Melani and Ian Pawlowski discuss religious beliefs, disturbing court documents, why Lori Daybell isn't talking and what they know about missing kids - East Idaho News


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Melani and Ian Pawlowski discuss religious beliefs, disturbing court documents, why Lori Daybell isn’t talking and what they know about missing kids

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Editor’s Note: This story contains the final portion of our interview with Melani and Ian Pawlowski. The video has been split into two parts. The first section can be watched in the player above. The second section can be found down in the story.

IDAHO FALLS — Lori Vallow Daybell’s niece and her new husband are speaking in-depth about their relationship with the mother whose two children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, have been missing since September.

Melani and Ian Pawlowski were married last November after dating for less than two weeks. Melani lived next door to Daybell in Rexburg during the time her children were missing. Ian is currently involved in a custody battle with his ex-wife, Natalie Pawlowski, and Melani is in her own custody dispute with her ex-husband, Brandon Boudreaux. Brandon was shot at in October and believes Alex Cox, his ex-wife’s uncle, was the shooter.

The major players and timeline in the disappearance of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan

The Pawlowskis now live in Arizona and spoke with via Zoom on Saturday with their attorneys, Garrett Smith and Robert Jarvis.

Below is a transcript of the second part of their interview. It has been lightly edited for clarity. You can watch and read the first part of our interview here.


Nate Eaton, When is the last time you saw JJ and Tylee?

Melani Pawlowski: Ian has never met them, but the last time I saw them, they were packing up their home in Chandler where Charles had been shot. I remember how emotional it was just to be there. It was where this big thing happened. And Tylee thought it was hard being in the house after that situation happened.

And Lori – sometimes she’s had to do things to protect her kids. The court systems haven’t protected her, and Tylee and Colby were abused by their dad, Joe. The court system didn’t protect them, and she had this history of doing everything she could to protect Tylee and JJ. I’ve always seen that in her since I was a teenager, and she flew me out to go nanny for Tylee and JJ. I’ve never seen any evidence or anything at all that tells me that Lori would purposely harm her children. It’s hard, all the attacks out there. I still see her as the wonderful mom she is. When I see her come in court, I’m looking for something off that I’m not seeing. Because I’ve had every fear of where they could be, but the last time I saw them was the end of August as they were moving because I think they moved up that first week in September.

Eaton: Did you visit Lori in Rexburg before you moved there?

Melani: I did I think on a weekend. My ex, Brandon Boudreaux, and I have 50/50 custody, and so anytime it wasn’t my time with my kids, I was a wreck and just missed my kids. I tried to go hike in Arizona or go on a trip, and I did go visit Lori for a weekend up there (in Rexburg). She said, “Just come. Try out somewhere new and come see if you like it up here.” We toured BYU-Idaho, and she said Tylee was with friends. She always was with friends, so I didn’t ask any questions about that. And JJ is either doing some type of therapy or with a nanny or in a school that will help him. So if I didn’t see him, I wasn’t asking, “Where is he?” I just have always trusted her.

I had known that they left to Idaho because they were being threatened by people. I didn’t want to ask so many questions, and I didn’t know what to do with that. And I was just there for love and support, and I just wanted to be there to help you guys (Lori).

Eaton: Then you moved up in November. You didn’t see the kids at all. Did you think that was a little suspicious? A little weird? I could understand not seeing them one or two days, but after days and days go by and Tylee’s Jeep isn’t there – did you ever ask Lori, “Hey, where are Tylee and JJ?”

Melani: When I moved up that first week in November, Alex helped me move on Halloween night. We drove up that first week in November with a moving truck. I was very involved in setting up my home and getting everything for my kids. I did bring all the things they do need with them besides a mattress that had stains on it, broken toys and outgrown clothes that I left out front. It was not all of their belongings – I just took everything that was important to us to consolidate into a smaller apartment.

I was getting my home ready and was going to figure out what’s going on with my kids and get them back here. We were going to have a fresh start. And Lori is very independent, doing her own thing. She was next door, but I spent most of my time with Alex. Alex would come over and hang out with me. Those days were hard and teary missing my kids, and he would come over and lift me up.

So if I saw Lori, she was still moving in and getting situated, so I didn’t spend a lot of time over there. I did see some of their things, and she had a room set up perfectly for Tylee and JJ, and it didn’t seem strange to me. I knew the threats she was getting from Kay Woodcock (JJ’s grandmother) and from others, and I guess I didn’t ask questions because I knew that history. I knew what was going on, and in my own head, I’m trying to find out where my own kids are.

Eaton: There are going to be people that say when they get together with relatives, the talk instantly turns to our kids — soccer games, piano recitals, whatever. So when you actually would see her, did that sort of conversation ever come up? I could maybe understand a day or two but if you’re going on weeks, and you haven’t seen them, did you say, “Where’s JJ been?” – especially because he has special needs?

Melani Right. Yeah. So she would tell me things like, one of the neighbor boys next door, I forget his name, but she would tell me all his friends and how funny they were. JJ was very high energy, and sometimes he’d be in other people’s space, and I think sometimes that bothered some other people, so she would say, “These are the friends that are not judgmental, and they’ll just let JJ come in.” She said that he loved his school there.

She always talked about her children, but during that time – from November to I guess the 20th is about when Ian and I started dating – I didn’t see them, but I didn’t see a lot of Lori. I saw Alex pretty much every day, and anytime I would go over, I’d say, “Where’s Tylee?” and it was like she was out with friends. Lori would say, “We’re doing everything we can to protect the kids from Kay. Kay’s causing a lot of trouble right now,” and I didn’t really get into too much of their own custody deal.

To be honest, I’m in my own head and don’t know where my own kids are at that point. And as we know later in November, I went down to Utah to try to see them and see what we could work out.

Eaton: When you got married at the end of November, did you move into Ian’s place?

Melani: No. We kept both of our apartments. I had a lease on mine and he did also. We kind of would sleep at my apartment and set up stuff for Max and Lily over at mine. I had one extra bedroom and so we spent most time at my apartment.

Eaton: When did you guys find out there was an investigation and JJ and Tylee were missing?

Melani: I’m foggy on this date but (Rexburg Police) Detective Hermosillo and another gentleman had come to my door while I was moving my stuff in so it had to have been early in November – I’d guess the second week in November.

I get a knock at the door, and I open it and see police, and I’m jumpy because what is my ex up to? What’s the next thing? Are my kids OK?

The detective said, “Do you know who lives next door?” And I said, “Yes, I think Alex’s name was on the lease, so sometimes my uncle’s over there, sometimes my aunt goes over there,” and I didn’t know what that was about. That was it. That was my first encounter with Rexburg Police.

Eaton: And that’s when they said the kids are missing?

Melani: No, no. This was early November. Then right before Thanksgiving, we’re driving down to Arizona to meet Ian’s family and have Thanksgiving, and I get a text from (Rexburg Police) Lt. Ball that says, “Somebody’s broken into your home. I need you to call me right away.”

I’m immediately like, “Oh great. My ex has sent somebody. I knew he had a private investigator following me, and I immediately thought he sent somebody to come break into my house. I didn’t know what to text back – I was kind of processing it.”

Then later, I texted back, “Well, I’m with people I love on Thanksgiving, and at least that’s what’s important.” If whatever the heck was taken – I had my emergency cash savings and I had a computer, an iPad, an old phone I didn’t use – I didn’t know what had been taken, but I was like, if my whole apartment is robbed, it’s OK. I got everything I need. It’s not about things.

Then he said, “I need you to call me,” and then I later found out it was the Rexburg Police. They had knocked down my door and taken a lot of my things. I kind of felt bothered about the text I got but I understand they’re just doing investigation.

As soon as I returned after Thanksgiving, I went right into Detective Hermosillo and was like, “What’s going on? I’m here to get my stuff.” He asked me about my previous marriage, what was I doing here, and he asked me about Lori and Alex. I was an open book and said, “Here’s what I know. Lori and Chad had left probably right around when I was going down to Arizona. They packed up and left, and I think it was a planned move. It wasn’t last minute because they had talked about moving to Hawaii at some point. They told Ian when they met, ‘You’ll have to come visit us in Hawaii sometime.'”

Eaton: Can you understand how that looks suspicious though?

Melani: Absolutely. Everything looks suspicious. But I knew they had planned to move, but I didn’t know exactly when they were going to move.

Yes – so many things look suspicious. I think having some basis of knowledge on what people had already planned and what’s actually going on, it kind of makes it less suspicious to me.

Eaton: Where do you guys think JJ and Tylee are?

Melani: I don’t know, and I’ve been asked that so many times. As we know, I’ve had every fear in the world of what could have happened to them. I think most of December, after Lori and Chad just disappeared, and I didn’t have a phone number for them and no contact, I am thinking the worst. I get a phone call from one of Lori’s old friends, and she scares me with a lot of, “I think this happened, or this could have happened,” and I’m having every “what-if,” because I didn’t see them the whole time I was up there in November.

But I also had seen text messages from Kay and how she was treating Lori after Charles passed away. I also knew who Lori was, and Lori’s always been somebody with a plan. She’s always done everything to protect her kids. So, up until when my doors were broken down, and things shifted, and I can’t talk to Lori and Chad, absolutely, I’m dumping on Ian, “What if this happened, and what if this happened?” If I have a nightmare about something happening, it just got dumped all on him unfairly, as we’re newly married, and this just gets thrown in our lap.

Eaton: We can transition with that into everything you allegedly told Ian and what he wrote down. Ian, can you explain the background about how this document came to be?

Ian Pawlowski: The whole purpose of the document was to send to Melani’s lawyers so they knew what I had gone in and told the FBI.

So I told Melani on Dec. 19 that I had been talking with the police and a little later, I told her I’d been recording her. It was after I told Melani that I had been working with the FBI and the police that I wrote this. The whole idea is to protect her. Her lawyers needed to know exactly what I said, how I said it and that’s how I wanted to present it to them. These are the fears I shared with them that Melani shared with me.

The document sounds a lot more affirmative than what I heard, but when I go into the police, I want action. I want this to be over with, basically. I went and I shared with the FBI everything that I heard, everything I was afraid of, and at that point, I thought the kids were in danger. I thought there was something dark and sinister going on. I was afraid.

So things came out when I talked with the FBI in a way that (I) shouldn’t have. And I kind of regret the way I presented it to them because I feel like it’s kind of blown this thing up a lot more than it should have. There wasn’t really a whole lot going on until my ex-wife and I went in and spoke with the FBI. Then, a week later, they’re starting to put out press releases and all these things. I don’t know if what we shared acted as a catalyst for that. Or maybe I’m just full of myself.

Eaton: For the casual reader seeing this, there is some shocking stuff in there. Chad and Lori apparently told you, Melani, that JJ and Tylee had been possessed and become zombies, that Alex may have to “take care” of the kids, he had “great faith” and “never wavered in his trust of the Lord.” Can you understand these writings are alarming, concerning and suspicious on all counts?

Ian: Anybody who doesn’t know what’s going on, they’re going to look at this and go, “Yeah, this is insane.”

So Brandon contacted my ex-wife, Natalie, and basically shared the idea with her that Melani’s in a cult, Lori’s in a cult, Chad’s a cult leader, they tried to kill me, they killed Charles and there’s this whole plot. I’m hearing this and I’m going, “Holy crap! What did I get myself into?” And so anything that happens, anything I hear from then on, even if it’s something I’ve heard before, I’m looking at it through the lens of, “This could be a cult.” Something weird is going on, and I’m hearing this right after her door gets kicked in by the Rexburg Police and we see a search warrant looking for JJ.

So everything seemed really off at that point. I’ve described it like a Treehouse of Horrors episode of “The Simpsons” for Halloween. You see a shadow of a claw on the wall, and then the light comes, and it’s just a branch scratching on the window. Depending on how you shine the light, there are facts, but depending on how you shine the flashlight, the facts look different.

When I’m hearing all these things, I’m scared, and I think there’s a cult. As you go through the document, you kind of see my thought process of this is stuff that I’m hearing, and stuff I’m worried about. As I continue to look at it, I’m starting to see that there’s really nothing proving any of this. There’s nothing proving that Tylee and JJ have come to any harm. You can even see at the end of the document I’m still questioning why in the world do we not know where the kids are.

But as I’ve gotten to know Summer and Janis and heard more about Lori’s life and the experiences she’s gone through, I’m starting to see maybe there is some reasoning behind what’s going on. I have no clue what’s going on, but I know that Melani is a good person. I’ve loved her through this whole thing. I was never really concerned about her. But in the beginning, I’m like, “Holy crap, her uncles are into some shady stuff, and I need to try to figure out what’s going on. I’m going to record your conversations, try to get from point A to point B, get this thing wrapped up and over with so I can move on with my life and my new wife.”

Melani: I think it’s important to understand where some of these things come from. Initially, when Charles filed for divorce with Lori, he brought a document over to my home with me and Brandon. We were still married, and everything seemed OK.

With Charles and Lori, things just went quick. She had found a lot of women on his computer, and a lot of purchases and stuff that he’d been purchasing through Hollywood Hobbies or something. And Lori’s upset, obviously. He’s on the road all the time for his career – similar to what Brandon does for his work. And she found this and confronted him with it.

Charles had never said anything ill about Lori ever. He just thought the world of her and worshipped her. As soon as she just started asking questions, he just flipped. He came over to our house and said, “Lori is crazy.” He showed us this document, and that’s the first time I saw this. It said something about Tylee being dark and JJ being light, and I’m trying to process all this.

He said, “Lori doesn’t think I’m me. She thinks I’m Ned or something.” What do you take from all that? It just felt off. And Lori wasn’t telling everyone in our family that Charles had been cheating on her. She had been trying to keep it between her and Charles. Charles just went ballistic, and then he took JJ away, saying Lori is never going to see him again.

It’s these patterns of narcissism where everything’s fine until you start asking questions. I did see the same exact pattern happen with my ex-husband. Everything was fine, and he thought the world of me until I asked some questions he was uncomfortable answering. Instead of giving an explanation, he turned on me and said, “Melani, I’m going to take the kids away from you. You’re crazy. I’m going to get you excommunicated from the church, and you’re never going to see your kids again.”

That’s just from asking, “What’s this video I found? What are these text messages?” It was like watching Charles unravel first, then Brandon did the same exact thing. It’s just these patterns, and you just can’t make this stuff up. It’s the same exact thing happening over and over again.

Lori just moved on. She didn’t play any of Charles’ games, and he was back and forth, wanting to get back together or saying, “Your end is coming soon.” So the day he came to the house, Summer said, “Alex, would you go over – Charles has been kind of aggressive and acting crazy. He’s gonna go over there to get JJ. Will you go over there just in case something happens?” As we see, something did happen.

I know they’re trying to change that whole investigation now to make it look like Lori had something planned or Alex did but there’s no doubt in my mind about that shooting. Brandon went and ran with that story to his advantage. He pulled me into the garage, and he and my uncle Adam said, “Charles has been murdered by Alex.” I’m like, “It doesn’t feel right, and there’s got to be something more to this.”

Eaton: So you do believe that Charles was shot in self-defense, and Alex was defending himself?

Melani: Absolutely. And I went to Tylee and was like, “How are you?” She was so brave speaking about it and was very collected and very mature. I admire Tylee so much for how brave she was. She explained everything, and so did Lori and so did Alex, and it made sense with how Charles has been acting. You’re in shock that it went to that extreme, but I’m glad Alex was there to protect Tylee.

I hated that Tylee had to go through that, and I know there’s been a lot of criticism of how Lori acted afterward. She’s smiling on camera, and I know when she’s uncomfortable, she’ll just kind of laugh or smile and try to make light of it. I do the same thing. It’s just how we handle being in shock, and every person handles being in shock differently.

That’s when everything started to be strange. Charles had said all these things in court documents, things I had never heard Lori say, and that’s when these strange ideas started flowing around. Lori has always been an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She loves learning, and she spent a lot of time in the temple trying to learn and grow from experiences and trying to feel peace from all the things that have happened in her life.

Charles, I feel, took that to an extreme with the things that he said about her. Honestly, I see everything Charles did … like the emails about his life insurance. Charles sold life insurance and had his own company, and the texts between people — it almost looked like a setup. It was very alarming to see all these things.

I have been asked what spiritual experiences has Lori had. That’s not for me to answer or to say what Lori and Chad’s beliefs are. But I know the people they are, and I know they’re good people and they’re trying. As a family, we’d get together and talk about the mysteries of God and the deep doctrine conversations. We’re allowed to do that. We’re allowed to discern truth from error and just learn and in our church. We believe in revelation, and it’s an ongoing process. We’re learning continually and everything’s changing. We’re just people that are trying to grow in our faith and be closer to the Savior.

There’s no cult. Lori’s my aunt, Zulema’s almost like an aunt to me, Alex is my uncle, and this is my family. Where it comes down to Tylee and JJ and this zombie idea – it came from a disturbing phone call I got from one of Lori’s old friends right after they took off to Hawaii. She told me, “Lori and Alex did something to Tylee and JJ, and we don’t know where they’re at, and Lori has lied to you,” and all these things that didn’t feel right. On that phone call, I felt a lot of fear and doubt, and that’s when I kind of went into this worrying phase.

I’m newly married, and I’m sharing these things with him and can’t sleep some nights. I didn’t know where they’re at, I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t understand these things. And Ian, which I don’t know, is talking with Natalie and Brandon, and they’re telling him these terrifying things that aren’t true – that I’ve wanted to kill Brandon, and I’m in a cult. I have no idea what Ian’s doing behind the scenes, and I’m in a scared time in my life where I’m trying to figure out the pieces. I’m trying to know what’s going on with Brandon and his plans, and who he is working with, and where my kids are. December was terrifying – like we’re thrown into this boiling pot as soon as we get married and trying to just adapt as best we can.

Eaton: Melani, did you actually believe these things that Lori and Chad told you? Or were you telling Ian just to get it off your chest with the assumption you didn’t know what to think?

Melani: Lori and Chad did not tell me most of those things in the document. Those were fears I was hearing from other people, and never did I believe them. When you don’t have knowledge about something and you’re in a scary situation like this, you think the worst. And I’m an open book. I kind of say it how it is.

I didn’t know Ian was recording all these things and that he was talking to Natalie or Brandon. I had told him my history with Brandon, and I warned that Natalie’s probably going to try to get ahold of Brandan, and Brandon’s going to run with all these lies about me. Ian knew who I was, but the factor of Tylee and JJ going missing – he’d never seen them before and had only met Chad and Lori one time. He doesn’t know what I know about the past with Lori trying to do everything she can to protect her kids and people who have been threatening her.

There was so much going on in our in my own custody case with my children, and we hadn’t got to that. So real quick – we get married, thrown into this boiler pot, and we’re doing the best we can, and Ian acted on fears and doubt, rather than the things that he didn’t know, but I don’t hold any blame toward him. This was a terrifying time for us. And I’m just continuously dumping on him, and I had my dad sending threatening messages saying things about a shooting that Brandon Boudreaux’s claiming and I never, still to this day, don’t know if this shooting actually happened or who did it.

Eaton: Do you think it was Alex?

Melani: The first meeting with Detective Pillar the day after the shooting I said, “Here’s all the people Brandon associates with.” Then he asked if I had Lori or Alex’s number, and I gave it to him. But when I heard that, it sounded like Brandon was trying to set them up or something. I know they don’t have anything to do with it.

Later on in December, Alex passes away, and then on Christmas, I get a phone call from Brandon, and I had to listen to him bullying me for an hour and threatening me and saying I had to go to the FBI and say that Alex shot at him. I said, “I don’t know that, Brandon.” And he’s like, “If you ever want to see your kids again, you have to go and tell them that.”

Why did they never call Alex or say, “Can you come in and meet with us? We have some questions for you”? Brandon was so sure, but his story kept changing. Still to this day, I don’t know what happened in the shooting. He had my dad on board sending me text messages saying, “Sentencing is coming soon for you. They know it was Alex. They know it was this Jeep registered to Tylee.” I’ve been trying to put the pieces together of what’s going on because I don’t have the facts, but the knowledge that I do have – it doesn’t add up to all the speculation and rumors that are flying around. To this day, I have not seen one shred of evidence about this shooting Brandon’s claiming that leads me to believe that it was Alex Cox.

Eaton: Do you believe that Brandon has turned dark?

Melani: No, and in that document … the way I understand this is in our faith is as you increase in becoming closer to your Savior and act in obedience and righteousness, you increase in light. As you make bad decisions or invite evil things into your life, you’re losing that light of Christ.

We talk about in our religion the gift of spiritual discernment, and I think you look at the fruits of people to know for yourself, “Is this a good person I want to have in life? Is this a bad person?” Never is there ever any ill intent if somebody is not making good choices in their life to do harm to them. You pray for them, and you bless those who persecute you and use you, and that’s how I view it. I don’t see children as being light or dark. We believe the age of 8 is the age of accountability when you’re baptized. And from then on, you can make decisions in light or dark, if you will. That’s just the terminology I see that as. The way these things are worded, it sounds terrifying, and they’re stemming from bits of truth that we talk about in our religion.

Eaton: In talking with you guys, you seem like mainstream Latter-day Saints. But a lot of members look at the writings and have never heard a lot of this stuff. They say, “Whoa, those ideas are on the fringe.” I also think Latter-day Saints are very uncomfortable with the word “cult.” Melani, you said you’re not in a cult, but are you in a fringe group? A group that’s not mainstream? Were Lori and Chad in a group that wasn’t mainstream?

Garrett Smith, attorney: Hang on a second.

15 seconds later

Melani: I’m not in any cult, and I don’t believe anything that is against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are topics where we don’t have full understanding, like you see in this document – things like translation, we don’t have information on. It’s something that’s talked about in the scriptures. And these are things that are interesting, and you want to learn more about the mysteries of God that no one really has the real answers on. These are things to learn about, but there are no beliefs that I have, or that I know that Chad and Lori have, that are against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or anything inconsistent with that faith.

Eaton: One other question about the document, Ian, and then we can we can move on. You mentioned in there that your whole intent was not to smear anybody. Your intent was to protect your family and helps solve the case of the missing kids. Can you guys address the public as to what you all are doing to help in the case?

Ian: We, to the best of our knowledge, have cooperated fully with the FBI and law enforcement. Anytime they’ve had questions, we’ve answered. That’s all we can do right now. We’re trying to set people at ease a little bit. Right now, the kids are missing. We don’t know where they are, and there’s so much speculation because of this information that’s leaked in the accusations that Charles made in his paperwork, and people coming out of the woodwork to come after Chad or come after Lori.

There’s a lot of speculation that’s happening, but so far, all we know is that they’re missing. Lori’s mom, Janis, put it really well. The kids aren’t missing to Lori. They’re missing to the rest of us. While I would absolutely love to know where they are and just get this over with and move on with my life, I have to try to have faith and believe that there’s going to be a happy ending to this. I certainly hope there is because it’s going to have a really negative effect on my life if there isn’t.

Eaton: So you guys have talked with the police in Rexburg and the FBI, and any time they want to talk to you, you’re open to talking with them and answering questions.

Ian: Absolutely. Yeah.

Melani: Yeah. I had my first initial meeting with Detective Hermosillo, and then I invited FBI into my home for a few hours and told them everything that I did know. My first meeting with FBI, I shared a lot of these things I’m sharing with you, Nate, and they were like, “OK, this isn’t where we thought this was going at all.” We haven’t heard this other side of why Lori would be doing what she’s doing and why she does not feel safe to say where her kids are and why she needs to protect them.

Eaton: A few people have said this story is all “hype.” Yes, the media has latched on to this story because it is two missing kids but the “hype” could die down if the kids were produced or if she said where the kids are. Why do you think she won’t?

Melani: I don’t have that answer, but I know no one is listening to her side. She’s been what seems proven guilty before even given the chance to speak for herself. I know she hasn’t come forward and said (where the kids are), and I absolutely would love that. She knows what she’s doing, I believe, and she knows where the kids are. I can’t remember the quote she said – very initially when things took off – something about when all this speculation and rumors over. I believe, when all the speculation and rumor is over, and we’re looking at the real facts here, I believe she has a story to tell. She doesn’t have reason to trust a lot of people right now. I can’t ask that question to her. She’s in jail waiting for her time to defend and tell her story.

Eaton: Melani, why can’t you ask her where the kids are?

Melani: She’s in jail, and everything’s been recorded. It sounds like her conversations even with her own lawyer have been recorded and then given to Detective Ball and the prosecutor. I feel like that’s a huge concern. I don’t think if I asked her she would tell me. She didn’t tell me before, probably just to not involve me, and whatever she’s got going on – she’s got a plan and I just want to be loving support and do whatever I can. When it comes down to it, every fear, every worry, every doubt that I have – it doesn’t stick to the knowledge I do know of who Lori is and everything she’s done to protect those kids. Those kids love their mom, and they don’t want to be with Kay. JJ’s never wanted to be with Kay, and I wish we could see the times Kay’s actually come to try to be in JJ’s life.

I was in Arizona most of the time Lori and JJ were there after adopting him. I might have met Kay one time, but she wasn’t a big part of JJ’s life. I see a lot of things behind-the-scenes that aren’t being said, and I don’t know everything going on or where Lori would have the kids.

Eaton: Do you think they’re safe? Chad has said that they are safe. We don’t know what that means. But do you think they’re safe in a bunker somewhere?

Smith: Nate, let me modify this just a little bit. Part of the premise of what our clients are saying, including Melani and Ian here with us, but also Summer (Shiflet, Lori’s sister) and Janis (Cox, Lori’s mother) – the premise of it is, first and foremost, they don’t think they’ve ever seen anything in Lori’s life that would give them any evidence that she could harm her children.

The next level is that they know that Lori had a basis and a belief that she needed to take steps to protect her kids. We don’t have all the details about that, but she had expressed at least that much to them. They were moving out of the state of Arizona, they were going away, and she had a reason for doing that.

The third thing is that they had experienced in Lori’s life this notion that she has a substantial distrust of the system because of its failure in her ability to protect her own kids. The system never was able to help her do that – the judicial system.

So it’s hard to go into Lori and say, “Just tell us where the kids are” when it undermines everything that I just set forth. They don’t think she did anything to the kids. They know she’s got a basis for wanting to protect them. She knows they know that she doesn’t trust the system. And so to go in and ask her to tell them where the kids are would undermine her ultimate purpose – which is to protect the kids. Everybody wants that question asked because they just want to see when the kids are, but that’s not what Lori’s goal is here. Lori’s goal is to protect them and saying where they are doesn’t protect them.

Melani: I think the bigger question is why does Lori feel the need to protect her kids? And from who? From what? And until we know that question, she probably will not tell any of us that, and she’s willing to sit in jail over keeping quiet and not sharing that information.

Smith: I saw the news clip from Kay where she said that she’s never threatened Lori. Then at the end of the conversation, she said, “I had some phone calls and emails where I said some pretty mean things. But really, I just want to see JJ.” You can’t have it both ways. Either you sent mean and nasty communications that caused Lori to be threatened, or you didn’t, and it sounds like she did, and Lori says she did.

We expect Kay’s going to come forward and say, “I would never want to harm JJ, all I wanted to do is this,” but in Lori’s mind, in Lori’s perspective, she was under attack. She felt that she had good reason to believe and take whatever steps she took in order to fulfill that goal.

Eaton: Melani, when’s the last time you spoke with Lori?

Melani: I had a phone call with her – I want to say the second week of December after Alex had passed. I think it was the night Ian told me he had been going to the police and FBI. I haven’t heard anything from them since then.

Eaton: And she and Chad were already in Hawaii at that time?

Melani: I would guess they were already in Hawaii at that time because they left that last week in November and then a couple weeks later I had a phone call with them, I didn’t have their number and that was the last time that I spoke with them.

Eaton: What do you want people to know about what you guys know, about any involvement, about your aunt and the kids?

Melani: Our biggest focus is we’re working on our own custody cases right now that are affected by all the speculation and rumor – deflecting from what our exes are doing and keeping our kids away from us unjustly. That’s our biggest focus. We’re running on faith and hope that Lori’s got a plan, and she knows where JJ and Tylee are, but I don’t know where my children are. I’m having to spend all this time telling the truth because everything’s been manipulated into lies in the media. People aren’t seeing the whole picture of things. And this is a whole deflection on the truth. Everything that’s being thrown around – all these ideas that people are bouncing off each other – they’re missing the truth. That’s our exes’ goal, to distract from everything they’re doing and confuse it in this case to take advantage of it. It’s sad for our children, and we pray for them every day. We know we’re going to be with them soon. Maybe they’ll see us on TV, maybe not, but we know that they know who we are. And we patiently await every day until we are reunited with them.

Ian: I just basically echo what Melani said. Her ex-husband and my ex-wife are taking advantage of this case and going with it to keep our children away from us. They’re making all sorts of claims. Melani was the primary caretaker of her four kids for 10 years and never did anything at all to harm them. She was a loving mother, and for some reason, all of a sudden, now Brandon is trying to take them away. Same thing with my ex-wife. I took good care of my kids, and I love them. They love being with me. They love being with Melani. We had them almost entirely through the month of January … didn’t have any problems with Melani or me being around the kids at that point, but now that’s a problem.

This whole case is being used against us to keep our children away, and our exes are frustrated. Things kind of blew up when she and I got married. They both became very upset. It’s frustrating to have this case continue. We had a preliminary hearing scheduled for the 7th and 8th, and now it’s been pushed out to July, and until things get resolved, it’s going to continue to affect us. We’re just ready for it to be done.

Melani: It’s been a huge stall, Nate, and unfortunately COVID has been pushing things back. But the most disappointing thing was when we had a family custody hearing finally for the Boudreaux case with my children, Brandon didn’t show up. I don’t know where he was. And later on, seeing him on TV a few days later in the front row at Lori’s hearing, waiting to see if they can keep her in jail longer and not reduce her bail, that’s upsetting. Where were my kids during then and why is he leaving them? And why are they not the focus of his life?

It’s sad to see that. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and I have every plea in my heart that Brandon will have any kindness in his heart to reunite me with with my children and let them talk to their mother. They’re scared. I don’t know what they’ve been told, but I know they know in their hearts who I am. I’ve done everything for them, and my whole life put everything, every ounce into them, and I’m so grateful I’ve done that because every day without them is unbearable. I know everything’s going to come forward eventually. As we just keep trying to tell the truth and be ourselves and try to do the right thing, I know things are going to work out.

I want to thank you for being open-minded, for wanting to share both sides and not being afraid to share truth. There’s so much confusion out there, and this is what we want. We want everything to be heard, and I think everything will eventually unravel as we see it continuing to move forward.

I appreciate you being willing to clarify anything that has been reported wrong because we see it reported wrong every day in all these different news sources. I desperately just want to call each one and say, “Hey, you got this wrong. These are the facts.”

I remember you saying how Brandon Boudreaux has claimed that I have a million dollars of reasons to shoot at him or kill him or get money for a cult. I know you’re just reporting what you hear and what’s given to you. I appreciate you giving us the time to respond to these false claims and accusations, and we’re always happy to answer and clear up questions. Thank you for hearing us.