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Grandmother of Lori Vallow’s murdered son JJ pens emotional essay about ‘unending nightmare’

The grandmother of Lori Vallow’s son opened up about her family’s ‘unending nightmare’ in an emotional essay one year after a multi-state search was launched for the boy and his teenage sister. 

In her essay Kay Woodcock recounted the months she spent praying that her seven-year-old grandson Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and his sister Tylee Ryan would be found safe after they disappeared from Rexburg, Idaho, in September 2019.  

The children were never reported missing by their mother Lori or her husband Chad Daybell, whom she married weeks after the kids vanished.  

It wasn’t until late November 2019 that authorities discovered JJ and Tylee were missing, after Kay contacted police and said she hadn’t heard from them in months. 

Lori and Chad fled Idaho for Hawaii the day after police began asking questions about the kids’ whereabouts. Police put out their first public statement about the case on December 21, 2019, pleading for anyone with information to come forward.  

Six months passed before the search came to a tragic end as JJ and Tylee’s bodies were found buried on Chad’s property in Salem, Idaho. Lori and Chad are now behind bars on felony charges for conspiracy to destroy or conceal evidence.  

On December 21, 2020, Kay published the essay for Elle magazine, in which she vowed to continue her fight to bring justice for the slain children.  

Kay Woodcock opened up about her family’s ‘unending nightmare’ in an emotional essay one year after a multi-state search was launched for her grandson Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and his sister Tylee Ryan. Kay and her husband Larry are pictured with JJ on his fourth birthday in 2016

‘This time last year, I still had hope J.J. was alive,’ Kay opened her essay.

‘My 7-year-old grandson and his 17-year-old sister, Tylee, hadn’t been seen in months, but I wouldn’t allow myself to think the worst. I couldn’t—not until there was proof otherwise.’

‘Then, six months later, we got the proof we needed but never wanted: Tylee and J.J.’s bodies were discovered,’ she said of her and her husband Larry Woodcock.

‘I used to want to know all the details about what happened. The hows and whos and, most importantly, the whys,’ she continued.

‘Now I’m okay not knowing, because I don’t think I could live with the truth if I did. What happened to Tylee and J.J. was so horrific, so evil, that some days it still doesn’t seem real.

‘No one has been held accountable yet, but I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure their killer stays behind bars for life.’

Lori Vallow (pictured) and her fifth husband Chad Daybell are both behind bars awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to hide the remains of her children JJ and Tylee

Chad is pictured in his mugshot

Lori Vallow (left) and her fifth husband Chad Daybell (right) are both behind bars awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to hide the remains of her children JJ and Tylee

Tylee, 16, and JJ, seven, (pictured) were found buried on Chad's property in Salem, Idaho, in June, nine months after they disappeared

Tylee, 16, and JJ, seven, (pictured) were found buried on Chad’s property in Salem, Idaho, in June, nine months after they disappeared 

Kay revealed heartbreaking details about how she’s kept JJ alive in her memory, including by listening to the final voicemail he left his grandparents before she goes to sleep most nights. 

‘Hi! This is J.J. I was just calling to say I love you. Okay, got to go. Bye!’ the seven-year-old says in the message. 

‘When he was taken from us, J.J. was really coming into his own,’ Kay wrote.

‘His sense of humor got sillier by the day, and he loved to read. His all-time favorite book was Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. 

‘Every photo I took of him turned out blurry, because he was constantly running, swimming, and riding his bike around the neighborhood. 

‘When he got tired, he watched YouTube videos of planes taking off. He would have made a great pilot one day. He was so fearless.’ 

'When he was taken from us, J.J. was really coming into his own,' Kay wrote

‘When he was taken from us, J.J. was really coming into his own,’ Kay wrote

'Every photo I took of [JJ] turned out blurry, because he was constantly running, swimming, and riding his bike around the neighborhood,' Kay wrote

‘Every photo I took of [JJ] turned out blurry, because he was constantly running, swimming, and riding his bike around the neighborhood,’ Kay wrote

Tylee and JJ are pictured with their uncle Alex Cox at Yellowstone National Park on September 8, 2019 - the same day Tylee disappeared. JJ was last seen two weeks later

Tylee and JJ are pictured with their uncle Alex Cox at Yellowstone National Park on September 8, 2019 – the same day Tylee disappeared. JJ was last seen two weeks later

JJ entered Kay and Larry’s lives in 2014 when he was adopted by Lori and her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, Kay’s brother.  

Tylee was Lori’s daughter from her third marriage to Joseph Ryan. 

In her essay Kay described Tylee as a ‘sharp, quick-witted spitfire’ and recalled how the fell in love with JJ instantly when he was adopted.  

‘For many years, they seemed like a happy family,’ Kay wrote of Charles, Lori and their children.

‘It wasn’t until 2018 that Charles told us Lori was acting strange. Larry and I don’t like to be nosy, but it got to the point where we realized: “Okay, something strange must be going on.”‘

Charles filed for divorce from Lori in February 2019. In court documents and conversations with law enforcement he revealed that Lori had threatened to kill him because she believed his body had been possessed by evil spirits.

Five months later Charles was shot dead by Lori’s brother Alex Cox at the family’s home in Chandler, Arizona, on July 11, 2019. 

Police initially ruled that Cox acted in self defense and he never faced charges. The case was reopened shortly before Cox himself died in December 2019.  

Kay Woodcock is the sister of Lori's fourth husband Charles Vallow (pictured with Lori in an undated photo). Charles and Lori adopted JJ in 2014

Kay Woodcock is the sister of Lori’s fourth husband Charles Vallow (pictured with Lori in an undated photo). Charles and Lori adopted JJ in 2014

Charles is pictured with JJ at a wedding in January 2018

Charles is pictured with JJ at a wedding in January 2018

After Charles’s death, Lori moved her children to Idaho, where Chad lived, in August 2019.

JJ and Tylee disappeared the next month and were officially classified as missing two months after that.  

‘I’d never been so scared in my life,’ Kay wrote of the moment she learned the kids had vanished. I prayed they were both alive. Maybe they’d gone off the grid? Or gotten lost?’ 

‘This might sound crazy, but I actually hoped they had joined a cult, because at least that would mean they were still breathing.’  

The idea that Tylee and JJ could have joined a cult stemmed from family members’ claims that Lori and Chad were leaders of an extreme religious group dedicated to preparing for Doomsday. 

Kay recalled how she and Larry did everything they could to help police find the kids, offering a monetary award and traveling the country to speak with anyone who might have information.  

‘But the more we found out, the more confusing it all became,’ she wrote. ‘Where were the kids? Who would kidnap them? And why wasn’t Lori cooperating with police?

‘Days passed with no updates, and I started to lose hope. Back then, I thought the worst part of this unending nightmare was the not-knowing.’ 

Kay recalled how she and Larry did everything they could to help police find the kids, offering a $20,000 reward and traveling the country to speak with anyone who might have information. The couple are pictured at a press conference on January 7, 2020

Kay recalled how she and Larry did everything they could to help police find the kids, offering a $20,000 reward and traveling the country to speak with anyone who might have information. The couple are pictured at a press conference on January 7, 2020

Then on June 9, 2020, investigators called Kay and Larry to inform them that human remains had been recovered from Chad’s property.  

‘What they found made me sick to my stomach,’ Kay wrote. ‘It was more horrifying than anything we could have ever imagined. I was so wrong about the “not knowing.” This—this—was the worst part of our unending nightmare.’ 

In the months that followed Kay said she and her husband have sought to find closure, even though ‘there’s still so much to do when it comes to getting justice’. 

Police have yet to charge anyone with murder in JJ and Tylee’s deaths. 

Lori and Chad have maintained their innocence as they sit behind bars awaiting a joint trial, a date for which has not been set. 

Police arrested Lori in February of last year on charges of child abandonment and desertion. After the bodies were found those charges were replaced with two felony counts of conspiracy to destroy or conceal evidence. 

Chad was arrested the day the bodies were found and charged with two counts of destruction or concealment of evidence, along with two counts of conspiracy. 

Both have pleaded not guilty. 

In this aerial photo, investigators search for human remains at Chad Daybell's residence in the 200 block of 1900 East in Salem, Idaho on June 9

In this aerial photo, investigators search for human remains at Chad Daybell’s residence in the 200 block of 1900 East in Salem, Idaho on June 9 

Police have yet to charge anyone with murder in JJ and Tylee's deaths. Lori is seen in court on March 6

Lori and Chad (pictured in court on August 3)  have maintained their innocence as they sit behind bars awaiting a joint trial

Police have yet to charge anyone with murder in JJ and Tylee’s deaths. Lori and Chad have maintained their innocence as they sit behind bars awaiting a joint trial

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.


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