A woman who spent four days alone with Lori Vallow in an Idaho jail has lifted the lid on the ‘cult’ mom’s life behind bars as she awaits trial over the disappearance of her two murdered children.
The woman spoke to the East Idaho News last week on condition of anonymity to protect her safety. The outlet referred to her as ‘Missy Cook’ in its account.
Missy and Lori were housed in the same ‘pod’ at the Madison County Jail for four days in March, after Lori was extradited to Idaho from Hawaii, where she and her husband Chad Daybell fled after police began searching for her children, seven-year-old Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, in November.
Missy – who was jailed for a parole violation – recounted how Lori was upbeat, never cried and spent most of her time reading scriptures, on the phone with Chad or meeting with her lawyers.
She said Lori was thrilled by the amount of media attention her case was getting, at one point remarking that she was more important than the burgeoning coronavirus crisis and the tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Lori was also obsessed with her appearance, insisting that she look good for the many news cameras that filled the courtroom during her first hearing, Missy said.
The women never talked about JJ and Tylee, but Missy said she was sure that the children would be found safe and was shocked when she learned the truth.
A woman who spent four days alone with Lori Vallow in an Idaho jail has lifted the lid on the ‘cult’ mom’s life behind bars as she awaits trial over the disappearance of her two children
The woman nicknamed ‘Missy Cook’ was housed in the same pod as Lori at the Madison County Jail (pictured) in March
A few months after Lori and Missy’s brief behind bars friendship, police discovered JJ and Tylee’s remains buried on Chad’s property in Salem, Idaho, on June 9.
Investigators believe the children, who were never reported missing by their mother, were murdered within hours of when they disappeared in September 2019.
Both Lori and Chad are now facing two felony counts for conspiring to conceal or destroy evidence in the case.
Lori is facing three additional misdemeanor counts of resisting or obstructing officers, solicitation to commit a crime and contempt of court from her arrest back in February.
She is expected to enter a plea at an arraignment on Thursday.
Chad has already pleaded not guilty to both the conspiracy charges and two other counts for destruction or concealment of evidence.
Both defendants are set to face trial in January 2021.
Lori and her husband Chad Daybell (pictured) are both facing two felony counts for conspiring to conceal or destroy the remains of her children
Madison County Special Prosecutor Rob Wood and the state of Idaho asked a judge to join the cases against Lori and Chad last week – just after Chad’s attorney asked to have the case against him thrown out altogether.
Madison County Jail officials confirmed that Missy was incarcerated at the time that Lori arrived from Idaho. Missy was later transferred to another facility and was recently released from custody.
When she spoke to the East Idaho News, Missy provided notes that she kept during her time in the Madison County Jail – which included details from conversations she had with Lori.
Because she was in an adjacent cell, Missy was also able to take notes on phone calls she overheard between Lori and her husband Chad.
Recounting the first time she saw Lori, Missy said: ‘Everybody in the jail was talking about how Lori was coming back from Hawaii and we wondered if we’d be able to see her.
‘So I’m sitting in the pod and in walks two or three guards with her. They were very nice and she was nice.
‘She walked in with her stripes on but she also had a bulletproof vest on. I had never seen another inmate like that.’
Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow, seven, disappeared in September 2019 but were never reported missing by their mother. The children’s remains were found buried on Chad’s property in June or Chad, whom Lori married in early November. Their
The pod the women were housed in featured two private cells, along with a common area where they could watch TV, read books, make phone calls and talk to each other.
‘I made it a point not to ask about her kids. I wanted to gain her trust and see if she would tell me anything,’ Missy said. ‘I’d been judged [unfairly] for one of my crimes and turned inside out for something it wasn’t. I couldn’t imagine feeling what she was feeling when she got there.’
Missy expressed surprise over the fact that Lori was always upbeat and happy – never showing signs that she was upset about her incarceration and never crying.
Instead, she said Lori was relieved about being back in Idaho after spending a week at another jail in Kauai following her arrest.
‘She said the jail in Hawaii was so bad. There were roaches on the floor and it was awful,’ Missy said. ‘She kept saying how nice Madison was compared to that and how amazing the food was here.’
Lori was scheduled for her initial court hearing in Madison County the day after she was booked into the jail.
The hearing drew media outlets from around the country – which seemed to please Lori, according to her pod-mate.
‘She was totally aware of all of it,’ Missy recalled. ‘She said: “We have the death of Kobe Bryant and COVID but no – there’s me. I’m the lead story. I’m more important than all that stuff.”
‘She knew she was the main story and she liked it.’
Lori very invested in her appearance – boasting about her blue toenail polish while complaining that her skin was dry, Missy said.
Missy loaned her some lotion and makeup she purchased from the commissary, and was taken aback by what she chose to use.
‘So she comes to the door and has on this bright pink lipstick,’ Missy said. When Lori asked ‘How does it look?’, Missy said she ‘hesitantly paused’ and replied: ‘Oh…you look good.’
‘I gave her some tips and said she could use a regular led pencil to draw in her eyebrows and helped her get ready for court.’
Once the hearing was over, Lori invited Missy to watch the news coverage together.
‘As the news came on, she said: “Here it comes! Here’s my story. Turn it up. Let’s see what they say about me now,”‘ Missy said.
Missy said Lori was thrilled by how many media outlets showed up to cover her initial court hearing in Madison County on March 6 (pictured)
Missy said Lori wanted to show off her blue toenails (pictured at an earlier hearing in Kauai)
Over the following days Lori met with her attorneys for hours to work out a way that she could post bond, which had been set at $1million.
‘I remember before one of those meetings, she ran her fingers from her head down her body and said: “We’ll see if all of this is worth $1million,”‘ Missy recalled.
When she wasn’t with her lawyers, Lori spent much of her time speaking on the phone with Chad or with her eldest son Colby, Missy said.
She described Lori and Chad’s conversations as ‘nauseating’, saying that Lori was adamant about looking good for video calls and repeatedly sought reassurance that her husband loved her.
The calls with Colby were far more contentious, Missy said, as he badgered Lori for information about where JJ and Tylee were.
‘She talked on the phone with her son literally almost two days straight,’ Missy said.
‘After the big entrance at her arraignment, she got on the phone with her son and said: “I didn’t see you [in the courtroom)]. There were just so many people.”
‘[Colby kept saying: “Mom, where are JJ and Tylee? Why won’t you tell us? What’s going on?”‘
Lori held multiple long phone calls with her eldest son Colby Ryan (pictured), who pestered her for answers about where his siblings were, Missy said
Missy said she never heard Lori mention where the children were. When Colby got frustrated by the lack of answers, she would tell him to read the bible.
‘She told Colby to read Job – a book in the Old Testament – and he would understand,’ Missy said.
‘She said she was being tested like Job. She would say: “Colby, just listen to me. Everyone wants to know but it’s none of their business. God doesn’t judge me and they shouldn’t judge me. The prophet says to stay off social media so don’t go on there.”‘
Missy said she also encouraged Lori to read scripture for her own sanity – but that they never talked in depth about their religious beliefs.
‘I told her one thing that’s going to keep her sane in here is if she reads her scriptures every night,’ Missy said. ‘I said the only comfort she’s going to get is to pray.’
She said Lori repeated the same phrase over and over during their time together: ‘Everything has a purpose. God has a plan for everyone. His plan will be accomplished.’
The pair also never talked about JJ and Tylee, but Missy believed the children were safe.
‘I thought the kids were alive. I really did,’ she said.
‘I thought they had them in a polygamy compound and they were there working while she and Chad went to Hawaii to live their lives.’
When deputies came to move Missy to another cell away from Lori, the women hugged and Lori said she was sad to be losing her companion.
Missy was transferred to another facility a few weeks later, and walked free in August.
After her release, Missy messaged Lori through GettingOut, an phone app used to communicate with inmates. She showed the conversation to the East Idaho News.
Lori wrote back: ‘How are you doing? I’ve been praying for you. I’d love to visit with you. I’ll schedule you in later today. Hopefully that will work.’
Missy said that was the last time she heard from Lori.
Asked what she thinks will happen as the case moves forward, Missy said she expects Lori to turn on Chad.
‘If she’s as vindictive as she is, those kids were buried on his land and at his house. I would turn on him to save my own ass,’ Missy said.
Investigators are seen recovering the remains of Tylee and JJ from the backyard of Chad’s home in Salem, Idaho, on June 9
The East Idaho News published Missy’s account on Tuesday – the anniversary of Lori’s daughter’s disappearance.
Tylee vanished on September 8, 2019, just days before her 17th birthday. Investigators said her body was burned and dismembered before being buried sometime the following day.
JJ was last seen two weeks later on September 23. His body was wrapped in duct tape and plastic and buried the same day, investigators said.
Authorities believe Lori’s now-deceased brother Alex Cox brought the children’s bodies to Chad’s home to bury them.
Neither Chad nor Lori have been accused of harming Tylee and JJ. Authorities have yet to say how the children died, or whether homicide charges will be filed in the future.
The search for JJ and Tylee began back in November 2019 when police officers performed a welfare check at Lori’s home in Rexburg and found that neither of the children had been heard from since two months earlier.
The story captured nationwide attention with the revelations that police were also investigating at least three suspicious deaths linked to Lori and Chad, as well as relatives’ claims that the couple are members of a dangerous doomsday cult.
Lori and Chad went on the run the day after police began searching for the children and reopened an investigation into the death of Chad’s first wife Tammy Daybell, who died on October 19, 2019.
Police tracked the couple down in Hawaii in January and Lori was later arrested on charges of child abandonment and desertion.
The search came to a devastating end in June as JJ and Tylee’s remains were discovered in Chad’s backyard in Salem, Idaho.
Timeline of JJ and Tylee’s disappearance
July 11, 2019: Lori Vallow’s husband, Charles Vallow, is killed by her brother, Alex Cox, in Arizona. Police initially rule that Alex acted in self defense but reopen the case months later after the children are reported missing.
August: Lori moves children JJ and Tylee to Rexburg, Idaho, where her future husband Chad Daybell lives with his wife Tammy.
September 8: The last time Tylee is seen during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Lori, JJ and Alex. In the following weeks she tells people who ask where Tylee is that she’s studying at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus.
September 23: The last time JJ is seen at his school in Rexburg. Lori emailed the school the following day and claims she is moving the family to California for a new job.
October 2: Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori’s niece Melanie Pawlowski, is targeted in a drive-by shooting in Arizona. Police identify the vehicle carrying the shooter as a Jeep registered to Charles Vallow, Lori’s late husband.
October 19: Chad’s wife Tammy, 49, dies at their Idaho home. An obituary states that she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Chad declines an autopsy and her death is listed as natural causes.
October 25: A friend of Tylee receives a vague ‘miss you’ text from her phone but says that it didn’t sound like the teen.
November 5: Lori and Chad tie the knot on a beach in Kauai. Receipts indicate that Lori purchased her own wedding ring from Amazon nearly three weeks prior to Tammy’s death.
November 26: Out-of-state relatives ask Idaho police to perform a welfare check on JJ. Lori and Chad claim he is in Arizona with relatives and ask their friend, Melanie Gibb, to lie and say she took the boy there for Thanksgiving. Police soon learn that no one has seen JJ, or his older sister Tylee, since September.
November 27: Police execute a search warrant related to the children at Lori’s home and discover that she and Chad have fled Idaho.
December 11: Tammy’s body is exhumed from a Utah cemetery and her death is reclassified as suspicious.
December 12: Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, is found unresponsive in a bathroom in Arizona and dies. Months later an autopsy determines that he died of natural causes while he had the overdose drug Narcan in his system.
December 21: Rexburg police issue the first press release about JJ and Tylee, revealing they believe their disappearance could be linked to Tammy’s death and asking the public for information.
December 24: Lori and Chad issue a statement through an attorney saying they love their son and daughter and look forward to addressing ‘allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor’.
December 30: Police accuse Lori and Chad of lying to investigators and say they believe the couple know where the kids are or what happened to them.
January 3, 2020: Police search Chad’s home in Salem and remove 43 items, including tech devices and journals. They also comb over sections of the snow-covered yard with rakes and metal detectors.
January 26: Lori and Chad are seen for the first time in months as police serve them with two search warrants in Kauai. Lori is also served with a court order to produce the children to authorities in Idaho in five days. The couple are approached by the media while officers serve the documents and refuse to say anything about the children.
January 30: Lori misses the court deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities.
February 20: Lori is arrested in Kauai and charged with two felony counts for desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, and one misdemeanor count each for resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime, and contempt of court.
March 5: Lori is extradited to Idaho, where she is held on $1million bond at Madison County Jail.
March 17: Lori professes her innocence in a statement through her attorney as two other members of her defense team quit and the judge removes himself from the case.
March 24: Court documents filed in the divorce of Lori’s niece Melani and her husband Brandon Boudreaux allege that Lori told people she believed her children were zombies before they disappeared.
April 9: Authorities reveal they are investigating Lori and Chad for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with Tammy’s death.
May 25: Idaho police issue a statement expressing hope that the kids will be found safe on what would have been JJ’s eighth birthday.
June 9: Police search Chad’s home in Salem for the second time and discover human remains in the backyard. Chad is taken into police custody and charged with destruction or concealment of evidence.