Lori Vallow's Email Betrayed Her!

Feb 26, 2020




The bizarre case of Lori Vallow has captivated worldwide attention. Her two kids, 7-year old Joshua “JJ” and 17-year old Tylee, haven’t been seen since September 2019. Lori has disobeyed a court order to produce them and she is now in custody for felony child desertion charges.

In July of 2019, Lori’s estranged husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed in Lori’s home. The shooter was Lori’s brother, Alex Cox. Charles was there to take their son JJ to school. Alex claimed that he and Charles got into an argument, and Charles struck him on the back of the head with a baseball bat. Alex then shot Charles twice in the chest, in self-defense. Alex called 911 while Lori took the kids to school. Police responded and interviewed Alex in front of the house. We have the recorded 911 call and we also have the officers video recording of the initial interview with Alex. An analysis of Alex’s statements will be forthcoming soon.

This article will focus on what Lori Vallow revealed in an email she wrote on September 5th. The news media recently posted the email written by Lori Vallow to Life Academy, a school for the developmentally disabled that her 7-year old son “JJ” was attending. The email was sent on September 5th. A few weeks later, JJ disappeared. He was last seen on September 23rd at Lori’s townhome in Rexburg Idaho. Tylee was last seen September 8th, with her mother, Uncle Alex and Brother JJ in Yellowstone National Park.

Consider the context surrounding the email. JJ’s father was shot and killed less than two months earlier. According to JJ’s grandparents, both kids, JJ and Tylee were home at the time of the shooting. On August 30, 2019, Lori gave JJ’s support dog back to the trainer. The next day, they moved to Rexburg Idaho. This context will be key as we unpack Lori’s words.

When a person speaks for themselves, without the influence of anyone else, the words they use give us clean insight into their minds. Their word, will reveal their true intentions, priorities, and how they feel toward others mentioned within their statement. Their words, will also reveal if what they are saying is reliable or not. When we have a statement made from their own words and thoughts, we have a linguistic reflection of their perception of reality at that time. It is not actual reality, but how they view it based upon everything that they know at that time. Since Lori’s email came from her own free editing process, she is going to reveal more about herself than she intended. It is insightful!

A screen shot of the actual email is shown below. The analysis follows:

Since the circumstances in our lives have changed drastically since my husband passed away last month.  I have been offered a job out of state and have had to accept it. 

One of first things noted is that the first sentence seems to end abruptly, without finishing the thought.  In the original news article, the reporter transcribed the original email, but turned the period into a comma.  That seemed to be a logical correction, however, that is exactly how we allow ourselves to be deceived.  That reporter was actually an accomplice to Lori’s deception, and he did it in a way that most of us do every day.  Our brains are very efficient at correcting what might seem to be a simple mistake, whether it be punctuation or in the words.  However, we must keep in mind that there is a reason behind every word and the placement of every period. Sometimes the mistakes might be due to low IQ or lack of education.  By simply scanning the remainder of Lori Vallow’s email, we see that she does know how to spell and punctuate.  We can deduce that Lori is an educated person.  Looking back on the volume of statements we have analyzed; we find that many deceptive statements contain error in punctuation.  This is largely due to the fact that fabricating a story requires extra mental exertion.  As the person concentrates on which words they should use to make their fabrication seem legitimate, they often forget to pay attention to smaller things such as punctuation. A truthful person does not need to exert much mental energy as they have already experienced the incident and do not need to manufacture any part of their story.  

In Lori Vallow’s case, the abrupt end to her sentence is a reflection of the disruption in her mind.  One might argue that she is feeling stress from the death of her estranged husband and the trauma that her kids are dealing with.  If that was the case, we expect to hear a reflection of her concern for her kids.  We expect to hear something of the trauma they are experiencing.  If there is an absence of concern for her kids, it will confront us as something unnatural.  In that same vein of thought, we were confronted by Lori Vallow’s unexpected behavior shortly after her husband’s death.  She was giddy and laughing while speaking with the police.  Later that afternoon, she had a pool party!    That type of behavior violates the basic tenets of human nature within us, and it is concerning.

Continuing on with the first sentence, Since the circumstances in our lives have changed drastically since my husband passed away last month., note the use of the word since at the beginning of her sentence, is used as a reason why, rather than a marking of time.  It is a signal of sensitivity in Lori’s mind.  It is a reason for what is coming, that reason being that “our lives have changed drastically…”  Was the drastic change due to her husband passing away?  That is exactly what Lori would have you believe.  However, that is not what she said.  She used her husband’s passing as a reference point in time.  She did not say due to my husband’s passing last month, our lives have changed drastically.  There is a significant difference in the wording and the meaning. The way Lori worded her first sentence is an indication that she is a skilled and practiced liar.  It is likely true that there has been a drastic change in “our lives,” but it is not due to Charles Vallow’s passing.

Continuing on with the next sentence, I have been offered a job out of state and have had to accept it. Note the passage of time in her language with have been and have had to... Whatever has occurred in her life, has been in the process for some time, longer than the few weeks since Charles Vallow’s passing. Lori is implying that accepting the job is something she was required to do, not something she wanted to do.  She is implying that she had to accept the job because Charles Vallow passed away, yet we now know that is not the case.  We also know that she is a practiced liar.  Even practiced liars cannot keep their brains from exposing them, and we do not have to wait long for Lori to give away another indicator that what she wrote is deceptive.     


We have had to move quickly since the job started ASAP.  So I’m sad to inform you that Joshua won’t be returning this year.

Did you notice the repetition of have had to in her language?   Not only is it the exact words repeated, but it is also a passing of time as well as something she was required to do.  Why did Lori use language that implies she was required to do something she did not want to?  The answer is one of the most powerful sales tricks in the book - emotion.  If Lori can evoke emotions of pity from you the reader, then she has successfully manipulated you.  It is another sign of a practiced liar.  Continuing on, there is incongruence in the remainder of her sentence.  Did you note that she did not take ownership of her job by referring to the job with the pronoun my?  It is merely, the job, which is distancing language.  It is also a sign of possible scripting in her language, which is likely the case since it comes in the same sentence with the repetition of have had to.  There is one more indicator of scripted deception in this sentence; the job started ASAP.  The acronym ASAP stands for, as soon as possible, which is future tense.  Yet, she is implying that the job already started – past tense.  Her words are incongruent, which is one of the signals of deception.   

When someone speaks from experiential knowledge, the language flows smoothly.  In fact, there are usually tangent sensory descriptors that flow contextually with the statement.  Conversely, the words of a deceptive statement come from a vacuum, meaning there is an absence of tangential information and sensory descriptors that corroborate the story.  That is what we have so far in Lori’s email. 


You have been so great to get him in this year and his DDD funding and scholarship have just all finally been settled.  I really appreciate all you have done for JJ.  I will continue to recommend life to all of our friends like I did with …(name redacted).

I’ve underlined key words that provide insight into what is actually going on in Lori’s mind.  The first emphasis is on the words, “get him in.”  This indicates that it was not a simple process and it took some extra effort or concession on the part of the school to get JJ enrolled.  The next word is “settled,” which is also an indication of some level of conflict regarding funding for the school that needed to be settled. We cannot conclude from this writing if the conflict had to do with the school itself, or someone else in the funding process, but we know there was a degree of conflict.  

In the next sentence we have the qualifier, really.  The use of a qualifier simply means that in Lori’s perception, there was not enough believability or linguistic integrity without it.  She needed to strengthen her assertion.      

In the last sentence of this paragraph, we see that Lori did not capitalize “life,” as in Life Academy.  Since she capitalized “DDD” and “JJ,” we can conclude that this was not an oversight.  It is a subtle lack of respect for Life Academy.  The context of that sentence is Lori stating that she will continue to recommend the school to all their friends.  This seems to be a display of good character and good feelings toward the school.  But why did she feel the need to end her sentence with, “like I did with (name withheld).”    This is insightful.  What she is doing here is subtle, but psychologically important for Lori. This is what we refer to as the good guy principle.  It works like this; ask yourself who has a need to portray themselves as the good guy in the midst of traumatic events?  Events that were particularly traumatic for her kids, who witnessed the shooting?  The answer is; someone that knows they are not the good guy, and doesn’t want everyone else to find out.  Someone that needs to psychologically rehabilitate themselves.  Someone that believes the reader might see through her.  By portraying herself as a good person, Lori is focusing the reader’s thoughts on something positive and tangible that she has done.  Another possibility is that Lori does not intend to recommend the school, and this is a way to convince them otherwise.  She needs their cooperation at this time in order to get JJ un-enrolled.   


We are doing our best to adjust to our new life.

This sentence is awkwardly separated out in Lori’s email.  It is another appeal to the reader’s emotion.  

Please let me know what you need me to do to withdraw him.  U can email me a withdrawal form or whatever needs to happen.

Note the capitol U rather than spelling out the word, you.  In today’s world with text messaging and abbreviations used so often, this may seem normal to some.  However, we have to look at the surrounding words.  Did Lori abbreviate like she was writing a text message in any other part of her email?  She didn’t, which makes this significant.  It is another subtle way of disrespecting either the school or the employee she believes will read the email. 


Thank you again Life Academy.  We really loved our time with you.

Notably absent throughout this email, is what JJ is experiencing or feeling.  How much will JJ miss attending the school.  How much will JJ miss seeing his favorite teacher and his friends?    

If life had changed so drastically, why did Lori have a pool party at the same house and on the same day that her husband was shot?  The incongruence cannot be ignored.


Below is a statement released by the CEO of Life Academy.  Note the difference in this statement and Lori’s email.  Note the inclusion of sensory descriptors below.  The author is drawing on her memory and experiences with JJ and his family.  There is concern for what he is experiencing.  The statement flows and is naturally acceptable, which is a stark contrast compared to Lori’s email.    


Margaret Travillion, the CEO of L.I.F.E. Academy released a statement: 

“Our hearts continue to ache during this time, we all want to know where JJ is and know that he is safe.  JJ is a beautiful boy who has a smile that goes on for days.  His joy of life was contagious.  He started with us as a very quiet child and soon blossomed into a child who loved coming to class, loved being with his friends and loved to talk about his family.

We were shocked to learn of Charles’ death.  It was evident on campus that Charles deeply loved JJ and JJ loved him.   Lori always had a smile when seen on campus with JJ and when he was unenrolled we were told they were leaving the state due to a job opportunity.  When the story broke we were devastated. The thought that JJ left us at the beginning of Sept. and was last seen in Idaho on Sept. 23rd was overwhelming to hear.

We have two yellow ribbons hanging on our trees on the property, One for JJ and one for Tylee.  Staff members wear small yellow ribbons daily in support of JJ and Tylee’s safe return. 

JJ is part of the L.I.F.E. family and we want him to be safe and found happy and smiling as we remember him when he was here.

We all pray for a happy ending and a positive outcome."




Several months after writing this article, Lori and her new husband, Chad Daybell were arrested.  Tylee and JJ's bodies were recovered on Daybell's property in Idaho.