US 'doomsday' mother facing trial over missing children

Lori Vallow was arrested in Hawaii on February 20, 2020 and charged with felony desertion of her two children, who have not been seen since September 2019 (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Washington (AFP) - A doomsday-obsessed US mother of two missing children has won a court battle to have her bail lowered during her first court appearance in a case that has made national headlines.

Lori Vallow, 46, was flown back from Hawaii to Rexburg, Idaho, where she faces two felony counts of desertion and non-support of dependent children, local media reported.

Her bail, originally set at $5 million in Hawaii, was lowered Friday to $1 million by an Idaho judge before a packed courtroom.

Vallow, who left the courtroom smiling, according to US media, was ordered wear an ankle monitor and stay within a four-county area in Idaho.

Her children, seven-year-old Joshua Vallow, who is autistic, and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan have not been seen since September.

Vallow was arrested on February 20 on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Investigators said she and her fifth husband, Chad Daybell -- the author of esoteric books about "near-death experiences" and his "contacts" with the next world -- were closely associated to several people who had died in recent years.

Vallow's third husband, Joseph Ryan, died in 2018, apparently of a heart attack.

She was reportedly in the process of divorcing her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, when he was killed by gunshot last July 11.

Vallow's brother, Alex Cox, claimed he was defending himself when he fired the fatal shot. Cox himself died of unknown causes in December.

Charles Vallow had said in a divorce filing that his wife, with whom he lived in Arizona, had developed cult-like beliefs, convinced that she was "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020."

Some religions believe that 144,000 of the faithful will be resurrected during the Apocalypse to spend eternity in heaven.

Daybell's former wife Tammy died in October, aged 49, ostensibly of natural causes, although her remains have since been exhumed for testing.

Daybell married the defendant two weeks after his wife's death, and the new couple soon left Idaho for Hawaii, where they were married.

Vallow was arrested after police, acting on a warrant from Idaho, ordered her to produce the children and she failed to do so.

In the Madison County, Idaho courtroom on Friday, prosecutor Rob Wood said Vallow had continued to collect social security payments meant for her children.

He said there was a "clear and alarming pattern in the defendant's life."

Chad Daybell, who has not been charged, sat behind his wife in the courtroom. The boys' grandparents were also present.

Vallow's next hearing is set for March 18.