Strange case of 2 kids who vanished in Idaho takes grim turn

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FILE - This combination of undated file photos released by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children show missing children Joshua Vallow, left, and Tylee Ryan. Investigators returned Tuesday, June 9, 2020 to search the Idaho home of a man with ties to the mysterious disappearance of the two children who haven't been seen since last year. It's the second search of Chad Daybell's home in a case that has vexed investigators for months and attracted worldwide attention. Seven-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Ryan, 17, haven't been seen since September, and police say both Chad and Lori Daybell lied to investigators about the childrens' whereabouts. (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children via AP, File)

BOISE, Idaho – It was the extended family who grew suspicious first, and then at their urging, local police: Seven-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and his 17-year-old sister Tylee Ryan hadn't been seen in far too long, and their mother wouldn't give a straight answer about where they were.

Soon strangers around the world were following the case, transfixed by the increasingly strange circumstances surrounding Lori Vallow Daybell and her new husband, Chad Daybell. The investigation grew to include the mysterious deaths of their former spouses, rumors of doomsday cult-like beliefs and their sudden move to Hawaii.

The case took a grim turn this week when investigators announced they found human remains while searching Chad Daybell's property in rural Idaho. In a field near his house, the FBI and local authorities erected canopies, draped blue tarps on the ground and brought in heavy equipment to dig. Victim advocates began calling family members Tuesday, telling them about the remains.

Relatives released a statement the next day, saying the bodies belonged to JJ and Tylee. But officials have yet to confirm that.

Earlier Wednesday, Chad Daybell was charged with concealing or destroying human remains. His attorney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lori Daybell already has been charged with child abandonment, obstructing an investigation, contempt of court and soliciting a crime. Her attorney has said she intends to defend herself against the charges. The Daybells are both in jail on $1 million bond.

Court documents suggest that things began to unravel for the family early last year, when Lori was still married to Charles Vallow. The couple were estranged, and Vallow had filed for divorce, saying he feared she would kill him and that she had developed cult-like beliefs. He said she claimed to be “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020.”

The family was living in a Phoenix suburb in July when Lori's brother, Alex Cox, shot and killed Vallow. He asserted that the shooting was in self-defense after Vallow came at him with a baseball bat. Police investigated, but the case didn't go far before Cox died of a blood clot in his lung in December.