About a month after authorities found Lori Vallow’s long-missing children buried in the backyard of her apocalyptic author husband’s Idaho backyard, her eldest son finally decided to call her in jail to get some answers.
“Do you think you can hide from me?” Colby Ryan, then 24, asked his mother at the start of the August 2020 conversation. “You murdered my siblings.”
The call, which was played Tuesday during Vallow’s trial in Ada County Court, came after a months-long investigation into the whereabouts of 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, who had been officially reported missing in November 2019.
Prosecutors allege that Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, fueled by their doomsday-focused religious beliefs, murdered the two kids—then a month later allegedly conspired to kill Daybell’s first wife, Tammy, for insurance and social security funds before fleeing to Hawaii.
“I have prayed for you in my worst moments,” Ryan told his mother in that jailhouse call, “I have prayed for my siblings who you swore to me were ok. I thought I could trust you. I thought that you were a completely different person.”
On the recording, Vallow insists that her eldest son does not understand what happened to his siblings.
“You don’t even know, you weren’t even there,” Vallow told Ryan on the call.
Vallow has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the deaths of JJ and Tylee and the alleged conspiracy to fatally strangle Tammy Daybell. Defense attorneys contend there is no evidence to prove she played a part and insist she is a “loving” mother with eccentric beliefs.
Ryan is the first family member to take the stand against his mother. As the 27-year-old entered the room on Tuesday, Vallow reportedly mouthed “Oh, my baby”—as he refused to look at her.
Frequently breaking down into tears, Ryan described his relationship with his mother and said that while she had always been religious, she did not speak to him about the bizarre beliefs she adopted later in life.
He also spoke about how close he was to his two half-siblings. The last time Ryan spoke to Tylee, he said, was on Sept. 8, 2019, when they discussed how Vallow had taken control of insurance money left when her former husband was shot dead by her brother in what he claimed was an act of self-defense.
Prosecutors allege that the kids were killed around Sept. 22, 2019, and buried in Daybell’s backyard. Authorities found JJ in a pet cemetery, wrapped in a garbage bag. His older sister was dismembered and buried in a fire pit nearby.
Ryan said around the time of the murders, he had attempted to Facetime and call his sister but only got text messages in return that were “in a different language than how Tylee would talk and type.”
On Nov. 29, 2019, Ryan said, he was contacted by Arizona police seeking the whereabouts of his siblings. He said when he asked Vallow what was going on, his mother would only say that she had moved.
“She just told me she was moving somewhere cold, and it was dangerous for her to tell anybody where she had gone,” Ryan said, adding that for months afterward, until she was arrested in 2020, he was unable to contact Vallow again.
The pair spoke again months after her arrest—the jailhouse call that was recorded Ryan is heard telling Vallow that he prayed for her and that he trusted her—while his mother insisted she didn’t do anything wrong.
“It kills me to watch you take the victim’s route and say this shouldn’t have happened to you when you are telling me that Chad Daybell came into your life and all of a sudden everything changes,” Ryan said at one point. “You lied to me, specifically to me, more times than I can count about this.”
Despite the harsh rebuke, Vallow insists her son does not know what happened and that Jesus is still on her side. Vallow is then heard saying that nobody understands except for Tylee and JJ and that the whole world can judge her because she will “see them again.” Ryan responds by repeatedly begging his mother to explain what happened.
“Why are you following Chad down the rabbit hole? Why would you follow anyone who is not good? How can you follow someone who cannot lead you to salvation in Jesus? You can’t lie to me anymore,” Ryan said. “You can’t hide anymore.”