A year after JJ stayed with them, grandparents have not given up hope
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IDAHO FALLS — One year ago last week was the last time Larry Woodcock spent an extended time with his grandson.
Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, was with his grandfather in Louisiana every day for a week.
“It was my last stay with him, and I think back on it often,” Woodcock tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I am so thankful I had that week to be with him. It was just he and I, so we could basically do what he wanted to in whatever time he wanted to do it. I thank God for that.”
He had no idea that six months later, their world would be turned upside down. JJ and his sister, Tylee Ryan, would be at the center of a missing kids investigation, and their mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, would be in an Idaho jail on charges of deserting her children.
As Woodcock and JJ were together in Louisana, the boy’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, was in Arizona helping her brother, Charles Vallow, prepare for a move to Texas. Vallow was married to Lori at the time, but their relationship was on the rocks, and he had filed for divorce.
“We were packing up his house to move back to Houston, and Lori came waltzing,” Kay Woodcock recalls. “She just started fussing at him. … She had her hands on her hips and was saying, ‘What are you doing? Why are you moving? Why are you keeping JJ from me?’ And it was just on and on.”
Kay says the two moved into another room and continued to argue. When Lori came out, she walked over, and the women had their last face-to-face conversation.
“I said, ‘Lori, I’m sorry this has happened with you all,'” Kay says. “She said, ‘I just miss you,’ and she started with the tears flowing. She never even cried when Charles was talking to her, yet she’s telling me she missed me.”
Lori eventually moved to Houston with Vallow, and he dropped the divorce case. Kay, who was managing her brother’s work accounts, says he gave Lori “the keys to the kingdom.”
“He happened to be due a huge insurance commission check and sure enough, less than a week after she got to Houston, he got that commission check,” Kay says. “That money flew out of that account so quickly. I think there was $9,000 in the checking account, and $6,000 was moved out a day or two after. So that left $3,000, and then a couple days after that, $3,000 went out of it.”
Kay says Lori was moving the money into separate accounts – some that Vallow did not have access to. She eventually returned to Arizona with JJ and Tylee, and in July, Vallow was shot and killed by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox. The next month, Lori moved to Rexburg with the children. JJ and Tylee disappeared within weeks.
As police investigated the kids’ disappearance and Vallow’s death, Kay began discovering things on her own. She knew most of Vallow’s account passwords, so she started exploring and discovered some of Lori’s online activities.
“I remember one day, I stayed right here on my computer for 12 hours. I stopped to eat one time, and that whole day I was on the phone with our private investigator and detectives,” Kay says. “I went through every email and every account that I could get into. To think that she never even thought that those emails were going to Charles’ Gmail account — that was pretty shortsighted on her part but that’s par for the course because that’s just how she was.”
On Nov. 8, Kay found a malachite ring had been purchased Oct. 2 on Vallow’s Amazon account. It was delivered to Lori’s townhouse in Rexburg, and she was wearing the ring in wedding photos taken when she married Chad Daybell in Hawaii. Kay also saw that Lori had searched the internet for beach wedding clothing on Oct. 3. (Chad was still married to his former wife, Tammy, at the time.)
The ring purchase was the first time the Woodcocks ever heard of Rexburg, Idaho. They reached out to detectives in Arizona, who then coordinated with the Rexburg Police Department to have a welfare check performed on the children. Within weeks, the case was in the national spotlight, and the grandparents continued to learn more.
The most alarming news came when they saw a video of JJ swearing and acting erratically, captured by a neighbor’s doorbell camera in Rexburg. He was obviously not on his medication, which helped with his special needs.
“When I saw the Ring doorbell video – that scared me to death,” Kay says. “And then finding out she was telling neighbors that he was her niece’s drug baby? Not her son? Oh my God — that shows me how she was distancing herself from him, maybe make it easier for her to do something to him.”
Larry adds, “That’s been the lowest point in all of this — even more hurtful than the death of Charles. How low can you get? I just don’t understand it. … For her to say that — it’s not the person that has a loving capability of a mother. I don’t understand it, and it was absolutely the lowest point of this entire investigation.”
Since Lori’s initial court appearance March 6, the Woodcocks have returned to Louisana. They plan to come back to Idaho for her preliminary hearing and are following developments on the case from their home. They say they appreciate the work of the Rexburg Police Department and the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office and, despite no sign of the children, they believe JJ and Tylee could still be alive.
“I’ll hold out hope until they close the door on my casket. I will never, ever give up the hope that JJ will be returned to us,” Larry says.
Chad Daybell has not been arrested or charged with a crime. The Woodcocks have never met him but say the faster he can “drop Lori like a hot potato,” the better his life will be. They hope he will tell authorities where their missing grandson and his sister are.
“Chad, you’ve had some time to be away from Lori to visit with your children, to visit with your grandchildren, and you have to look into the mirror and ask yourself, ‘Is this worth Lori?’ And I can tell you right now not, ‘No’ but, ‘Hell no,'” Larry says. “Where are the children? Where are the children? Where are the children? That’s all we want to know.”