Lori Vallow had two alleged accomplices in her children’s murders. One will never face justice

Tylee Ryan, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and their uncle Alex Cox on the day that Tylee was killed  (Handout)
Tylee Ryan, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and their uncle Alex Cox on the day that Tylee was killed (Handout)

More than three years after her children JJ Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16, were brutally murdered and dumped in shallow graves on her new lover’s property, Lori Vallow has finally been held to account.

The 49-year-old mother-of-three was found guilty on Friday (12 May) of the murders of her two children as well as conspiracy to murder them and Chad Daybell’s first wife Tammy Daybell.

Now that she is facing life in prison for her crimes, attention turns to Mr Daybell, who has been behind bars awaiting trial since June 2020.

The doomsday book author is also charged with conspiracy to murder as well as first-degree murder of all three victims.

After his case was severed from Vallow’s just weeks before the trial was due to start in April, Mr Daybell is now expected to have his day in court in June 2024.

But what about the one who got away?

The “doomsday cult” couple had a third – lesser-known – alleged accomplice who also conspired with them to kill as part of their bizarre cult beliefs and for monetary greed.

That third co-conspirator was Vallow’s brother Alex Cox – a man who can never be brought to justice as he mysteriously dropped dead as the net closed in.

Cox mysteriously died in December 2019 at the age of 51.

His death has been ruled natural causes, with indications of a blood clot wedged in the arteries of his lungs.

However, the overdose drug Narcan was also found in his system.

The timing of his death was especially curious.

Alex Cox died suddenly in December 2019 – two months after allegedly conspiring to murder the children (File)
Alex Cox died suddenly in December 2019 – two months after allegedly conspiring to murder the children (File)

It was five months after Cox shot dead Vallow’s fourth husband Charles Vallow.

It was two months after the children’s murders, one month after Tammy’s murder.

And it was just hours after Tammy’s body was exhumed by investigators who had become increasingly suspicious about her death.

Cox has taken his story of what happened to the grave. But what part did he play in this shocking, tragic saga of murder, death and doomsday beliefs?

Was he an equal co-conspirator along with Vallow and Mr Daybell?

Or was he in fact – as he feared – the “fall guy” used by the doomsday couple to keep their own hands clean?

Unlike Vallow and Mr Daybell – where the evidence is largely circumstantial – Cox can be directly placed at most, if not all of the murders.

First, there was the fatal shooting of his sister’s fourth husband – and JJ’s adoptive father – Charles Vallow, whom Cox shot and killed at Vallow’s home in Chandler, Arizona, in July 2019.

Cox never denied that it was him who pulled the trigger.

He called 911 that day and claimed that he shot Charles when he attacked him with a baseball bat.

At the time, the case was closed as self-defence but, after it was reopened, investigators found that the siblings allegedly conspired to kill her husband to get him out of the way, with Vallow now facing charges in Arizona of conspiring with Cox to murder Charles.

Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow (Family handout)
Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow (Family handout)

Then, in the September 2019 murders of JJ and Tylee, Cox’s cellphone placed him – and him alone – at the scene of the crimes.

Tylee was last seen alive on 8 September 2019 when she, JJ, Vallow and Cox visited Yellowstone National Park before the teenager returned to her mother’s apartment.

Cellphone data presented at Vallow’s trial showed Cox at Vallow’s apartment for six hours from around 2.45am on 9 September – behaviour that did not match his normal habits.

At 9am, he then left the home and travelled to Mr Daybell’s property where he stayed until around 11.45am. Minutes later, Mr Daybell texted his wife Tammy that he had shot a raccoon and buried it on their pet cemetery.

Nine months later, in June 2020, Tylee’s burned and partly dismembered remains were found buried in that same location on the pet cemetery.

Days after Tylee’s murder, JJ was last seen alive on 22 September 2019, with a photo capturing the little boy in his pyjamas at his mom’s house.

That night, cellphone data showed Cox moving back and forth between his apartment and Vallow’s before once again traveling to Mr Daybell’s property just before 10am on 23 September.

He stayed just 17 minutes, with the data showing him close to a pond.

That same location was where JJ’s remains were found buried in a shallow grave months later.

Prints on the plastic bag and tape used to smother the boy belonged to his uncle.

Cox can also be tied to Tammy’s murder with cellphone data placing him near the scene at the time she was killed.

Jurors heard how his phone pinged at a church about two miles from Mr Daybell’s property on the night of 19 October 2019 – a location where Cox knew no one else.

The next morning, Mr Daybell and one of the couple’s sons called 911 reporting that Tammy was dead.

While the evidence all points to Cox being directly involved in each of the victims’ murders, prosecutors say that he was “groomed” and “manipulated” to do his sister’s bidding.

“They used religion as a tool to manipulate others. Lori manipulated Alex Cox through religion,” prosecutor Rob Wood said in closing arguments for the state.

Mr Wood pointed to text messages showing how Vallow was “grooming” her brother Cox, including one message where she praised his silence with the phrase: “Good boy.”

Lori Vallow in court in 2020 (AP)
Lori Vallow in court in 2020 (AP)

“Lori Vallow is telling Alex Cox what to do. You never see Alex tell her what to do. She is always telling him what to do,” he told jurors.

The story went that Vallow and Mr Daybell were driven by “money, power, and sex” – and Cox was just brought along for the ride.

“Beginning in October 2018, Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell set in motion events,” Mr Wood said.

“Along the way, they included her brother Alex Cox to participate in a conspiracy unencumbered and free of obstacles.

“This plan was driven by Lori Vallow’s desire for and use of money, power and sex.”

Just before he died, Cox appeared to hint that he felt he had been used by his sister and her new lover.

As Tammy’s body was being exhumed from the ground, Cox’s wife Zulema Pastenes testified that he said: “I think I am being their fall guy.”

When she asked him what he would be the “fall guy” for, he wouldn’t say. The next day, he was dead.

While both Vallow and Mr Daybell allegedly collaborated in the heinous plot, the prosecutor said “Lori Vallow is the one that ties this all together”.

“She is a killer. Lori is the connection to the deaths,” he said.

Vallow’s attorney meanwhile argued that it was Mr Daybell who was the ringleader of the plot and that everything changed when he came into the mother-of-three’s life.

From then on, Ms Vallow was “under the control” of the doomsday author, under the spell of the “craziness” of his cult beliefs.

“Is Lori a leader or a follower of Chad? She so wants to be a leader but she’s not leading anyone,” said defence attorney Jim Archibald.

“She’s following Chad. She thinks Chad is following Jesus but he’s not. He’s unfortunately being led by the storm – not the first guy to be led by the storm.”

Curiously – perhaps tellingly – neither side chose to point the finger at the easy target, that is the third alleged accomplice Cox.

At the one co-conspirator who cannot defend himself.

Who cannot tell his side of the story.