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The Lori Vallow Netflix docuseries got the family tree wrong. Here’s why it matters

‘Sins of Our Mother’ omitted a child from the family tree. This error has bigger implications than you might think

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Summer Shiflet, left, and Janis Cox in “The Missing Children of Lori Vallow Daybell.”

Summer Shiflet, left, and Janis Cox in “The Missing Children of Lori Vallow Daybell.”

CBS News

Every documentary has truth-tellers. The Netflix documentary “Sins of Our Mother” features Janis Cox, mother of Lori Vallow Daybell, along with Vallow Daybell’s son, Colby Ryan, as truth-tellers. While both Cox and Ryan were close to Vallow Daybell, there was a glaring omission in the family tree: the mother of Melani Bordeaux.

J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan, Vallow Daybell’s children, went missing in September 2019. Their bodies were found on June 9, 2020, in the yard of Vallow Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell. Both have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder in the cases of the children and Daybell’s deceased wife, Tammy Daybell. Their joint trial is scheduled for January 2023 in Ada County, Idaho.

Who are Lori Vallow’s siblings?

The Netflix series shows a family tree of the Cox family. Janis and Barry Cox are listed as having four children: Adam Cox, Alex Cox, Lori Vallow and Summer Cox. The series omits Vallow Daybell’s late sister Stacey Cox.

There are public records that indicate the sisters are related. Investigative journalist Leah Sottile wrote in her recent book — “When the Moon Turns to Blood: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and a Story of Murder, Wild Faith, and End Times” — that Stacey Cox was the oldest daughter of Janis and Barry Cox.

According to the California Birth Index, Cox was born on June 7, 1966, in San Bernardino to a mother with the maiden name Conner, which also appears on Vallow Daybell’s birth record. Additionally, according to U.S. Public Records Index, both Vallow Daybell and Cox resided at the same address in California.

Stacey Cox is left out of most news coverage about siblings of Vallow Daybell. People Magazine included Stacey Cox in a 2020 article and East Idaho News makes an unnamed reference to a deceased sister in their Who’s Who in the Daybell case.

Who is Melani Boudreaux?

Melani Boudreaux is the daughter of Stacey Cox, and she is briefly mentioned in the documentary. She is the niece of Vallow Daybell. Brandon Boudreaux, her ex-husband, told Arizona Central that Melani Boudreaux spent time with the same religious group as Vallow Daybell and that this precipitated their divorce.

According to Arizona Central, Brandon Boudreaux claimed that Melani knew where the children of Vallow Daybell were. Someone attempted to shoot Brandon Boudreaux on Oct. 2, 2019. He claimed that she told her new husband Ian Pawlowski, “Sometimes children are full of light and then just like that they go dark.” Boudreaux’s team denied that Melani Boudreaux had any knowledge of the children’s whereabouts.

Fox News reported that in November 2019, Melani Boudreaux was arrested and “was booked into Utah County Jail on a criminal trespass charge enhanced by domestic violence.” She was attempting to take her children from their grandparents’ house in American Fork, according to police.

In a court filing published by East Idaho News, Ian Pawlowski allegedly claims that Melani Boudreaux told him that he “had been possessed by a demon” and “she shared the idea that Chad and Lori could have directed Al to take a shot at Brandon.”

Pawlowski allegedly added, “Melani had been told by Chad and Lori that their children had been possessed and had become zombies.”

In 2021, East Idaho News reported that new details emerged about the attempted shooting and that Melani Boudreaux could not tell police details of what she was doing when someone had attempted to shoot at Brandon Boudreaux.

Why does it matter that Netflix gets this wrong?

As I wrote previously, by not scrutinizing the witnesses, the Netflix documentary omits details, as in the case of the children of Janis and Barry Cox, and subsequently, gives the public an incomplete and, by extension, inaccurate picture of what happened in the Daybell case.

Glaring omissions like a child in someone’s family tree call into question the veracity of the truth-tellers; in this case, Janis Cox. This detail could have been clarified by a simple fact-check, but it wasn’t. For some, this Netflix documentary might be the only narrative they hear about the Daybell case. It’s important to get it right — and in this case, the documentary got it wrong.

Janis Cox claimed to have spoken with J.J. Vallow on Oct. 1, 2019 in an interview with CBS. J.J. was last seen on Sept. 23, 2019, yet Cox was not questioned about this. According to Fox News, the last known picture of J.J. was taken on Sept. 22 as he wore red pajamas. CBS News reported that when J.J. was found dead, he was wearing those red pajamas.

Other omissions in the documentary have been noted. Leah Sottile pointed out that the result of the custody agreement between Vallow Daybell and Joseph Ryan doesn’t appear in the series. I pointed out that Julie Rowe, who is one of the so-called truth-tellers in this documentary, had her membership withdrawn from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was involved in A Voice of Warning, where she met Chad Daybell.

The death of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan is an absolute tragedy — and media coverage shouldn’t add to that tragedy by portraying the case inaccurately.