Parents of missing Rexburg children issue statement, attorney says they are ‘loving’ and ‘devoted’
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REXBURG — A Rexburg attorney representing Chad and Lori Daybell says he is in contact with the couple but has no information regarding the whereabouts or welfare of two of their children — 7-year-old Joshua Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.
The children have been missing from Rexburg since September. On Friday, the Rexburg Police Department announced an ongoing search for the kids and said the parents are not cooperating with officers’ attempts to check on the welfare of the children. Both Chad and Lori, whose maiden name is Vallow, have been named “persons of interest” in the children’s disappearance.
The couple is also connected to two active death investigations involving both of their former spouses — one in Fremont County and another in Maricopa County, Arizona. However, authorities in both jurisdictions say Chad and Lori are not persons of interest or suspects in those cases.
No charges have been filed against Chad or Lori in Idaho or Arizona. So far, Rexburg Police have only indicated they want to talk with the couple to ensure the children are OK.
On Monday, attorney Sean Bartholick, of Rigby, Andrus & Rigby, issued the following statement on the Daybells’ behalf:
“Chad Daybell was a loving husband and has the support of his children in this matter. Lori Daybell is a devoted mother and resents assertions to the contrary. We look forward to addressing the allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor.”
The Daybells and the Preparing A People group
Family members say Chad and Lori Daybell bonded over some common religious beliefs.
Chad is a self-published Latter-day Saint author and owns Spring Creek Books, a publishing company he started with his former wife, Tammy, who died in October.
Many of the books he writes or publishes deal with doomsday situations or near-death experiences. In his autobiography “Living on the Edge of Heaven,” Daybell describes his two near-death experiences. On his website, Daybell says he’s helped “several prominent people publish books about their own near-death experiences.”
Both Chad and Lori were affiliated with a group called Preparing A People, an organization that says its mission is to “help prepare the people of this earth for the second coming of Jesus Christ.” On its website, the group says it doesn’t represent any church or official church doctrines, policies or positions; however, many associated with Preparing A People and those who speak at their workshops are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Preparing A People hosts several podcasts, a number of which both Chad and Lori have appeared on together over the past year to discuss their religious beliefs.
As of Monday morning, those podcasts were removed and the website posted a statement:
“We considered Chad Daybell a good friend, but have since learned of things we had no idea about. … We did not know Lori as well as we thought we knew Chad,” the statement reads. “In light of current concerning media reports and ongoing criminal investigations regarding the recent death of Lori Vallow’s previous husband in Arizona, and the sudden death of Chad Daybell’s previous wife in Idaho, and with new reports of Lori’s missing children and the death of Lori’s brother-in-law, and the unknown whereabouts of Chad and Lori, we feel it inappropriate to not (sic) promote any media content that may feature or contain references to either Chad Daybell or Lori Vallow.”
Michael James, the website operator, says Chad was a popular speaker at some of their events.
“He was one of our best speakers, and people really trusted him, (but) Chad evidently had some strange ideas about things we didn’t know about,” James said. “Occasionally, that happens, and when it does, you need to break with them.”
Two members of Lori’s extended family, Kay Vallow Woodcock of Louisiana and Brandon Boudreaux of Arizona have spoken to multiple national news outlets about Chad and Lori’s involvement with the group. Woodcock said Lori’s behavior radically changed after becoming affiliated with the group.
Both told EastIdahoNews.com they believe involvement with Preparing A People, which they call a cult, led to the suspicious deaths of Chad and Lori’s former spouses.
“I don’t want to attack anyone’s beliefs … but when you look at the fruit that’s come from this group and its beliefs … it certainly, from my mind, doesn’t come from God,” said Boudreaux. He said his ex-wife, Lori Daybell’s niece, also joined the group. He claims in interviews and on social media that several months ago, someone tried to kill him by shooting at him.
James strongly denies the characterization that his group is a cult and says it is offensive to describe it as such.
“I have no idea what Chad and Lori did in their spare time, but Preparing A People is not a cult,” James said. “It’s just LDS people that go to conferences.”
Active death investigations
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the suspicious death of Chad’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, who was 49 when she died.
She worked as a school librarian in Rexburg and Sugar City and was found deceased in her Salem home Oct. 19. Her death was believed to be from natural causes, according to a Rexburg Police Department news release, and she was buried shortly after in Springville, Utah.
But recently, questions were raised about her death and Fremont County Sheriff’s deputies had her remains exhumed Dec. 11. The Utah Office of the Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy, but the results of that investigation have not been released. On Friday, Rexburg police indicated they believed the death was related to the disappearance of Joshua and Tylee, but they did not specify how.
Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries could not be reached for comment Monday.
The Chandler Arizona Police Department is investigating the death of Charles Anthony Vallow, the estranged husband of Lori. On July 11, Vallow was shot and killed by Lori’s brother, Alexander L. Cox, in a family fight.
According to Fox10 in Phoenix police in Chandler say first responders found Vallow with two gunshot wounds in the chest. Investigators told reporters the estranged couple began arguing when Cox stepped in, and a physical fight ensued. Vallow reportedly hit Cox with a baseball bat, and investigators believe Cox fatally shot him.
Cox died Dec. 12 in Gilbert, Arizona. His death and Vallow’s are active cases and are under investigation, the Chandler Police Department told EastIdahoNews.com on Monday.
Authorities believe Chad and Lori were married several weeks after the death of Tammy Daybell.
‘In pretty serious danger’
Local authorities became involved in the investigation Nov. 26 after out-of-state family members contacted the department requesting a welfare check on Joshua, Lori’s adopted son with special needs. Police went to their home at 565 Pioneer Road in Rexburg after relatives said they hadn’t spoken to Joshua since September.
The children were not at the home during the check, and Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman said the parents lied about their whereabouts.
“They’ve told us several stories about where the children are, but when we investigate, the children don’t exist where they say they should,” Turman said Friday. “We don’t know where they are at, but we think they are in pretty serious danger.”
The next day, Arizona authorities contacted Rexburg Police regarding a cell phone ping at the same Rexburg address, according to a Madison County Sheriff’s Office log. The log states it was in relation to a missing child case. Rexburg Police Capt. Gary Hagen told EastIdahoNews.com the call also had to do with the Arizona death investigations.
Following the request, Rexburg Police executed search warrants at the home. Investigators determined the Daybells abruptly left the house and city. Police do not believe the children were with them when they took off.
Hagen said investigators are unaware of how Daybell and Vallow left Rexburg – whether by car or airplane.
“We’ve been digging into that, and that’s still part of the whole investigation,” Hagen said.
According to a Rexburg Police news release, Joshua was last seen at Kennedy Elementary School on Sept. 23. Tylee was last seen that month as well.
Police did not comment on why the school did not report Joshua’s absence and why the children had not been reported missing to any law enforcement agency. Investigators are still searching for any information regarding the children and the Daybells.
Joshua is a 7-year-old with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 4 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds. Tylee is a 17-year-old with blond hair and blue eyes. She is 5 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds.
Lori Vallow Daybell is 46 years old, and has blond hair and blue eyes. She weighs 125 pounds and is 5 feet, 6 inches tall. Chad Daybell is 51 years old, and has brown hair and blue eyes. He weighs 230 pounds and is 6 feet, 3 inches tall.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the children since September is asked to contact the Rexburg Police Department, at (208) 359-3000, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), at (800) THE-LOST.