and Daybell believed the children had “become zombies,” which is just true of all children at some point.
Drive-By on Boudreaux
It turned out Boudreaux was also a demon, according to Vallow and Daybell, and completely coincidentally, he was attacked in an attempted drive-by shooting in October after separating from his wife. The car driven by the attacker was mysteriously registered to Charles Vallow, so it’s possible it was a Christine situation.
The Assault of Tammy Daybell
It’s pertinent to mention that Daybell was still married at this point to his first wife, who was attacked just a few days after Boudreaux by a masked man wielding a paintball gun in her driveway. There’s no evidence that this incident was related to the rest of the situation, but man, wouldn’t it be weird if it wasn’t?
The Death of Tammy Daybell
A few days after the paintball incident, Tammy Daybell -- a seemingly healthy woman who was training for a marathon at the time -- died in her sleep for no apparent reason. Idaho law doesn’t require autopsy in these cases, and her husband didn’t request one, and nobody found any of this suspicious.
On the Run
Two weeks after his wife’s death, Daybell married Vallow, and a few weeks later, the police finally began investigating why nobody had seen Vallow’s children in two months. The night after they questioned Vallow, neighbors saw her and Cox packing a truck, and by morning, Vallow and Daybell had vanished. It was the day before Thanksgiving, so you can imagine this all happening amid a flurry of decorative gourds and the sad turkey they left behind.
In the final days of November, while their sister and aunt was supposedly missing, Vallow’s brother, Cox, and her niece, Melani Boudreaux, both went to Vegas to get married (to other people -- it’s not quite that kind of story). Niece-uncle double weddings are pretty unusual, but other than that, the only thing that’s weird about it is the timing, like they were in a real hurry. Especially considering…
The Death of Alex Cox
Two weeks after his wedding, Cox died at his new wife’s home in Arizona. Here’s the twist: No foul play seems to have been involved. He just had high blood pressure and clots in his lungs. Death just seems to surround these people.
In what appears to be truly a weird coincidence, Tammy Daybell was exhumed the day before Cox’s death, the police having finally started to question the whole “perfectly healthy woman up and dies in her sleep” thing. Her autopsy was completed in February 2021, but the results haven’t been made public, even to her children.
No Longer Missing
In early 2020, Vallow and Daybell were tracked down in Hawaii and Vallow was charged with deserting her children and contempt of court. By June, the police had gotten ahold of cell phone data that indicated Cox had spent a long time in Daybell’s backyard the day after each child went missing, including just before Daybell told his wife he’d buried a raccoon. A search of Daybell’s property revealed the remains of both children, and “desertion” became “murder.”
Colby Ryan’s Sexual Assault Charges
In September 2022, a few days before the release of the Netflix documentary that largely centered on him, Vallow’s oldest son, Colby Ryan, was charged with sexually assaulting his wife. The charges were dropped, but Ryan confessed to the crime both to police and on a tape recorded by his wife, so maybe don’t sympathize with him too much.
Where We’re At
Vallow and Daybell are currently awaiting trial on three counts of murder and conspiracy to murder Charles Vallow. On the bright side, either the world failed to end in July 2020 or we were all spared. Yay?
Top image: Daniel Stuben/Unsplash