Lori Vallow Daybell’s cousin: Family dynamic, outlandish religious beliefs to blame

Posted at 12:28 PM, April 28, 2023 and last updated 8:58 AM, May 3, 2023

BOISE, Idaho (Court TV) — Lori Vallow Daybell is standing trial on accusations that she killed her two children and conspired to kill her fifth husband’s previous wife.

The so-called ‘Doomsday Cult Mom’ has pleaded guilty to six charges in Idaho, in a trial that is centered on religious beliefs.

Lori Vallow Daybell appears in court Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Lori Vallow Daybell appears in court Tuesday, April 25, 2023, during her murder trial in Ada County, Idaho. (Liz Cheney)

LISTEN: ID v. Lori Vallow Daybell, Doomsday Cult Mom Murder Trial

In a recent exclusive interview, Court TV crime and justice correspondent Matt Johnson spoke to Lori Vallow Daybell’s cousin, Megan Eyden.

Eyden detailed the family’s dynamic, Lori’s life before and after meeting Chad Daybell, and how the family is handling the trial.

*Written transcription edited from video for length*

MJ: Tell me how you’re connected to the family, how you’re related to Lori and the family dynamic.

ME: Lori is my cousin, my dad is Janice’s younger brother. Lori, Summer and I spent a lot of time growing up together.

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MJ: When was the last time you spoke with Lori?

ME: It’s been several years. She used to do my hair when she was still living in Austin, but we fell out of touch. Summer and I kept in touch in social media for a lot of years and we sort of lost touch through this whole process, and haven’t spoke too much to that side of the family since all this start unfolding.

MJ: I imagine it’s been tough on the family. You mentioned Summer, she testified in tears yesterday. I imagine it’s been tough on you and the rest of the family.

ME: It’s heartbreaking for all of us. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve seen and heard comments from other family members and all of us are having a really hard time wrapping our brains around it, and I think we’re all dealing with it in different ways.

MJ: I imagine it’s also tough because it’s such a high-profile case and involving children and such, you know, it’s just awful all the way around. So I’m sure there’s lots of speculation and you’re inundated with people trying to reach out. What has that been like for you?

ME: When this first all started and there was a lot of speculation, that was why I really turned off the media…and didn’t really watch a whole lot of that because at the time, it was all speculation. None of us really knew exactly what was going on and Lori, herself, was cut off from her own family and they didn’t know. So, we were all trying to piece things together in our own way and I didn’t pay attention to media coverage because it made it harder for me to process everything. Once the children were found, it became easier to discern fact from fiction pretty quickly. And different family members would text me what to read or watch or listen to, and that was helpful to understand what was going on. I’m watching the trial now to fill in the gaps of what I still don’t understand and that’s my main reason for watching the trial is I wanted to hear the facts and not just listen to speculation on the news.

MJ: Have you learned anything by listening or watching the trial coverage?

ME: I’m really listening to just the audio of the trial for the most part to listen to witnesses, and not commentary on what other people think. It has been helpful to help fill in gaps of things that I didn’t know or understand before. But I think there’s still a lot of unanswered questions. We probably will never really know the answers regardless of what the outcome of the trial is. So, that part is kind of tough and it’s heartbreaking to hear the details of what really happened to the kids, and what part different people have played in that. It’s been awful to hear. To hear Colby and Summer testify and to hear their calls to Lori and how heartbreaking all of that is. It’s just incredibly difficult to have this be part of your family story.

MJ: Do you have any desire to be in Idaho?

ME: I can’t see how that would be helpful or healthy at this point. I just don’t see how sitting in the courtroom would really be helpful. I’m fine where I am, where I’ve got my support system here and my network of people here, my chosen family here, and they’re helping me process through it here.

MJ: Any indication of who might be supporting Lori?

ME: As far as in the courtroom, I know my uncle was there yesterday with his daughters and of course Summer was there. I echo the sentiment that Rex expressed yesterday that we’re all anxious for justice to be served, whatever that looks like. And it’s hard for me to say what I think that just should be. I’m glad that I’m not the one who has to make that choice.

MJ: When was there a change in Lori that was noticeable for people?

ME:  I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard other family members say that around 2018, she started listening to podcasts and reading books that were sort of outside the mainstream religion. And that seemed to be when the change started to take place. I know that she met Chad after that started happening.

MJ: How was the family handling the call for action ‘where are the children’ when we didn’t have answers when they were missing?

ME: I can only speak for myself there obviously because I wasn’t with the other part of the family. But for me personally, I would post things on Facebook asking for helping, asking people to come forward if they’ve seen or heard something. And there were some family members who believed that Lori was not involved in their disappearance or believed that she was protecting the children somehow. I got blocked from some of my family members on social media, I think, because of my activism and trying to find the kids. So, there were two sides to it. People who wanted to protect and defend Lori’s reputation and those of us who didn’t really care about the reputation, we just wanted the kids found.

MJ: This trial isn’t involving the death of Charles Vallow but we’re hearing testimony about him. Is there anything else that you can share about him, or any of Lori’s other husbands?

ME: I only interacted with (Joseph Ryan) a couple of times. I only met Charles (Vallow) one time so, I can’t really speak to that. I do know that, by all accounts, Charles really loved Lori deeply and cared about her very deeply. He was a great guy and a loving father. When he was killed, there was definitely a split of people in the family who believed it was self-defense and then there were some of us who absolutely did not believe that at all. And I was one of those. That part was pretty difficult for all of us.

MJ: What can you tell us about the other brother, Alex Cox? He’s weaved in this trial so much and they’re talking about his belief system, believing Lori. Was he always like that with her? And there’s allegations that they had a weird relationship in other regards. What can you share about him?

ME: In regards to the allegations about their weird relationship, I can confirm that there was a lot of inappropriate lack of boundaries in the family around sexuality. So, I can say that it was just a lack of boundaries in the family that was perpetuated by the parents that I think were pretty awful. But as far as Alex and his personality, when he lived in San Antonio, he and I were relatively close and hung out from time to time. He was always super funny. But again, nothing was off limits. So, whether it was a stupid mistake or your worst traumatic nightmare, it was all fair game for Alex to joke about. There was a lot of dysfunction where that’s concerned too.

MJ: Are you able to elaborate more on their behavior that you’ve noticed?

ME: I didn’t really observe (Lori & Alex) together that much. When I spent time with Lori, it was us and Summer. I briefly lived with Lori and Adam in Austin for a little while, and then Alex lived in San Antonio…I didn’t really see them together that much as adults.

MJ: Tell me more about Lori. What do we not know? Was she a good mother at one point?

ME: I think she really wanted to be a good mother. It’s also the sort of thing where there was a veneer of goodness and light and sunshine and happiness. And I think underneath that was a lot of dysfunction and mental illness, I think personally. I’m not an expert, but I will just say that in my experience dealing with people who are, who have similar personality types, there are two sides to that. One side is the public face that you put on and the other side is what you portray to everybody else. In my experiences with Lori, things were great and fine and wonderful unless you disagreed with her or unless you got on her bad side, then she would lash out and she would get her way no matter what. She was the golden child of the family.

MJ: She was also on Wheel of Fortune and in at least one pageant that I know of. Was she an attention seeker? Did she like the camera?

ME: Yeah, she did. She loved to have her picture taken. She loved to get attention in every possible form. I think there’s a lot about the family dynamic that explains why she behaved that way. I think she was showered with attention in the family because she sort of met the ideal of the beautiful blonde cheerleader. And her parents very much value physical appearance and attractiveness and personality and all of that. She would definitely want to enhance that part of her life so she could feel loved and accepted.

MJ: I’ve seen her in court and when Melanie Gibb testified she was kind of giggling and smirking when she was walking out and then she was laser focused on Melanie’s husband, David Warwick. Things like that. Then we’ve all seen the videos of her smiling in cop cars. Is that a changed Lori for you? Is that kind of how she was?

ME: No, that’s definitely on brand. She loved attention and even now she’s getting a lot of negative attention but attention is attention…I think she’s enjoying being in the spotlight to some degree and knowing that her story is the most important one or thinking that anyway.

MJ: Do you think she’s going to take the stand?

ME: I don’t know. There’s a lot of legal strategy that has to play out here. I’m sure she probably wants to take the stand and tell her story, but I think the defense would probably be pretty worried about what she might say up there. So, I don’t know. I’m not a legal expert so, I can’t speculate.

MJ: Lori’s dad, Barry Cox. What can you share about that part of the family dynamic and Lori’s upbringing?

ME: I think that Barry’s personality had a huge impact on everybody in the family. He was definitely your classic patriarch. He loved to pontificate, quote scripture, tell us his thoughts and opinions on everything. And for awhile there, I was part of a family email chain where he would send these super long emails commenting on politics and how it tied in with religion and all those kind of things. I think his opinions were probably very important to Lori. Certainly any daughter wants to have love and acceptance from their father. I can understand some of her personality traits come from that desire to be acceptable to her dad.

MJ: And what was the lower 95 concept if I’m getting that right?

ME: Barry commented all the time about how 95% of the population are stupid sheep…unattractive, uncreative minds and that we are family. We’re in the upper 5%. We’re more intelligent than everyone. We’re smarter than everybody. We’re better looking than everybody. Just by virtue of the fact that we just are. There is no justification for it. We just are. So it’s troubling. It’s funny and it’s sad. That mentality, you don’t want to believe that somebody thinks that way, but clearly through his actions, he believed he was above the law. He believed he could get away with almost anything. He ended up serving prison time (for tax evasion) and has been under investigation for sexual abuse so, obviously, some it’s hopefully catching up with him now.

MJ: Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you that you’d really like to share?

ME: I think the main thing is that I’m not trying to justify Lori’s actions. I really want people to understand that, I think, this entire situation was caused by a harmful family dynamic that was also mixed with unhealthy religious beliefs that were mixed with outlandish religious beliefs. I really want to prevent things like this from happening again by helping to call attention to the fact that unhealed adults are going to hurt people. And it’s our responsibility as adults to go and get our unmet emotional needs taken care of through therapy and counseling and all those kinds of things, because that’s why we end up in places like this. Generational trauma continues. The cycle continues until somebody decides to break it. And to me that’s the most important thing is to call awareness to that and to help people understand that.