For about four months after Lori Vallow was arrested in Hawaii for refusing to tell authorities the whereabouts of her two children, her sister believed her claims they “were safe.”
But on June 24, 2020, days after authorities found the long-missing children buried at Vallow’s husband’s Idaho home, Summer Shiflet phoned her in jail to say she felt betrayed—and was mad as hell.
“You went off to Hawaii and were dancing on the beach as the kids were [in] the ground,” Shiflet yelled at Vallow, according to EastIdahoNews. “You had to know they were there! I don’t understand! They were just little kids! I don’t understand!”
The call, which was played Tuesday during Vallow’s murder trial in Ada County Court, followed a months-long investigation into the whereabouts of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.
While the children were officially reported missing in December 2019, prosecutors allege that Vallow and husband Chad Daybell, an author of doomsday novels, murdered the kids three months earlier. Then, in November 2019, the religious fanatics allegedly conspired to kill Daybell’s first wife, Tammy, for Social Security and insurance funds before fleeing to Hawaii.
“Lori, if you let this happen to them and put them in the ground like a piece of trash, I don’t know you!” Shiflet told Vallow. “We would have taken them.”
As the call was played in court, Shiflet and several spectators reportedly cried as Vallow looked down. Defense attorneys contend Vallow was a “loving” mother with eccentric beliefs who did not hurt her family.
The second of Vallow’s family members to take the stand, Shiflet admitted to jurors she initially trusted her sister when she was arrested in February for deserting her children.
“I don’t remember the exact wording, but she basically told me she knew where they were and they were safe,” Shiflet testified.
That assurance spurred Shiflet and her mother, Janis Cox, to go on local and national television to defend Vallow after her arrest. But her faith in her sister pivoted on June 2, 2020, when authorities found the children’s bodies in Daybell’s backyard. Authorities say Tylee was dismembered and buried in a fire pit while JJ was in a pet cemetery nearby.
“I felt lied to and my trust in my sister was broken,” Shiflet testified, according to EastIdahoNews.
Shiflet said she accepted Vallow’s request to video chat from jail, which began with her sister asking her how she is. Responding that she is “not good,” Shiflet began to cry and said that she is “willing to listen if you want to talk to me.”
Vallow responded that she doesn’t know anything because she has been in jail—prompting Shiflet to detail how authorities found JJ and Tylee’s remains.
“You didn’t tell us. We are devastated,” Shiflet said.
Getting angrier, Shiflet accused Vallow of keeping her and their mother in the dark and stressed that Vallow cannot expect her to “keep believing” and defending her on TV without an explanation.
“I would love to,” Vallow responded without elaboration. “You don’t think I’m in pain?”
“No, I don’t. You were dancing on the beach, having a great time! You got wedding pictures while your kids are in the ground?” Shiflet responded.
Vallow said she had been “crying on the floor” for her children—and Shiflet then offered a warning about Daybell.
“I am telling you, because I love you with all my heart, please consider that Chad has lied… and you have been deceived and this is not what you think it is,” Shiflet said, adding that even if Vallow didn’t murder her children, she threw them away “like garbage.”
“They were innocent and they were loved,” Shiflet added before the call ended.
The call is the second jailhouse recording between Vallow and a family member that jurors have heard. Last week, Vallow’s son, Colby Ryan, took the stand before prosecutors played a harrowing call with his mother in which he demands answers and gets the same cryptic answers she gave Shiflet.
“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 in the August 2020 call. “You lied to me, specifically to me, more times than I can count about this.”