US mother arrested in bizarre missing children case

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Lori DaybellImage source, Kauai Police Department
Image caption,
Lori Daybell, also known as Lori Vallow

The US mother whose two young children have been missing for months has been arrested in Hawaii amid a complicated search operation spanning the US.

Lori Daybell, 46, left for Hawaii in November after police in Idaho questioned her about her children, who officers say are in danger.

The mysterious case includes three suspicious deaths.

Mrs Daybell has reportedly been linked to a doomsday cult-like religious group, according to US media reports.

She is facing two counts of child abandonment and is being held on a $5m (£3.8m) bond on the island of Kauai.

She appeared in court on Friday, with another hearing scheduled for 2 March.

Who is Lori Daybell?

She moved to Idaho from Arizona in late August after her then-husband, Charles Vallow, was shot dead by her brother, Alex Cox.

Cox claimed the shooting had been in self defence. He died of unknown causes in December.

Image source, Police handout
Image caption,
Joshua "JJ" Vallow, seven, (left), and Tylee Ryan, 17

In November, police were called by the grandparents of one of her children to check on the family at their home in Rexburg, Idaho.

Officials say they later learned that Joshua "JJ" Vallow, seven, and Tylee Ryan, 17, had not been seen since September.

Authorities say Mrs Daybell gave misleading answers to investigators' questions and outright lied about their whereabouts and even their existence. She left town the following day. Authorities searched a nearby storage unit, and found clothes and toys that appeared to belong to her children.

According to divorce documents filed by her late husband before his death, Mrs Daybell believes she is "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020".

She also allegedly threatened to kill him if he got in her way, claiming she had "an angel there to help her dispose of the body". He took out a protective order following the threat, court documents show.

He described her as "infatuated and, at times, obsessive about near-death experiences and spiritual visions", and said she refused to see a therapist because "they would discover that she is a translated being".

Mrs Daybell remarried - to Chad Daybell - in October.

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She has also been charged with contempt of court, after missing a January deadline to deliver her children to authorities, as well as obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt of court.

She faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted and is awaiting extradition to Idaho.

Who is Chad Daybell?

Mr Daybell is an author who has written several apocalyptic novels that are loosely based on Mormon religious teachings.

Both he and Mrs Daybell have been involved in a group that promotes preparing for the apocalypse.

The organisation, Preparing A People, has denied being a "cult" despite claims by the parents of Mrs Daybell's late husband.

Two weeks before his marriage to Mrs Daybell, his previous wife, Tammy Daybell, died.

According to her obituary, Tammy Daybell died of natural causes. After the quick remarriage, police became suspicious and ordered her body exhumed.

Mrs Daybell's lawyer has not yet issued a statement since her arrest.