Sins of Our Mother: The Harrowing True Story of Lori Vallow the 'Cult Mum'

Netflix's new three-part documentary covers an ongoing murder case.
IMAGE COURTESY OF NETFLIX

The world of true-crime documentaries has seen some incomprehensibly horrific stories of late, but Netflix’s newest series, Sins Of Our Mother, is particularly chilling. It examines the case of a mother, Lori Vallow, apparently brainwashed by a cult leader, and accused of killing two of her children.

It’s still an on-going court case in the US, and has understandably attracted a lot of attention. Director Skye Borgman, who has been behind two other big real-life crime stories for the streamer recently, Girl In The Picture and I Just Killed My Dad, is once again on reporting duties for this three-part documentary, which tells the story mainly through the lens of Vallow’s surviving son, Colby.

Who is Lori Vallow?

Vallow, born Lori Cox, was brought up in San Bernardino, California, and married twice while young. In her second marriage to William Lagioia, they had a son—Colby, who is interviewed throughout the documentary—in 1996, but they divorced two years later.

Vallow then married Joseph Anthony Ryan Jr. in 2001, and Ryan adopted Colby as his own son. Vallow and Ryan gave birth to their daughter, Tylee, in 2002. They split in 2005, and a year later she married Charles Vallow, and together they adopted his grand-nephew Joshua Jaxon ‘J.J.’ Vallow.

Up to this point, Vallow was seen as a picture-perfect mom, and there’s footage of her in the documentary around this time saying: “Being a good mum and a good wife is very important to me.” Her son Colby adds: “We had a wonderful family before this happened.”

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Photo by COURTESY OF NETFLIX.

Enter Chad Daybell

In 2015, Vallow reportedly started reading literature published by the religious preacher Chad Daybell, who believed that the apocalypse was coming, and who believed that humans could be graded from light to dark. The ‘dark’ individuals were possessed by the devil, while those who were ‘light’ were “followers of Jesus Christ”.

The pair met for the first time in 2018 in a Preparing The People event in Arizona, where Daybell told Vallow that they had been married in seven lifetimes. A few months later in 2019, she grew distant from her family, and according to J.J.’s grandparents Larry Woodcock and Kay Vallow Woodcock on KLSTV, she “simply vanished. For 58 days she was completely gone.”

At this point, in February 2019, Charles Vallow filed for divorce and claimed Lori had threatened to murder him and had taken $35,000 from their bank account. He filed for an order of protection against Lori, according to ABC15, due to “genuine fear for his life”.

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That fear was not unfounded, as five months later, Charles was murdered by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox. Cox claimed it was self-defense after Charles hit him with a baseball bat. Remarkably, the police did not pursue the matter further.

In September 2019, Lori Vallow told J.J.'s school that she would be withdrawing him for homeschooling, and he wasn’t seen from 23 September. Tylee was last seen in public on 8 September.

Photo by COURTESY OF NETFLIX.

Meanwhile, in October, Daybell’s wife, Tammy, died in highly suspicious circumstances. Ten days after calling police and telling them that a masked intruder had tried to shoot her, she died of “natural causes”, according to Daybell. There was no autopsy or post-mortem carried out at the time, but her body was later exhumed and an investigation carried out. Results were never made public but the case was reopened.

Two weeks later, Lori Vallow and Daybell fled to Hawaii and were married, without J.J. or Tylee being present. Back in Rexburg, police were called to do a welfare check when J.J.’s grandmother raised the alarm that he hadn’t been seen in weeks. Lori Vallow told police he was with family in Arizona, and with the help of her brother, packed up the house and fled the next day, with the FBI on their case.

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For the next three months, they evaded authorities, until a Rexburg storage locker owned by Lori Vallow was searched. In it, they found the children’s clothing, bikes, and photographs. Video footage also showed Vallow and her brother moving items in and out of the locker prior to them fleeing. Vallow and Daybell were arrested on February 20, 2020 and in June 2020, a search of Daybell’s home found human remains buried in a pet cemetery, which were later confirmed to be that of J.J. and Tylee.

Where does the case stand now?

In March 2021, Vallow and Daybell were charged with the murders of Tamara, Tylee, and J.J. In June 2021, Lori Vallow was indicted by Arizona grand jury on conspiracy to murder her husband Charles. Vallow herself had previously been declared incompetent to stand trial due to mental health issues, but as of April 2022, she has been declared competent. Both Vallow and Daybell have pleaded not guilty, and their cases will be tried together in January 2023.

What does the director say about the documentary series?

In an interview with E! News, Borgman said: “Lori Vallow has many faces. That of a mother, sister, wife…and liar. I don’t know if we will ever know exactly what motivated Lori to commit such unspeakable crimes. But to formulate any answer we must look at Lori through the eyes of the people who knew her best.”

FromEsquire UK

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