Two months ago, police conducted a welfare check on 7-year-old J.J. Vallow whose grandparents had been trying unsuccessfully to reach him for weeks.
J.J.’s mother Lori Vallow, and her new husband, Chad Daybell, lied to police, telling them that J.J. and his 17-year-old sister Tylee Ryan were with relatives in Arizona. But when police checked that story and learned it was a lie, they went back to Vallow’s townhome in Rexburg to follow up.
No one was home. Vallow and Daybell had fled the city. That Nov. 26 welfare check was the last the public saw of the couple until this past weekend. Neither Tylee nor J.J. has been seen in public since September.
On Saturday, law enforcement in Princeville, Hawaii, served Vallow with a court order demanding that she “physically produce Tylee and J.J. to the Idaho Department of Welfare in Rexburg, Idaho, or to the Rexburg Police within five days of being served with the order.”
Those five days are up on Thursday. Here are three different ways in which the situation could play out in the legal system.
Scenario 1: Lori Vallow remains in Hawaii and ignores the court order
According to Rexburg Police, failure to comply with this order may subject Vallow to civil or criminal contempt of court. If Vallow is found in contempt, it will be left up to a judge to determine what penalty to impose on her. The judge’s decision could include extraditing Vallow from Hawaii to Rexburg.
Samuel Newton, assistant professor of law at the University of Idaho, speculated whether a judge would find extradition worth it. In Idaho, contempt of court is a misdemeanor. Per Idaho law, a misdemeanor for contempt carries a penalty of an up to $5,000 fine, a maximum of five days in jail, or both. Newton wondered whether it would be worth spending the money to extradite Vallow when she may simply choose to receive the relatively minor penalty and return to Hawaii or elsewhere afterward.
Barbara Babb, associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore and prominent American family law scholar, thought the court may still choose to pursue contempt charges that involve law enforcement extraditing Vallow and forcing her to appear before the Madison County court.
“It depends on how badly Idaho wants to find the kids. … It sounds like it’s a famous case in Idaho, so they might spend the funds to do that. (Extradition) is their best hope to try to find the kids and figure out what happened to them,” Babb said.
Once Vallow is before the court, Babb noted, the court can issue further orders in addition to the child protective action. Further orders could involve incarcerating Vallow, possibly until she agrees to cooperate in finding the children.
Scenario 2: Lori Vallow shows up to court but without the children
The court could then find Vallow in contempt of court. She could choose to either serve the contempt penalty or cooperate with the courts to produce the children. Should she fulfill the penalty rather than show the children, the criminal justice system would need to then bring new charges against her in order to take further action, said Babb. If further charges are brought against Vallow, she may be incarcerated at that time.
Due to the many deaths surrounding Vallow , if the children are never produced, many have suggested the charge could ultimately be murder. Babb noted that there have been instances of murder charges being brought without a body.
Vallow’s former husband Charles was killed in July in Arizona during an argument with her brother Alex Cox. Cox died in December of unknown causes. And Daybell’s former wife Tammy died at her Salem home in October in what police have described as suspicious circumstances. Autopsies are pending on both Cox and Tammy Daybell.
Scenario 3: Lori Vallow shows up to court with the children
There is always the chance Vallow will physically produce J.J. and Tylee to the Madison County court in Rexburg on Thursday. At that point, provided the children are proven to be safe and healthy, all investigation into J.J. and Tylee would most likely cease, Babb said. Obstruction of justice or other charges would be unlikely.
“The court has no jurisdiction regarding children unless they have been abused or neglected,” Babb said.
Some have speculated that Vallow is hiding the children due to custody issues involving J.J.
“People do crazy things around families and it’s not out of the realm of possibility. (Vallow) may be afraid she is going to lose custody, or she may not want the grandparents involved in the children’s lives,” Babb said.
In that scenario, though the investigation into Vallow or Chad Daybell regarding Tylee and J.J.’s disappearance would most likely be dropped, later charges could still come out of autopsy results regarding Charles Vallow (deceased husband of Lori), Tammy Daybell (deceased wife of Chad), and Alex Cox (deceased brother of Lori) if foul play is confirmed.