‘Sins of Our Mother’: Netflix doc traces Lori Vallow’s descent from doting mom to delusional crackpot to suspected killer
Family members describe alarming changes in the woman now charged with killing two of her children.
We’re now up to four streaming series in 2022 about scandals and killings involving members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints or offshoots of the church — four separate stories that played out over various periods.
- In March, Netflix premiered the documentary series “Murder Among the Mormons,” about Mark Hoffman, a forger who created historical documents changing the narrative of Mormon history. In the 1980s, Hoffman planted bombs that killed two people and injured another.
- April brought the release of the FX on Hulu dramatic series “Under the Banner of Heaven,” the story of two brothers who were members of a radical Mormon splinter group and in 1984 killed their sister-in-law and her infant daughter.
A three-part documentary available Wednesday on Netflix.
- In June, Netflix released the four-part documentary series “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey,” a deep dive into the horrific history of a polygamist group of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
- Now comes the three-part Netflix series “Sins of Our Mother,” which revisits a case that made national news in 2019 and 2020, when 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and her 6-year-old brother J.J. Vallow went missing, as their mother Lori Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell refused to cooperate with the investigation. (Vallow and Daybell claimed to be “true Mormons” but became members of a doomsday cult with beliefs radically different from the modern-day Mormon church.)
Nearly a year after the children were last seen, authorities pieced together enough evidence to conduct a search of Daybells’ property in Rexburg, Idaho, where they found the partially burnt remains of both children. Vallow and Daybell face trial for murder next year.
It’s a grisly, horrifying, chilling story with a long, complex and at times insane buildup. Director Skye Borgman (“Abducted in Plain Sight,” “The Girl in the Picture”) solidifies her standing as a master of this genre, skillfully weaving together present-day interviews with Vallow’s son Colby and her mother Janis Cox as well as investigative journalists and others close to the case; home video of the family; police bodycam footage from calls involving Vallow; news footage; and jaw-dropping audio of Vallow on phone calls and podcast recordings.
We see Vallow looking like an All-American blonde as she competes in the Mrs. Texas pageant and appearing on “Wheel of Fortune,” see home video in which she dotes on her children — and then watch it all unravel.
Vallow falls into a delusional world in which she considers herself to be “a resurrected being and a god,” as a former husband once told police, and comes to believe some of the people closest to her have been possessed by evil spirits and become zombies.
“I no longer need to sleep very much become I am woken up constantly by angels giving me instructions on things that I can do to help further the father’s work,” Vallow says in an audio recording. “The time is now. The Lord is gathering his people.”
Her son Colby talks of the alarming changes in his mother’s behavior, as she stockpiles tents and supplies of powdered food and talked of the coming End Times. Vallow tells family members her husband Charles is dead, and a demon is using his body as a host. In July 2019, her brother Alex Cox shoots and kills Charles, saying he acted in self-defense.
Vallow eventually takes up with Chad Daybell, who proclaims that Rexburg, Idaho, is the new Jerusalem and that his books are Scripture and should be taken on the same level as the Book of Mormon.In November 2019, two weeks after the memorial service for Daybell’s wife Tammy, he and Lori Vallow get married in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, we see texts from Vallow talking about how she wants to “get rid of Z’s,” as in zombies, and a list in which her own daughter is marked as a “4.1 D,” as in Dark Spirit.
By this time, the children have been missing for months. A TV reporter finds Daybell and Vallow in Hawaii and says, “They’ve been missing for four months, and you have nothing to say?” They don’t.
After Vallow refuses to comply with a court order to physically produce her children, she is returned to Idaho to face charges.The FBI uses information retrieved from the cell phone of her deceased brother, which leads to the search warrant for Daybell’s property and the discovery of the children’s remains.
Says Lori Vallow’s mother Janis Cox, who had gone on TV a number of times to defend her daughter when the children were still missing: “I said I knew Lori couldn’t hurt her kids. I was wrong.”