UPDATE: Mother of missing Idaho kids could go free if judge lowers bail

Bail for Lori Vallow, the mother of 2 missing children in Idaho, will remain at $5 million, a judge ruled. Earlier Vallow's lawyer filed a motion asking the judge to lower the bail to a reasonable amount. But prosecutors argued Vallow is a flight risk.

New court documents also shed light on Lori Vallow’s former life in Texas

Lori Vallow, the Idaho mother jailed since February in the disappearance of her two children, could be released to house arrest Friday if a judge decides to reduce her $1 million bail.

Explore»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Mother of missing kids becomes suspect in death of husband’s ex-wife

Vallow’s children — 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan — have not been seen since September.

Under a cloud of suspicion, Vallow vanished from Idaho in November just as authorities were preparing to carry out a welfare check. She resurfaced a month later in Hawaii, where she eloped with her fifth husband, Chad Daybell.

There were no signs the children were ever with her.

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The ongoing saga has many other twists, including several suspicious deaths and family accusations that Daybell and Vallow are members of a Doomsday cult.

Third husband died in 2018

Court documents from a 2005 bankruptcy filing emerged this week that shed light on Vallow's previous life in Texas, when she was Lori Ryan and newly divorced from her third husband who died from an apparent heart attack in 2018, according to a report by the U.S. Sun.

The couple split in 2004, and records show that the following year Lori Ryan filed for bankruptcy. She was being evicted from her 4,500-square-foot mansion worth $710,000, which she once owned with Joseph Ryan, the father of Tylee, who was 2 at the time, and a 9-year-old boy named Colby, the Sun reports.

The FBI recently confirmed that Joseph Ryan’s death is being investigated, and that Lori Vallow was a person of interest, according to the report.

Vallow is also being investigated in the shooting death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, and the October death of Chad Daybell’s previous wife, 49-year-old Tammy Daybell.

According to reports, Chad Daybell received a little over $400,000 from his former spouse’s life insurance policy, which he used to finance the trip to Hawaii, where he and Vallow married Nov. 5.

Vallow was arrested Feb. 20 in Kauai after ignoring an earlier court order to bring the children in front of a judge.

Explore»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Mother of 2 missing kids flown back to Idaho to face felony charges

In early March, she was extradited to Idaho to face felony abandonment charges. For now, Vallow is being held in the Madison County Jail, charged with several felony counts of child abandonment. She is seeking to lower her $1 million bail — an amount that was reduced from a $5 million bond in Hawaii.

Won $17,500 on Wheel of Fortune

Back in 2004, Lori Ryan was a hairstylist.

She competed in the Mrs. Texas beauty pageant shortly after winning $17,500 on the game show “Wheel of Fortune,” according to reports.

Her bankruptcy filing revealed that she couldn’t afford to make her bills every month and owed the IRS about $80,000 in back taxes, although she reported making only $45,000 between 2003 and 2005 combined, according to the Sun. About $560,000 was owed on the house. Lori also drove a car at the time that cost her $500 a month, the documents show.

Court papers from 2011 demonstrated Lori and Joseph Ryan were locked in a contentious custody battle over their daughter, Tylee. Joseph, who was paying $1,500 a month in child support, claimed Lori would not let him see Tylee after she moved to an upscale apartment in Austin, the report said.

Upcoming bond hearing

There was no indication of Lori Vallow’s current assets or her ability to pay a reduced bail.

In late February, prosecutors noted that Vallow’s current husband, Chad Daybell, had $152,000 in a First Hawaiian Bank account.

Vallow's upcoming bond hearing, which had been postponed twice, was made possible after the Idaho Supreme Court issued an Emergency Reduction Order due to the effects of coronavirus, according to a report by East Idaho News, which has been closely following the case from the outset.

Vallow’s preliminary hearing, initially scheduled for May 7 and 8, has also been suspended indefinitely as the court limits its docket amid the ongoing crisis.

What’s next

NBC’s “Dateline” plans to air a new two-hour program about the case, featuring interviews and new information. The special airs Friday (May 1) on NBC. The network’s popular investigative series aired a two-hour special on the case back in February.

Previously

Authorities accuse Vallow of not cooperating with the investigation and they say she has not offered any clues as to the whereabouts of Tylee and Joshua.

Her arrest Feb. 20 in Hawaii was the culmination of months of efforts by federal, state and local agencies working around the clock to find the children and explain the suspicious trail of deaths in three states.

Vallow married Daybell only two weeks after his previous wife of 30 years died Oct. 19, police said.

Tammy Daybell’s body has since been exhumed for an autopsy, and officials are still awaiting toxicology results, according to reports.

Explore»RELATED: Idaho mother’s husband purchased her wedding ring before last wife died

Neither Daybell, 51, nor Vallow, 46, has been formally charged in her death, although prosecutors are considering possible conspiracy, attempted murder and murder counts, according to East Idaho News.

Why we picked this story

At our morning team huddle, we discuss stories that are “talkers.” People are primed to look for driving forces in the world, ones that we can explain through our collective experience. This is one example.

In December, two months after Tammy Daybell’s death, Lori’s brother Alex Cox also died of unknown causes, according to reports. Cox, who appeared with Vallow and the children in Sept. 8 family photos at Yellowstone National Park, claimed self-defense in the July 2019 shooting death of Lori’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow.

Cox was never arrested or charged.

Explore»NEW DETAILS: FBI releases photos in search for missing Idaho kids

Reports say Arizona authorities are continuing to investigate Cox’s death.

Daybell, an author of several books about near-death experiences and the apocalypse, reportedly developed a relationship with Vallow while she was still married to her fourth husband.

Before his death, Charles Vallow filed for a protection order against Lori after she allegedly began making threats to kill him. He also discovered that she had tried to change the passwords to his accounts. After this, reports say Vallow had Lori’s name removed from his $1 million life insurance policy, which ultimately went to his sister.

Vallow also confided to family members that Lori was cheating and claiming to be a god, according to The Arizona Republic, and was in the process of filing for divorce when he was killed, according to news reports.

Chad Daybell is not facing any charges in the case and maintains that he and Vallow have done nothing wrong.