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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, June 13, 2024

'Sins of Our Mother' revisits shocking story of Lori Vallow

The blonde woman standing before a podium answering questions is contestant number 13 in the Mrs. Texas pageant, Lori Ryan. "Being a good mom is very important to me, and a good wife, and a good worker, and being all those things together is not easy, so I'm basically a ticking time bomb," Ryan says with a laugh. 

That was her name at the time, but it wouldn't last — and neither would her marriage. In fact, at the time of the pageant, she was already on her third marriage of five. Lori Vallow, as she was known following her marriage to Charles Vallow, became a household name in September 2019 when her two younger children were reported missing. The story quickly gained traction nationwide when Vallow refused to tell law enforcement her children's whereabouts. By the time police grew suspicious of Lori and went to question her further, she had disappeared. No one had seen her daughter and son, Tylee and J.J., since September.

"Sins of Our Mother" (2022) is a new true crime docuseries on Netflix. It tells the story of Lori Vallow and her family through interviews with her mother Janis, her son Colby, Colby’s wife, Lori’s ex-sister-in-law and others. It's shocking to see family videos and photos of Lori and her kids, smiling and happy, once you know the entire story that captivated true crime communities on the internet. Behind these scenes of domestic bliss are an expansive and complicated Ryan-Vallow family tree, fringe religious beliefs, a flight (by Lori and her fifth husband) from the authorities and many mysterious deaths, including those of two innocent children caught in the middle of this tragic story. 

Charles and Lori Vallow’s blended family included their children from previous marriages and their adopted son, J.J. Charles and Lori’s marriage faltered when Lori met Chad Daybell. Daybell wrote apocalypse-themed novels based on an extreme form of Mormonism, and spoke at doomsday preparedness conferences. When Chad met Lori at one of these conferences, he told her they had been married in numerous past lives. They began a relationship that would lead to mysterious deaths, more than one attempted murder and a jail sentence for them both.

Watching this series, viewers may find it hard to believe none of the plot points were invented in a writer's room. With every new piece of evidence added to the pile, it's even more unbelievable that this woman never raised red flags during her second or third marriages. Before she met Charles, when she adopted J.J. Before Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori’s brother, Alex. Before she left behind a trail of dead bodies.

If you follow true crime, such as the "Serial" (2014–) podcast, or enjoyed “The Tinder Swindler” (2022) when it came out on Netflix earlier this year, go watch "Sins of Our Mother" the next time you need your fix. The seamless editing between news footage, body camera videos and phone recordings, plus the compelling interviews and family videos, tells J.J. and Tylee’s story in the most cohesive, succinct and empathetic manner available online since the story broke back in late 2019.

Summary Whether you’re a true-crime addict or just a curious viewer, this documentary series is so captivating that you won't be able to turn it off!
5 Stars