Open in App
  • Local
  • U.S.
  • Election
  • Politics
  • Crime
  • Sports
  • Lifestyle
  • Education
  • Real Estate
  • Newsletter
  • Court TV

    Lori Vallow Daybell’s sister gives Tylee and JJ a voice

    By Katie McLaughlin,


    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Court TV) — Addressing a packed crowd at CrimeCon in Nashville last weekend, Lori Vallow Daybell ’s sister told heartwarming stories about her murdered niece and nephew, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow.

    Speaking at a panel called “Ties That Bind: When a Family Nightmare Turns into a Horrific Reality,” Summer Shiflet gave the audience a glimpse into what it was like to be a part of Tylee and JJ’s lives.

    Lori Vallow Daybell’s sister, Summer Shiflet (L) speaks to journalist Nate Eaton (R) during CrimeCon 2024 in Nashville.

    “I feel so blessed to have known them,” said Shiflet. “They were incredible, incredible human beings.”

    Even the most avid Courties only saw a select few photos and heard snippets about the children during the trials for Lori and Chad Daybell , who were found guilty of their murders. Attendees relished hearing everyday stories about the kids from Shiflet, who clearly adored them.

    In one anecdote about JJ, she recalled that it was not safe to leave your phone or device out if it had a Target or Amazon app, because he would order $200 worth of plushies and suitcases for himself.

    According to Shiflet, boxes upon boxes would appear on her doorstep as well as Lori’s. She said JJ loved to pack his clothes into suitcases and recalled a time when he was determined to fold every single piece of clothing he had into one little suitcase. The suitcase wouldn’t shut, so Shiflet sat on it so JJ could zip it up.

    Shiflet also gushed about her niece.

    “Tylee was just the best,” she said. “I love her so much. She was very witty, and strong-willed, and outspoken but also so sweet and generous and kind to everybody and she was just such a good person. She was somebody that you would want to know and be friends with. She was a loyal, good friend, and they did not deserve what happened to them. And no matter what happens to Chad Daybell, it’s more merciful than what he did to them.”

    J.J. and Tylee (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children via AP, File)

    WATCH: Doomsday Cult Mom Trial: Remembering Tylee And JJ

    Shiflet’s slice-of-life anecdotes about Tylee and JJ gave the audience a sense of who they were.

    Sadly, before Shiflet gave them a voice, the sparse details the public knew about the kids were grisly and heartbreaking: JJ was asphyxiated with a plastic bag and had duct tape over his mouth when his remains were found. He had scratches on his neck and bruises on his ankles and wrists, where he had been bound by duct tape . People agonized, knowing that the little boy probably fought to get the bag off his head. He was wearing red pajamas, little black Skechers socks, and had been covered with a blue and white child’s blanket.

    Tylee’s case, meanwhile, was so unique that the medical examiner who performed her autopsy had never seen anything like it before. What was left of her charred remains, which were described as “a mass of bone and tissues,” arrived in three separate bags. Her dismembered remains had been so badly burned, stabbed, chopped and shattered that all that remained of the blonde teen girl were bone fragments and clumps of flesh. It wasn’t possible to conclusively determine the cause of death, so it was categorized as “homicide by unspecified means.”

    Coincidentally, Shiflet’s panel took place mere hours after an Idaho jury sentenced Chad to death for the murders of Tylee, JJ, and his first wife, Tammy Daybell.

    Practically reacting in real-time, Shiflet became choked up as she tried to explain how she was feeling.

    “I thought I had no expectation,” she said. “I thought I was fine with whatever they said. But when I heard those words, it was everything I needed to hear.” Her words were met with thunderous applause.

    In a discussion led by news director Nate Eaton, Shiflet spoke publicly for the first time since Lori’s 2020 arrest.


    Lori Vallow Daybell’s sister, Summer Shiflet, brought family photos to the talk she gave at CrimeCon 2024 in Nashville. (Courtesy: Summer Shiflet)

    Eaton began by questioning Shiflet about growing up with Lori. According to Shiflet, she and Lori were the youngest in a family of five. They had wonderful parents and normal 1970s childhoods in Southern California. They were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), but their beliefs were mainstream, and the family adhered to official doctrine — not the radicalized, extremist version that later became associated with Lori’s name.

    Shiflet also described Lori as having formerly been a wonderful mother and wife who doted on her family. Eaton asked Shiflet when she first noticed a shift in Lori’s behavior. Shiflet said that her sister began changing in 2016, at the tail end of Lori’s time living in Hawaii.

    Shiflet detailed how Lori began listening to podcasts hosted by Julie Rowe, reading Rowe’s books and going to her conferences in 2016. Rowe is a self-proclaimed prophetess. She often talks about near-death experiences and claims to have had visions of the second coming.

    “A lot of people think she was into Chad Daybell back then,” said Shiflet, “but I don’t even think she read his books back then. It was Julie Rowe first.”

    Lori and her then-husband, Charles Vallow, relocated to Arizona in 2017. Shiflet said her sister continued to adhere to Rowe’s teachings and got into small squabbles with their mother, but that her behavior did not yet alarm them. In fact, Shiflet said, Lori still took her kids to school, ran errands and cooked dinner. According to Shiflet, rumors that Lori was in the temple all day, every day were greatly exaggerated.

    Shiflet recalled Lori as the fun aunt and mom whose nieces and nephews always wanted to visit.

    “From what I saw,” continued Shiflet, “I always thought her to be a good mom and her kids adored her. My kids adored her.”

    Shiflet also described Lori as having excellent social skills and charisma. By all accounts, Lori was vivacious and naturally drew people in with her charm. She also doted on her kids, and took particularly great care of JJ, who had special needs.


    The family experienced a shock in July 2019 when Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori and Shiflet’s brother, Alex Cox.

    According to Shiflet, Lori and Charles fought a lot in the months leading up to Charles’ death. Shiflet tried to stay out of it, but eventually Charles began “blowing up” her phone. Charles confided in Shiflet, telling her that Lori was claiming to be a god and had gone crazy.

    Once Shiflet got a hold of her sister, Lori said Charles was cheating on her.

    “So, to me it kind of seemed like a natural progression of: Wife says the husband’s cheating and the husband says she’s crazy…so I didn’t know what to think,” explained Shiflet, who continued to try and stay out of it. Particularly because, at that point, she had no inkling that Charles was in danger.

    Shiflet recalled learning of Charles’ death from Alex, who told her that Charles entered his and Lori’s home after the two had had fought on July 11, 2019. Tylee, who was protective of Lori, emerged holding a bat. Alex and Charles had a fistfight and ended up on the floor. Lori told Tylee to go outside, where JJ was, and keep an eye on him.

    According to Shiflet, Tylee said the shots were fired after she exited the home, and that she did not witness the shooting.

    “This is what I’m gonna say about Tylee,” said Shiflet. “I one hundred percent want people to understand this girl had integrity, and this girl was not a liar, and I don’t think her mom could have forced her to say something that wasn’t true. And even if she did, I wouldn’t blame her for it or anything, but in her honor, I’m always going to support what she said. I’m never gonna call her a liar. Ever. She never wavered from her story.”


    Shiflet heard Chad Daybell’s name for the very first time shortly before Charles’ death. She recalled Charles saying that Lori and Chad were having an affair. When Shiflet questioned Lori about the alleged affair, Lori brushed it off by claiming to be great friends with Chad’s wife, Tammy Daybell.

    READ: Doomsday Cult: Who’s who in the world of Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell

    This photo provided by the FBI shows Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow. (FBI)

    Shortly after Charles’ death, Shiflet said that Lori began blowing her off, saying she was too busy to get together. Little did she know that her sister, niece, and nephew had moved from Arizona to Idaho.

    Shiflet finally heard from Lori on Sept. 8, 2019. Lori was vague about her whereabouts, saying only that she had moved out of state and was laying low for a while. That date, Sept. 8, 2019, holds even more significance because it was the last time Tylee was seen alive. It is believed she was buried in a pet cemetery on Chad’s property the next day.

    Shiflet began to worry in mid-September. Tylee barely responded to her texts, which was unusual for her, and when she did, the replies were out of character. But still, Shiflet had no clue that there was any danger.

    Shiflet recalled that her last phone call with Lori prior to her arrest was sometime in the middle of September and that their last texts were exchanged in October. From then on, the two sisters had no contact until Shiflet learned the kids had been reported missing.

    Police spoke to Shiflet on Dec. 19, 2019. The police were the ones to inform Shiflet that her brother, Alex Cox, had died. Shiflet pointed out that while she was in shock, Lori wasn’t concerned about the kids’ well-being.


    “I just want to point out,” Shiflet told the crowd. “The kids were never missing to her!”

    Nate Eaton, who had been extensively covering the case of the missing kids, traveled to Hawaii a couple of weeks later. There, he caught up with Lori and Chad and confronted them. They dodged his questions about where Tylee and JJ were.

    At the time, Shiflet figured that since Lori was in good spirits, the kids had to be safe.

    Graphic autopsy photos of the two children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan were shown in court. Detective Ray Hermosillo also detailed the shocking discovery of charred bone and burned flesh while excavating Chad Daybell’s property. (Court TV)

    “I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that my sister, whom I had known and loved and spent all this time with — she’d been with my kids, I’d been with her kids — it just wasn’t a possibility she would ever hurt them. Ever! I couldn’t fathom it.”

    On June 9, 2020, Shiflet’s worst fears were confirmed when Tylee and JJ’s bodies were found on Chad’s property .

    “It’s still the worst day of my life,” she said. “It’s the day my life went from ‘There’s no way she would ever do anything’ to ‘This happened, and I need to accept that this happened.’ Complete 180 switch for me.”

    About two weeks later, Summer had a gut-wrenching 12-minute phone call with Lori , who was in jail. She pulled no punches, admonishing her sister, shrieking things like:

    “You were dancing on the beach while the kids were in the ground?!”

    And: “There’s nothing OK about killing children. Nothing! And even if you didn’t kill them, and Chad didn’t kill them and Alex didn’t kill them, you threw them away like garbage!”

    Shiflet went on to testify at Lori’s trial and has spoken to her twice since that catastrophic call . The sisters infrequently communicate through an app messaging system available to Lori in prison.

    Shiflet also explained that she learned that Lori had been diagnosed with delusional disorder with grandiose features. Shiflet continually grapples with how Lori went from meeting Chad to murdering her kids in one year.

    “So for me, it’s been helpful to understand her diagnosis and to understand that, in her mind, her reality is as real to her as our reality is to us. And she one hundred percent thinks she is sane. She doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with her. She does not want to be in a hospital. She would prefer jail to a hospital. She doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong.”

    At her sentencing, Lori insisted there were no murders . According to Shiflet, Lori sees herself as an advanced spiritual being, and that the rest of us “can’t possibly understand what she understands but one day we’ll see.”


    Toward the end of the panel, Shiflet took questions from the audience. One woman asked if she was still LDS. She is, but she emphasized that Chad’s “teachings” have no basis in the religion’s tenets. Chad categorized people as light (good) and dark (bad). According to Chad, dark people often become zombies, and doomsday is looming. Shiflet joked that she was glad she made the dark list.

    Lori Vallow Daybell (left) is shown in a March 6, 2020, file photo. Her husband, Chad Daybell, right,
    listens during his preliminary hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho, on Monday, August 3, 2020. The couple are charged with concealing evidence by destroying or hiding the bodies of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan at his eastern Idaho home. (John Roark/Post Register via AP, Pool)

    “My mom’s jealous, by the way, because she remains light.”

    Another attendee asked Shiflet if she thinks Lori’s delusional disorder had been lifelong.

    “My research on delusional disorder is that it’s not a very common diagnosis, but when it does happen, a lot of times it happens in women in their 40s, which she was at the time. And I think it just hit like a storm that she was just starting this delusion.”

    At that point, Eaton interrupted Shiflet to say, “You just said ‘storm.’ ”

    The audience erupted in raucous laughter ( IYKYK ), with the panel ending on somewhat of a lighthearted note.

    Expand All
    Comments / 0
    Add a Comment
    Most Popular newsMost Popular

    Comments / 0