memories, nostalgia, tragedies, Virginia

German road signs that make me fall down rabbit holes…

A few days ago, when Bill and I were heading home from our trip to the Black Forest, I looked up and noticed a road sign for a town called Hirschberg. Google tells me that Hirschberg is a town in the northwestern part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg (as well as a place in Thuringia). I’ve never been there, and before Monday, I had never noticed that sign. But seeing the name of that town brought back some very old memories from my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia.

This is something I’ve noticed in Europe and the United Kingdom. A lot of the place names here, and in my home state of Virginia, come from surnames. A lot of places in Virginia, especially, are named after places in older establishments. Take, for instance, the town of Kilmarnock, Virginia. It shares that name with a place in Scotland. I guess people from Scotland settled the town in Virginia and named it after their original hometown across the pond. I have to agree, having been to both places, the landscapes are kind of similar.

In any case, when I saw the name Hirschberg, I was immediately reminded of a tragic story from my childhood, over 40 years ago. The date was March 23, 1981. I was eight years old, and a third grader at Botetourt Elementary School. In March 1981, I had only lived in Gloucester for about nine months. My parents bought their business, The Corner Cottage, in the spring of 1980 and we moved to Gloucester on June 21st of that year, the day after my 8th birthday. I experienced quite a culture shock in Gloucester, because we had come from Fairfax, Virginia, which is a MUCH more populated place. And we’d only been in Fairfax for two years; prior to that, we lived on Mildenhall Air Force Base in Suffolk, England. In 1981, I still felt kind of like a foreigner in the United States, having spent three of my conscious years abroad. I wasn’t fitting in very well in Gloucester and, truth be told, I hated it there.

My next sister, Sarah, was sixteen years old on March 23, 1981. She was soon going to be 17 years old, and she attended eleventh grade at Gloucester High School. I would graduate from there myself in 1990. In 1981, 1990 seemed like a million years away. And in 2022, 1990 seems like it was yesterday.

In 1981, the principal at GHS was Mr. Donald W. Hirschberg. I didn’t know anything at all about him, but I do remember Sarah talking about her life at GHS. She probably mentioned the principal, too. She seemed so grown up to me at that time. I remember she was studying French and was even allowed to come to Botetourt to “teach” French to some of the gifted kids. At the time, one of my friends was one of Sarah’s “pupils”.

I don’t think Sarah was at Botetourt on Monday, March 23, 1981, though. That was a day that is still remembered by a lot of my peers because it was the day that Mr. Hirschberg’s wife, Nancy, and their twelve year old daughter, Julie, would die in a horrific car accident. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think another child also died in that crash. I make that assumption because I found a Facebook post about the accident that mentioned another girl who died. Strangely, I don’t remember hearing as much about her.

I was still very new to Gloucester in 1981, so I never had the pleasure of meeting Julie. She was three years older than me, and went to what was then called Gloucester Middle School and later became an elementary school (after I had finished GMS myself). I do remember the accident, though. It happened at a time when Gloucester had very few traffic lights. I know it’s a cliche, but in 1981, that county was still very much covered in farmland. We had a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut that served the whole county. The water in Gloucester Courthouse, which is about a mile or two from where I lived, had really disgusting water that tasted like sulfur. Our house had well water, which was only marginally better. I remember turning on the taps and seeing rusty water.

I’m not totally sure where the fatal intersection was, but I know I drove past it many times. Route 17 runs from north to south through Gloucester. It’s the main artery through the county, and it’s virtually impossible to avoid driving on it if you’re traveling through Gloucester. I actually think the intersection was one very close to my home. For years, there was nothing but a stop sign there, where people would wait as traffic coming down Route 17 barreled down the highway. Since 1981, the farmland has been turned into a huge Walmart complex. People probably don’t zoom past that intersection anymore, because it’s now heavily moderated by traffic lights. If that wasn’t the intersection, then it was one not far from there, and I would have passed it many times over the 19 years Gloucester was my actual home.

So there I was on Monday, October 3, 2022, speeding down the Autobahn, suddenly remembering Gloucester in the early 80s. I saw that sign for the town of Hirschberg in Germany, and it made me think of twelve year old Julie… a girl I never knew, but heard a lot about when I was growing up. Knowing how Gloucester was in the 80s, I feel very sure we would have probably met at some point. Back then, Gloucester was the kind of place where most people knew each other. I don’t think it’s like that anymore, though. I do still know a lot of people who live there, as a number of my classmates either never left or have returned with their own families.

I got curious about Mr. Hirschberg, too. So I looked him up, and discovered that he died in 1998. He had moved to Poquoson, a city not far from Gloucester, and remarried a woman with the same first name as his late first wife’s. Mr. Hirschberg, at age 61, wasn’t that old when he passed. I wonder if he never got over the grief of that terrible accident. People on Facebook were still discussing it as recently as 2011, with some saying they would never forget that night. A few said it was the first tragedy of their lives, and the first funeral they ever attended. Some said that they still think of Julie and the other girl who died every time they go through that intersection.

I think about the fact that Julie was just three years older than me, and it appears that she was a very popular girl with a lot of promise. She was involved in many community activities and probably would have gone on to live a very productive life. It amazes me that her life ended the way it did– so suddenly, tragically, and randomly, it seems. It could have been any one of us who met that fate. I wonder what she would think about me– someone who never met her, but was one of her contemporaries– thinking and writing about her 41 years after her death, reading about her on the Internet, which didn’t even really exist for regular people back in 1981. I wonder what she would think about people in the “You grew up in Gloucester” Facebook group, still remembering her in 2011 and posting about that dreadful day in March 1981. Julie never experienced Facebook, but I bet she’d know it well if she had lived to see adulthood. I never knew Julie, but I knew a lot of her friends, and they still miss her so many years later. That amazes me.

I haven’t been to Gloucester since 2010, when my mom finally sold the house I grew up in. I was astonished by how different Gloucester was then. It was weird to walk through the house and see things I hadn’t seen since we moved in back in 1980. Our house was old, and kind of weird, so there was a big plumbing pipe coming up through the floor in the tiny room that had served as my bedroom in the early 80s. It had been covered by my twin sized bed for many years. Now it was laid bare, looking as strange as it did in 1980. Even our house is very different now than it was in 1980. My parents doubled its size in 1984, when they added on a new kitchen and a knitting and needlepoint “shop” for my mom to run. My dad had a new custom picture framing “shop” built in 1997, knocking down the weird building that was erected there some decades before. Now, it’s owned by the lady my dad hired in 1989 to help him frame pictures.

Isn’t it funny how the most random things can cause a person to fall down a rabbit hole of memories? Or, at least that’s how it happens for me. I used to wish I was born in 1968, so I could be closer in age to my sisters and have more of a relationship with them. But now I’m glad I was born when I was. I think it was the right time. I don’t know why my mind takes me on these tangential rides, but I have a feeling someone else out there still remembers Julie. I’ll probably be “visited” here by people from Gloucester, who can recall the spring of 1981, too. I am not a Gloucester native, but I know a lot of people are, and they have long memories.

I was pretty fortunate to grow up in Gloucester, even though I hated it in the 80s. My sisters were all Air Force brats, so they were moved constantly. I don’t know if they really feel like they have a “hometown” like I do. They’ve settled in different places, but their childhoods were nomadic. I used to be envious of them, but then I became an Army wife and experienced that lifestyle myself. I think it would have been hard for me as a child. It’s hard as an adult. It’s nice to know that there is a place where people remember me, even if no one in my family lives there anymore. I’m glad to have some roots… although I doubt I’ll be moving back there. I don’t think I fit there anymore. It’s like the old Neil Diamond song, “I Am… I Said”, when he sings:

Well I’m New York City born and raised
But nowadays
I’m lost between two shores
L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home
New York’s home
But it ain’t mine no more

Yeah. I can relate to that.

Just because it’s a great song that still works in 2022.
Standard
family, obits, tragedies

April brings new life… and for some, the end of life.

Happy Easter, everybody. We have gorgeous spring weather so far today. I don’t plan to do much, since everything is closed, anyway. For a country with so many atheists, Germany sure does go nuts over religious holidays. Everything closes over Easter, from Good Friday until Easter Monday, although things are open on the intervening Saturday. This year, I didn’t plan ahead well enough. We ran out of dog food for Arran and contact lenses for me, after tomorrow. Fortunately, the stuff we need will probably be here on Tuesday. I hope I managed to sock away an extra pair of contacts in my luggage so I will be able to see before the delivery gets here. I wish I’d had my eyes lasered years ago.

Historically, for me, anyway, April tends to be a “cruel” month, even though it’s also usually very beautiful. So far, this year, April has been punctuated by grief… not necessarily for me, personally, but for people I know or am related to.

It started with a guy I knew in high school. I had a lot of classes with him, but we didn’t run in the same circles. I never knew until I read his obituary that he taught special education at our high school for some time. He eventually left that job, but then had brain cancer. That’s what killed him on March 31st, just a couple of weeks after his 50th birthday. On April 1st, a lot of people were posting about him on Facebook, writing about what a kind person he was. That made me wish I’d known him better, but he was more popular than I was, and people in my high school mostly thought of me as a weird person. So the cute, popular guys never talked to me. I’m probably less weird now… or, maybe they admit that they’re weird, too.

The next person to go was my cousin’s lovely wife. My cousin and his wife were married in 1984, when I was 12 years old. I wasn’t at the wedding, because it took place in Georgia, and I lived in Virginia. My cousin and his wife were a beautiful couple, but very religious and politically conservative, as are most of my Georgia based relatives (and I have quite a few). I was briefly among the Georgia folks myself, but we had to move to North Carolina after about 18 months of living there. I was sad to go. I enjoyed Georgia.

My cousin and his wife had three gorgeous daughters who are the epitome of “southern belles”. They’re a very close-knit family. When my cousin’s wife was diagnosed with cancer last spring, and the cancer then spread to her brain, the whole family got t-shirts made and wore them to support her before she went into surgery. They took pictures wearing the t-shirts and holding up signs with Bible verses and slogans. We heard that she had done fairly well with the surgery. Then, there was not much news at all.

I was a little surprised to read that she had passed away last week, since I hadn’t known that her illness had progressed so much. I mean, I know something about chronic illnesses such as cancer, and when I heard about her initial diagnosis, I figured she might not have much time. But her daughters appeared to be having the time of their lives, which is what I’m sure she wanted for them. My cousin’s eldest daughter posted a gender reveal video for the baby she’s expecting. Then, she announced her mother’s death. I didn’t know she was so ill, so I didn’t know she was near death. Last week’s news of her death came as a shock to me.

I knew her middle daughter planned to get married on April 16th. That daughter shared a photo of her hand holding her mother’s hand. I could only see the hand in the photo, but it was pretty obvious just from that photo of her hand that my cousin’s wife was very, very sick. Her skin was yellow and mottled with purplish red splotches, even around her fingernails, which were lined with the same red. I guess it was bruising of some kind.

She was a very beautiful woman who was much beloved by family and friends. She was also very religious and had strong faith in Christianity. Although I am nowhere near as religious as she was, I like to think of her joining those who went before her, to include my aunt and uncle, and my cousin, who was her sister-in-law, as well as all of the other people who were in her life I never knew. I’m sorry she had to miss her daughter’s wedding yesterday, but her daughter did say she thought her mom would have the best view… I hope she’s right. It looks like her daughter had a beautiful wedding, at least.

And finally, the third death was that of one of Bill’s friends from high school. I never met this man myself, but Bill has talked about him throughout our almost twenty years of marriage. Bill was kind of a shy introverted type when he was a teenager, and he went to a public high school in Houston where there were a lot of wealthy kids. Bill wasn’t wealthy, but he did have an interest in the military. He joined JROTC and made some friends, which unfortunately included his ex wife. But one of the guys he met was a guy named Mark who was a year older than he was. Mark was kind to Bill. He had a great sense of humor and a talent for art. Bill really liked him a lot, especially in the days when he wasn’t very confident about himself.

The years passed, and Bill lost touch with his friend… but then along came Facebook, and Bill reconnected with him. They didn’t communicate much on Facebook, mainly because Bill barely uses it and never posts. One of Bill’s other classmates, a guy who friended me for some reason, announced Mark’s sudden death yesterday. Apparently, Mark, who was divorced, had no children, and had recently lost his father (his mom died many years ago), decided to commit suicide on Good Friday.

Mark’s Facebook posts left no indication whatsoever that he was planning to kill himself. On Friday, he just posted “Guys, it’s been a slice”, accompanied by a collage with pictures of him at different stages of life. I told Bill that his high school friend had announced Mark’s death. Bill looked him up and read all of the posts by people who were devastated by Mark’s decision. So many people asked why he hadn’t reached out to them for help. A couple of people wrote that there was nothing they could have done… which is probably true in a case like this. Mark never left a clue of what he was planning. Unfortunately, it sounds like people will always wonder what drove him to make this decision, although a lot of people knew he had “demons”. But then, don’t we all?

It seems unconscionable that in this season of renewal– with flowers blooming and babies being born– some people have died before their time. All three of these people, who touched my life before they passed, were folks who might have been considered too young to die. While all three deaths could be considered very sad and tragic, I am especially sad for Mark. The other two had family with them when they passed, but Mark apparently died alone, and probably violently. As awful as it is for him, it’s even worse for whoever had to find him and whoever will be cleaning up the aftermath of Mark’s decision. I don’t know the exact method he used to kill himself, but he did own quite a few firearms. Bill told me that he owned some Russian pistols that he highly prized. So, it’s likely that one of his guns was the tool he used to end his life “on his terms”, as one of his friends put it.

I try not to look at suicide as a moral failing. I see it as more of a fatal response to depression, which is a real illness. Depression can be deadly. Maybe Mark could have been helped if he had reached out for help, but there really is no way to tell. And, in fact, there may have been something else going on that we didn’t know about… and will never know of. At least it looks like he had some good times during his last week. Many friends wrote about how they saw him this week. I wonder if Mark thought about how they would feel after he died… having spent time with him having lunch or drinking beer… and then finding out that he was planning to kill himself.

I didn’t know Mark, but I was there last night as Bill teared up over the news of his death. It just goes to show that everyone affects other people… even people they’ve never met in person. But as someone who has experienced depression and has felt suicidal, I understand that things might have seemed hopeless and pointless, and maybe he felt helpless to change anything. And one more talk with a friend or a doctor might have felt futile. So he made a decision that impacted a lot of people he never even knew.

This morning, Bill told me that he used to envy his friends. At one time, their lives seemed better than his was. I asked him what he thought of that notion today. He said, “I prefer my life.” I’m glad to hear that, especially since younger daughter shared an adorable video of her little daughter yesterday. What a blessing it is that Bill can get to know his grandchildren, even if it is just on video. Seeing her so happy and energetic gives me hope for the future. I’m glad I can be part of Bill’s future, especially as he awaits the birth of his second grandson in a couple of months.

Standard
mental health, religion, tragedies

Switzerland and Utah have more in common than beautiful mountain views…

This post has to do with mass suicide. If you think you might be triggered, you might want to move on to your next Internet station.

The New York Times‘ headline said “4 Die After Falling From Balcony in Swiss Resort Town”. I was instantly curious, since I’ve heard the Swiss are even more anal retentive about safety and precision than the Germans are. Before I read the article, I said to Bill, “Someone is going to get sued into oblivion for this.” I said that because the headline made it sound like negligence was involved and I just assumed that a lovely family had plunged to their deaths because a balcony gave way. The strange truth was, this tragedy had nothing to do with a builder’s or safety inspector’s negligence. Apparently, these four people died on purpose. A fifth person remains hospitalized in serious condition.

The small group of people who died yesterday in Montreux, a beautiful resort town in western Switzerland near idyllic Lake Geneva, were not publicly identified in the article. However, the police believe they were French nationals and members of the same family, consisting of a 40 year old man, his 41 year old wife, his wife’s twin sister, and their 8 year old daughter. The couple’s 15 year old son somehow managed to survive the plunge from the seventh floor apartment from which they all apparently jumped.

When the article was published, the police were still trying to determine exactly what led up to the circumstances leading to this family’s fall from their balcony. According to the story, two police officers had knocked on the family’s door at about 7am. The officers were there to give the parents a summons involving the homeschooling of one of the children. Homeschooling is legal in Switzerland, but children who are homeschooled are still required to be routinely monitored by officials to determine their educational progress. When parents are out of touch with officials, police officers are tasked with issuing summonses. Evidently, this family was not allowing their homeschooled child to be checked.

After they knocked on the door, the police officers heard a voice from inside the apartment, asking them to identify themselves. Then, there was silence. As the officers were about to leave the building, a witness had called the police to inform them that people had fallen from a seventh floor balcony. A neighbor of the family’s stated that the family was very “discreet”. That makes me think that there was something weird going on, even before the adults apparently decided that suicide en masse was the answer to their problems.

I read some of the comments regarding this piece, and one lady posted that this story reminded her of an incident that happened in Salt Lake City Utah in 1978. Her comment is below.

This sounds like an instance in the 1970s involving a family who came to be known as “The Leaping Longos” after a mother and her seven children all jumped out of their hotel room window. It turned out that the father had killed himself the day before and their mother forced them all to jump in some weird type of suicide pact. They were practicing their own brand of religion based on the Mormon church and the father was also evading the authorities. 

This family likely all jumped to their deaths as well, but only after the authorities showed up. The authorities were only trying to establish what was happening with the children due to them being home schooled but it is very likely that they had something else to hide. Fortunately one son has survived, and once he’s able to talk about what happened I’m sure the full story will unfold.

The poor kid has become an orphan and I hope he’s able to recover because it would be even more tragic if he’s permanently impaired.

I was around in 1978, but I was a young child at the time. Obviously, I had never heard of the “Leaping Longos” before I read the above comment. I decided to look them up to see if there was any information about this family. Sure enough, I found the story after a couple of minutes of looking. Here’s a link to a 1993 era article by Deseret News about the lone survivor of the Utah incident. In that case, the lone survivor was a fifteen year old girl. Like the rest of her family, Longo changed her name; in the Deseret article she is called Rachel David.

On August 3, 1978, the David family (originally identified as the Longo family) made the bizarre decision to leap from an eleventh floor balcony at the International Dune Hotel in Salt Lake City. The family had been living in the hotel for about a year, when the patriarch, 39 year old Immanuel David (originally named Charles Bruce Longo), committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Three days after the suicide, 38 year old Rebecca David and her seven children either jumped or were thrown from the balcony. The lone survivor, Rachel, spent many months in a hospital before she was placed in foster care. She was wheelchair bound in 1993, when she was interviewed by the hosts of the television tabloid show, Inside Edition.

In 1993, Rachel David still believed that her father was God and would be returning to Earth. She also said that she had willingly jumped. She also said that she had been trying to follow the suicide order and, as of 1993, had attempted to kill herself many times. Another article, circa 2000, describes the survivor as “brain damaged”. At the time that article was written, Rachel David was still living with “remnants” of the House of David near Denver, Colorado.

Below is a screenshot of a news article that was written in 1978, just after this event took place.

Freaky story… I wonder if this French family was involved in a similar cult.

And here is a broadcast news item about the 1978 Utah incident…

I can’t even imagine how horrifying this was to witness…

Why do these culty types always gravitate to the name “Immanuel”? Especially when they have ties to Mormonism? According to the news report, David was an excommunicated member of the LDS church. The father was not employed at the time of his death, although according to the video, the bill for the $95 a day was paid on time and in cash, usually with $100 bills. The news story is astonishing, as the physician is very openly talking about the surviving girl’s injuries. We didn’t have HIPAA in those days.

As I listen to this surprisingly lengthy report, I’m confused by the discrepancies in the people’s names. According to the news article, the father’s name was Charles Bruce Longo, but this news report refers to him as Bruce David Longo. And then he changed his name, and all of the names of his wife and children were changed.

As for the French family in Switzerland, slightly more news has emerged about their apparently sudden and bizarre exit from Earth. Apparently, the mother in the French family was a dentist who had worked in Paris. Her sister was an ophthalmologist. The father worked at home. The family had been living in Switzerland for some time, and had residence status. The Daily Mail offers an article with some rather salacious details omitted from the more respectable newspaper articles. Apparently, the family used incense a lot, and ordered many packages. It will be interesting to learn more about why this tragedy occurred, and if this family has anything else in common with the “Leaping Longos” of Salt Lake City.

Standard
book reviews, LDS, narcissists, religion, tragedies, true crime

A review of The Doomsday Mother: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and the End of an American Family by John Glatt…

As I write today’s book review, I reflect on the last twenty years or so and realize that Bill and I have been relatively lucky. I complain a lot about Bill’s ex wife, who converted to Mormonism during their marriage, and then used the religion as a tool to alienate him from his daughters and former stepson. There is no doubt in my mind that my husband’s ex wife, who is on her third husband, and has had two more children with him, is not the sanest person. She has legitimately put Bill through several layers of hell over the years. He has many scars from that marriage, both figurative financial and psychological ones, and literal physical ones. But at least, as far as I know, Ex hasn’t killed anyone, and at least Bill was able to fully recover from their relationship. Bill and I have been very fortunate on many levels. At least his ex wife mostly leaves us in peace. For that, I am genuinely grateful. After reading British true crime author John Glatt’s most recent book, I know not everyone who splits from a relationship that involves religion, mental illness, and narcissism is that lucky.

The book I’m referring to is titled The Doomsday Mother: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and the End of an American Family. It was published January 18, 2022, making it very fresh reporting, as Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell are still awaiting trial for their roles in the gruesome murders of Lori’s children, 16 year old Tylee Ryan, and 7 year old J.J. Vallow, both of whom were last seen alive in September 2019 and “disappeared” for months before their brutally desecrated remains were found in a pet cemetery on Chad Daybell’s property in Rexburg, Idaho. The children were not actually killed by their mother; instead, Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, who had a violent streak and a touch of mental illness, did the deed. Alex Cox is not being prosecuted because he suddenly died in December 2019. Also dead are Charles Vallow, Lori’s fourth husband and the adoptive father of J.J., and Tammy Daybell, Chad’s first wife, who died under sudden and suspicious circumstances.

A couple of other people– to include Lori’s ex husband and Tylee’s father, Joe Ryan, and Lori’s older sister, Stacy, are also dead, but not due to foul play. However, they both figure in this complicated and tragic story. I’m going to try to break it down a bit, and it may seem like I’m giving a lot of details. Trust me. This is a very convoluted story and there’s plenty to unpack. There’s no way I could possibly give away too much information. I also want to note that when this was hot news, and people on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard were posting a lot about it, I deliberately avoided reading the details. I’m not sure what made me decide to read Glatt’s book, but now that I have, my mind is blown. So here goes…

Lori Norene Cox

Just from the previous paragraph, you already know that a lot of people in Lori’s and Chad’s circle did not survive their connection. But even before Lori Vallow Daybell met Chad Daybell, a gravedigger, author, and publisher of weird Mormon based books about the “end times”, Lori was a troubled soul with a long history of failed relationships. Unfortunately, Lori, who was born Lori Norene Cox in San Bernadino, California on June 26, 1973, had a devastatingly appealing combination of superficial charm, good looks, and vivaciousness that men found very attractive. She was also a very troubled and manipulative person who left heartbreak and devastation wherever she went, even among those who managed to survive having anything to do with her.

Lori Cox was raised in California by her parents, Janis and Barry Cox, who had four living children besides Lori: Stacey, Alex, Adam, and Summer. A fifth child, Laura, had died soon after birth. Stacey died young, having developed Type I diabetes that she refused to take care of properly. Stacey left behind a daughter named Melani. Lori’s parents were LDS, but they weren’t considered extremely devout. Her father, Barry, had served as a missionary in England in the 1960s, and then came home to California to sell life insurance. He was successful at his job, and the Coxes lived comfortably. They went to Hawaii frequently. Barry Cox was very vocal about his opposition to taxation, and he and his wife would later get in serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion. Even in the 80s, Lori’s older brother, Alex, seemed sinister. Glatt interviewed one of Lori’s best friends, who told him that she always tried to avoid creepy Alex. Lori also told the friend that Alex had sexually assaulted her. Alex was a “wannabe” stand up comedian who was supposedly “obsessed” with Lori and would do anything for her.

Lori’s string of men

Lori married her first husband, Nelson Nelson Yanes when she was just out of high school, but that marriage ended very quickly. Her marriage to second husband, William Lagioia, lasted three years, but produced their son, Colby, in 1996. Lori quickly set about alienating Lagioia from Colby as she married her third husband, Joe Ryan, who eventually adopted the boy after their 2001 nuptials. Lori and Joe had their daughter, Tylee, in 2002, but their marriage soon faltered. Joe Ryan filed for divorce in 2004, and it was granted in 2005. Ryan, like Lagioia before him, also experienced parental alienation as Lori did her best to destroy his bond with Tylee. In 2007, Lori’s brother, Alex, tasered Joe Ryan after Lori accused Ryan of being abusive to her and the children. Alex had meant to kill Joe, but did not succeed. However, Joe later died of heart disease, a broken and destitute man who, by then, had lost contact with his daughter, Tylee. His body was found three weeks after he died alone in his bed; the walls of his home were plastered with pictures of his beloved, estranged daughter. Lori nonchalantly collected life insurance benefits and later casually ripped off Social Security money meant for Tylee.

In February 2006, Lori married Charles Vallow, a handsome Catholic man from Louisiana who was financially successful and had two sons from a previous marriage. Vallow converted to Mormonism for Lori, and the two of them adopted Charles’s grandnephew, J.J. J.J., whose original name was Canaan, was the biological son of Charles’s nephew, who, along with the boy’s mother, had a severe drug problem. Originally, J.J. was awarded to Charles’s sister and J.J.’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, and her husband. But although the Woodcocks loved the boy, they felt like they were too old to raise J.J., who besides being born prematurely, also had autism. So initially, it seemed perfect that Lori and Charles would raise J.J. Lori was younger, and seemed like a great mom to her biological children. Again, Lori was almost always able to charm most people, at least when they first met her. After awhile, her true colors showed.

For a few years, the marriage seemed to go okay. Lori was preoccupied with trying to alienate Tylee from her father, Lori’s third husband, Joe Ryan. Once Joe was dead, she was free to turn her attentions elsewhere. Lori began becoming obsessed with “the end times”, which if you know anything about Mormonism, will be a familiar theme. Many members of the LDS church think we are now living in “the end times”. Lori became fixated on a passage in the Bible about 144,000 people who would survive the rapture and witness the second coming of Jesus Christ. Lori was a talented singer and dancer, and Charles built her a special mirrored room– probably much like the Sealing Room in a LDS temple– where Lori would dance to religious music or her favorite 1980s era pop love songs. She also read many books written by LDS authors, including some written by Chad Daybell, who would eventually become her fifth husband.

Lori wasn’t one to stay in one location for long. She lived in several places, including Texas, Arizona, Utah, and Hawaii. She was especially wedded to Hawaii– and lived in Kauai several times, where she made friends and mingled in the local LDS church. At one point, she and Charles lived in Kauai. She would return there after Charles was murdered by Lori’s brother, Alex, who shot him twice in the chest. She would eventually be arrested at a Kauai condominium, just across the street from where she’d once lived with Charles Vallow, after she and Chad Daybell fled after Lori’s children disappeared.

Chad Daybell

Chad Daybell was born August 11, 1968 in Provo, Utah. He often heard voices and saw spirits of his ancestors, to include his grandfather Keith. Chad would often claim that his ancestors would bring him messages from beyond, which he would follow– promptings of the spirit.

Chad Daybell was raised a devout Mormon in Utah, completed a two year LDS mission in New Jersey, and in March 1990, married the former Tamara “Tammy” Douglas at the Manti, Utah temple. They are the parents of five children. Chad graduated from Brigham Young University in 1992 with a degree in communications; he worked as a copy editor at a newspaper, but also did a lot of work as a sexton– that is, gravedigger. That skill would eventually come in handy after he and Lori Vallow got together.

Chad fancied himself a writer, and he started his own publishing company called Spring Creek Book Company. He also decided, after a prompting from the spirits, that he would move his family from Utah to Rexburg, Idaho. He made this decision without consulting his wife, Tammy. He also gave up a lucrative job so that he could publish LDS themed books about the end times. Chad was successful in recruiting other LDS writers, including Julie Rowe, whose books were very popular. However, his decision to publish books made life somewhat financially challenging for his family. Tammy Daybell often worked in schools as an assistant librarian to help pay the bills.

Daybell was known as a “prepper”– meaning, he was preparing for the end times. He spoke and wrote extensively about the topic and became well known in certain LDS circles. Although Chad Daybell’s own books were considered “cheesy” by some readers, Lori Vallow was a super fan of his. She came to one of the conferences where he gave a speech. It wasn’t long afterwards that they became obsessed with each other and formed their own religious cult. They were seeing each other, even though both were married to other people. The other people– Tammy Daybell and Charles Vallow– were soon dispensed with– and once those inconveniences were gone, Lori and Chad were free to get married on a Hawaiian beach. It would be Lori’s second Hawaiian beach wedding.

Chad Daybell’s obsessions with the end times, coupled with Lori Vallow’s mental illness, would lead to the tragic, horrifying, and absolutely heartbreaking destruction of several people’s lives, especially Lori’s own children’s. Her son, Colby, is the only one left to live with the absolutely crazy wreckage left in the wake of his mother’s relationship with Chad Daybell. But even if she had never met Chad Daybell, Lori Vallow would have been responsible for hurting many people. Maybe fewer of them would be dead.

My thoughts

At this point, Lori and Chad Daybell are still awaiting trial. Justice has been delayed because of the pandemic, as well as Lori’s mental illness. She was deemed unfit to stand trial because she needed psychiatric treatment. For that reason alone, John Glatt’s book will probably need a sequel, because I am sure the court case(s) will be explosive. Lori’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow, was killed in Arizona, while her children were murdered in Idaho. Lori may also face charges for grand larceny, because she collected her dead children’s Social Security benefits from their fathers for several months before the game was up and she was arrested in Hawaii.

One thing I did notice about this book is that it didn’t appear to me that John Glatt knows that much about Mormonism. He often used terms that Mormons would not use, such as “congregation”. LDS “congregations” are called wards. He also refers to Lori and Charles “attending the temple”, as if perhaps they were Jewish, and visiting the temple was a regular weekly thing. Mormons do have temples, but they don’t typically attend them regularly, as they would a church meeting (Mormons called their services “meetings”). Temple ordinances are usually “special”; they require a “temple recommend”, which is a special ID card that members in good standing carry. The ID allows them to enter the temple for certain religious ceremonies that are only open to Mormons who are deemed “worthy”. A person can be LDS, but not worthy to enter the temple. Members have to convince their bishops that they are worthy, and get that temple recommend, before they can visit the temple. Plenty of LDS members haven’t done that.

I can’t really fault Glatt for not explaining all of this stuff. I don’t know how much he knows about Mormonism. For all I know, he might know a lot, but have decided not to try to explain everything totally accurately. It IS kind of complicated for the uninitiated, and I suspect most of the people who read The Doomsday Mother are not going to be well-versed in the LDS religion’s less popular beliefs. I do think it’s important to understand the church on a basic level, though, because Mormonism does figure very prominently in this story. It helps to know a bit about the church to get a grasp of how and why things unraveled the way they did.

It’s true that Lori is mentally ill, but she and Chad Daybell got together because they were both obsessed with the LDS religion, the Bible, and some of the more obscure teachings. Indeed, the children were murdered because Lori and Chad believed that they were “zombies”. To my knowledge, “zombies” are not part of Mormonism, but the faith does put a lot of emphasis on spirits, supernatural events, “promptings”, “burnings in the bosom”, and “signs”. Most rank and file Mormons can separate the “woo” from the useful church teachings, but someone who is mentally ill probably could take some of the church’s stranger beliefs and really run with them. It sounds like that is what happened in this case.

I do think John Glatt writes well. He included photos, and wisely divided this book into sections. This is not a story that can be successfully written as one big tale. Both Lori and Chad had such complicated histories that created this perfect storm that readers need to get an idea of both of them as individuals, before they met each other and destroyed so many lives. Even without Mormonism, I think this would be a very complicated story. In fact, I think both Lori and Chad could merit their own books about their lives before their abbreviated existence as a married couple.

I also liked that Glatt added a few trivial tidbits. For example, back in 2007, before Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell became huge news, Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, was working as a morning disc jockey in Sacremento, California. Adam and his fellow deejays decided to have a contest called “Hold your wee for a Wii.” The object was for listeners to drink as much water as they could without going to the bathroom. The winner would get a Nintendo Wii as a prize. A nurse called in to the show and warned the deejays that this was a dangerous idea. They blew her off, which led to tragic consequences for the second place finisher, Jennifer Strange, who died of water intoxication after taking part in the contest. I remember when the Wii contest was news, and was surprised that one of the people who masterminded it is related to a notorious killer.

Those who are interested in this story can also watch ABC’s Dateline program, “The Gravedigger’s Wife”, which at this writing, has been uploaded to YouTube. I’ll be watching it myself later today.

On a much more personal note…

I mentioned my husband’s ex wife at the beginning of this post. Those who have been following my blog for awhile might know why I found the story of Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell even more chilling than I otherwise might have. There are just so many similarities between Lori Vallow’s and Ex’s stories, right down to connections to Texas, the LDS church, multiple marriages, sexual abuse, parental alienation campaigns, narcissism, crazy religious visions, theft of money, and even autism. Ex has a son who has severe autism.

Ex has always promoted the narrative that she’s an “excellent, caring, and devoted” mother. If you look at her social media footprint, you can see that she promotes that image somewhat convincingly to the unaware. However, if you know the truth about her, and hear stories from people who have been close to her, you see there are a lot of cracks in the facade.

Likewise, Lori Vallow came off as this lovely, vivacious, caring mother who loved people. But then look beyond the surface, and you see someone who is extremely troubled and damaged. If she hadn’t had that very attractive and alluring visage, people would be running away from her. Unfortunately, people tend to believe people like Ex and Lori Vallow. Ex looks like a devoted mom to her five children by three men, but her three eldest children were prevented from having relationships with their fathers, and Ex has repeatedly exploited them for her personal gain. Meanwhile, she posts on social media about everything she’s supposedly doing for her youngest son, who will probably always be under her thumb due to his disability.

In his book, Glatt writes about how Lori Vallow got her son a service dog named Bailey to help him negotiate the world. Later, after Charles Vallow’s death, Lori decided to “rehome” the dog, which really upset her daughter, Tylee. Ex has also been making noises about getting a service dog for her son with autism. Ex also reportedly made her daughters get G.E.D.s (just as Lori Vallow’s daughter, Tylee, did), then enroll in college and take out student loans. Ex then allegedly used the excess loan money to pay her own bills, which the girls were expected to repay. Remember, Lori Vallow used her daughter’s father’s Social Security money and her cell phone to do her dirty work.

While I don’t think Ex is as crazy as Lori is, they do have a lot in common. This book was pretty eerie for me, personally, for that reason. Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of comments about how I’m an obsessive second wife. Maybe there’s truth to that, but there’s also a lot of truth to the fact that my husband was married to a toxic person who has harmed a lot of people. Ex hasn’t killed anyone, that I know of, but I have always felt that if the conditions were right, she definitely could kill someone– including herself. In fact, Ex supposedly did attempt suicide at one point, and landed in the hospital. These comments are based on what I’ve heard from family members and have seen Ex post about publicly.

So, my heart goes out to the “sane” people in Lori’s family who stood by and watched her work. I know from personal experience just how scary and unnerving that can be. The sad thing is, narcissistic, manipulative people tend to get the benefit of the doubt, and it often takes an explosive situation involving horrific crimes before they are finally stopped. Lori Vallow manipulated and conned so many people– friends, relatives, church acquaintances, and the like– before people finally opened their eyes to the person she is.

Likewise, Chad Daybell, a very manipulative man with disturbing delusions of the “end times” also fooled a lot of people, taking on jobs that others wouldn’t seek. Daybell’s knowledge of gravedigging proved handy, as he disposed of Tylee Ryan’s and J.J. Vallow’s remains in the pet cemetery on his property. I will warn that the descriptions of how the bodies were disposed of are especially heartbreaking and horrifying. I especially felt terrible for J.J. Vallow, who probably experienced torture before he died. And now, I feel terrible for the heartbroken relatives– especially his grandparents– who are left missing him and know about the terrible things that happened to him because they didn’t raise him themselves. They must be riddled with guilt.

Anyway, I do recommend The Doomsday Mother to those who enjoy true crime and have both a stout heart, and a strong stomach. There’s a lot of death and sadness in this book, but it’s coupled with a lot of crazy “woo” that is a challenge to comprehend, but I think John Glatt has done a good job explaining this story. It’s definitely NOT an easy story to write. It’s amazing what some people get away with in life, and how long they can get away with it before they are finally stopped.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
ethics, healthcare, law, poor judgment, tragedies, true crime

The right to “bear arms”, versus the right to “bare arms”…

Special thanks to a witty commenter on The Washington Post for the inspiration for this post’s title… and special thanks to Wikipedia user Cimmerian pastor for use of today’s featured photo– a woman with “bare arms” enjoying her right to “bear arms” in the Czech Republic.

I actually started to write this post yesterday morning, just after I posted my rerun blog about Gene Wilder, but a friend came up from Stuttgart and wanted to visit the Christmas market in Wiesbaden, so I never got around to finishing. Now that it’s Monday, I can go back to my regularly scheduled programming… 😉

On this peaceful morning, I’m sitting here thinking about items from the news. There have been a few interesting stories this week. Of course, in the United States, there are several high profile legal proceedings going on involving Josh Duggar and Ghislaine Maxwell, and now, Michigan parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, who bought their fifteen year old son, Ethan, a pistol for Christmas.

Ethan won’t get another chance to play with his new Christmas toy… This is a screenshot of Ethan’s Instagram page before it was deleted.

On November 26, Ethan Crumbley posted a picture of the gun on Instagram. He captioned the photo with “Just got my new beauty today. SIG SAUER 9mm”, finishing with a heart-eyes emoji. Ethan’s mother, Jennifer Crumbley, also posted about the gun, and took him to a shooting range last weekend.

One week ago, a teacher at Oxford High School, in Oxford, Michigan, where Ethan is a sophomore student, noticed Ethan searching on his phone for ammunition for his new weapon. The teacher reported the discovery to school officials, who then notified Jennifer Crumbley about her son’s strange Web searches. Crumbley didn’t respond to the call from school officials, but she did send Ethan a text that read, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught…”

On Tuesday of last week, the day of the school shooting, another teacher noticed Ethan had a drawing that showed a semiautomatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” There was another drawing of a bullet with the words “Blood Everywhere” written above it, and a “laughing” emoji below it. Also found on the note is the statement, “My life is useless” and “The world is dead.”

School officials contacted Ethan’s parents again, but they declined to take him out of school. For some reason, Ethan was instead allowed to go back to class. Later on Tuesday, Ethan then proceeded to use his new Christmas present to perpetrate the latest school shooting.

Ethan Crumbley is now a suspected school shooter, allegedly responsible for the deaths of four students. His parents have also been arrested; James and Jennifer Crumbley are now in jail, each with $500,000 bonds. They were apprehended after a manhunt, and were found hiding in a building in Detroit, Michigan. According to CNN, all three of the Crumbleys are on suicide watch, even though none have indicated that they plan to harm themselves.

My friend Alex wrote about the Crumbleys crumbling Christmas season on his blog. Alex wrote:

When I read in various articles that Jennifer Crumbley had written an open letter to then-President Donald Trump in her now-deleted blog thanking him for protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights a few years ago, I was not surprised. The Crumbleys embody everything that is wrong with the American right: a mixture of anger, victimhood, entitlement, and disregard for laws and public safety.

As I read Alex’s comment about how the Crumbleys praised Trump for “protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights”, I was suddenly reminded of another story I read last week… that of an unnamed man in Italy who used a fake arm when he went to get his COVID vaccine. The nurse noticed that the skin was a different color and texture, even though it looked pretty lifelike. The guy, who is in his 50s, was unsuccessful in his plan to get the shot injected in a fake arm, thus sparing himself the vaccine. He is supposedly a dentist in Italy who has been suspended from his job, as all healthcare workers in Italy are required to be vaccinated.

In Italy, vaccine mandates are making it a lot harder to work or otherwise live a “normal” life. People are getting creative in their ploys to avoid getting “jabbed”, yet they still want to live as if they had done their civic duty. Germany, like Italy, and a lot of other European nations, is also making it harder to live normally without getting vaccinated. I think it won’t be long before COVID unvaccinated people find themselves deprived of liberty, much like recalcitrant tuberculosis patients are.

And then it occurred to me… the Crumbleys have abused the “right to bear arms” in the United States. And the unnamed guy in Italy who tried to use a fake arm to fool the health workers, abused the “right to bare arms” in Italy. Isn’t that clever?

I suspect Jennifer and James Crumbley are in deep legal shit right now, in part, because Kyle Rittenhouse just got acquitted of murder. Many people felt Rittenhouse’s mother should have been prosecuted for her son’s role in killing two people and wounding another man at a demonstration. Of course, it appears that the Crumbleys were even more negligent in keeping their minor son away from deadly weapons than Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom was.

I have a feeling that the Rittenhouse verdict is going to cause new laws to be passed, making parents responsible if their minor children get ahold of weapons and and kill or injure others. I do think that if that does become the case, though, the minors involved should be tried as minors, rather than adults. If parents are going to be held responsible for not protecting the public from their minor children, then it doesn’t seem right to me that the “child” would also be tried as an adult. On the other hand, it does appear to me that there’s something very wrong with Ethan Crumbley, and he probably needs mental health treatment. That could be true for his parents, too, but it does appear to me that they were very negligent. And now, it looks like they’re going to be headed to prison on the family plan, much like Travis and Greg McMichael are.

As for the guy in Italy with the fake silicone arm, I think he, and most of his anti-vaxxer sympathizers, ought to be ashamed of themselves. We’re not going to get past COVID-19 until people start thinking of others and get the vaccine. Aside from that, if you’re not going to get vaccinated, have some fucking integrity and don’t try to pull a fast one on already exhausted fellow healthcare workers. They’ve been through enough since this plague began last year. Have the decency to stay home. Oh… and grow the fuck up, too!

I will probably get my booster after the New Year. Bill got me an appointment for January 5th. But maybe I’ll be able to get one even sooner than that. I don’t look forward to the achy fallout, but I will be glad to be boosted, because I am so tired of the COVID rigamarole. This shit needs to end, already.

I will probably write yet another rant, at some point soon, about how Republicans are now trying to ban abortions… but they sure do like their guns. And I haven’t seen a whole lot of “good guys with guns” showing up to save students who just want to get educated so they can enjoy life… you know, that thing that Republican “pro-lifers” are so hellbent on protecting? As George Carlin famously said of Republicans, “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine. If you’re pre-school, you’re fucked!”

Standard