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Colby Ryan, 26, has told how his mother Lori Vallow refused for four months to tell him what had happened to his sister and brother. He then found out the children had been murdered
The only surviving child of a California mother accused of murdering her two children as part of an apocalyptic ritual killing has said she refused to tell him what had happened to them, only saying: ‘Everything’s going to be revealed soon’.
Colby Ryan, 26, said he was still struggling to accept the charges against his mother Lori Vallow, 48, who faces the death penalty if convicted of her children’s murder.
Vallow is due to go on trial in Idaho in October.
Ryan’s siblings Tylee, 16, and seven-year-old J.J. were found dead in June 2020 at the Idaho farm owned by Vallow’s fifth husband, Chad Daybell.
He is also on trial for their murder, and shared with Vallow doomsday cult beliefs – convinced that Tylee and J.J. were possessed, and the only way to ‘free’ them was to kill them.
Ryan on Monday said that his mother refused to tell him what happened to his siblings, who vanished in September 2019, for months after their disappearance.
Lori Vallow pleaded not guilty to murdering her children during a court appearance in April
Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow, left, and Tylee Ryan, right, were last seen in September 2019. Their bodies were eventually discovered buried on Chad Daybell’s property after a nine-month search
Vallow was arrested, along with Daybell, in February 2020. The children’s bodies were discovered in June of that year.
‘I asked her 100 times: ‘what’s going on?” Ryan told The US Sun.
‘And the only answer I ever got was: ‘everything’s going to be revealed soon.’
‘So I just left. It was always a question mark – you couldn’t get a straight answer.’
Ryan – who has written a new book about his experiences and how his faith has helped him, The God Over Odds – said that he asked her for months where the children were, after they vanished in September 2019.
‘Pretty early on I reached out to my mom and she was being really shady about it before she cut everybody – including me – off,’ he said.
‘And then obviously, you’re going to start questioning: ‘Is everyone alive? Are they okay? What if the worst has happened?’
‘But you can’t think like that.’
JJ and Tylee are seen smiling and hugging while standing on a boardwalk in front of a thermal feature at Yellowstone National Park in Idaho on September 8, 2019, with their uncle Alex Cox. It would be the last time that Tylee was seen alive
Lori Vallow (left) and Chad Daybell (right) were said to have extreme religious beliefs. Detectives believe the couple’s ‘belief system, lust and greed’ also led to the deaths of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow
He said he never believed his mother, who he was close to, was capable of murder.
He never knew his biological father, and he and his mother moved frequently around the country.
‘I think she leaned on me for emotional support, almost like a sidekick,’ he said.
‘So that kind of forced me to grow up a little bit faster.
‘And her and I just had this bond that was more like friends. She would take me to do fun stuff, she took care of me, and it was just me and her – we kind of faced everything together.’
He said their bond frayed with her third marriage, in 2001, to Joseph Ryan – Tylee’s biological father – who physically and sexually abused him.
In 2006, Vallow married for a fourth time, to Charles Vallow.
But her fixation with doomsday cults began to deepen, and Ryan soon moved out.
‘It was kind of early on,’ Ryan said.
‘I’m not exactly sure when it started but probably when I was around 11.
‘I was never brought into it, really. I definitely feared it [the end times] because I heard it from her and because I trusted her.
‘But as I grew up, probably around 17 or 18, I was like: ‘I’m just going to live my life the way I can’.
‘I can’t live a life of impending fear of something happening. I can’t live like that. It’s an anxious life. So I never bought into any of the ideas that it was going to happen.’
In this June 9, 2020, aerial photo, investigators search for the human remains of JJ and Tylee at Chad Daybell’s residence in the 200 block of 1900 east, in Salem, Idaho
When Ryan learnt of his mother’s crimes, he was overcome with anger, he told The Sun.
‘They took my family away from me, they took them away from everybody else that loved them,’ he said.
‘It’s one of the most painful things ever to hear, to hear details about how your own people, that you grew up around and loved, killed your own family.’
He contemplated finding a way of seeking revenge, but realized it was not the answer.
‘I was very angry. I was hurt. I was uncomfortable. I was sick to my stomach all the time, and there was just this weight hanging over me,’ he said.
And the father of two said he was constantly aware of the absence of his brother and sister.
‘I miss them all the time.
‘I wish they were here to experience my family. I just miss their presence, like just being in a house together, having fun, and sharing our lives together.
‘[But] part of you needs [to let go].
‘Because if you’re holding on to like, ‘I just wish you were here,’ there’s almost no movement, you’re never getting out of that spot – it just keeps you in that graveyard.
‘So I love them and miss them all the time. But I also have to take an acceptance that they’re not here. And that was definitely hard.’
His mother could face the death penalty if convicted – something Ryan said is ‘hard’ to accept, but an inescapable fact.
‘It’s hard to hear that they would do that with my mom,’ he said.
‘But again, it’s out of my hands and always has been.
‘I’ve given up the fact that no matter what happens, it’s not going to change anything.
‘So I know they’re in jail, I know they can’t hurt anybody, and that’s the best I can possibly ask for.’
Timeline of Lori Vallow’s and Chad Daybell’s alleged crimes
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, 2019: Lori moves children JJ and Tylee to Rexburg, Idaho, close to where her future husband Chad Daybell lives with his wife Tammy.
September 8, 2019: Tylee is seen alive for the last time during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Lori, JJ and Alex. In the following weeks Lori tells people that her daughter is studying at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus.
September 23, 2019: The last time JJ is seen at his school in Rexburg. Lori emails the school the following day claiming she is moving the family to California for a new job.
October 2, 2019: Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori’s niece Melani 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, 2019: 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 due to natural causes.
October 25, 2019: 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, 2019: 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, 2019: 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 Tylee, since September.
November 27, 2019: Police execute a search warrant related to the children at Lori’s home and discover that she and Chad have fled Idaho.
December 11, 2019: Tammy’s body is exhumed from a Utah cemetery and her death is reclassified as suspicious.
December 12, 2019: Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, is found dead in a bathroom in his Arizona home. Months later an autopsy determines that he died of natural causes while he had the overdose drug Narcan in his system.
December 21, 2019: 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, 2019: 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, 2019: 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, 2020: 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, 2020: Lori misses the court deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities.
February 20, 2020: 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, 2020: Lori is extradited to Idaho, where she is held on $1million bond at Madison County Jail.
March 17, 2020: 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, 2020: 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, 2020: Authorities reveal they are investigating Lori and Chad for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with Tammy’s death.
June 9, 2020: 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.
May 25, 2021: Lori and Chad are charged with first degree murder in the deaths of the children. Chad is also charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife Tammy.
May 27, 2021: Lori is deemed incompetent to stand trial on the murder charges in Idaho.
August 5, 2021: Prosecution announces it will seek the death penalty for Chad.
April 11, 2022: Lori is restored competency. Criminal proceedings against her in Ohio are ordered to continue.
April 14, 2022: Lori is taken to the Madison County Jail in Rexburg, Idaho, by Fremont County Sheriff officers