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Rexburg, Idaho locals react to case of missing children as mother returns to Idaho

Posted at 8:23 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 00:18:31-05

REXBURG, ID — The mother of two missing children is expected to arrive in Idaho Thursday from Hawaii. Lori Vallow is charged in connection to the disappearance of her kids 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.

Vallow has been living on the island of Kauai since December 2019 without her children, according to the police.

JJ and Tylee have not been seen since September 2019. The three had lived together in Rexburg, Idaho, prior to their disappearance.

She was in court Wednesday for a status hearing in Kauai. On Friday, Vallow will have her initial court appearance in Rexburg to face charges of desertion, obstruction, and contempt of court.

Court filings show Vallow hired three lawyers out of Boise, Idaho and that they will ask for a bond reduction on Friday.

ABC15 spoke to locals in Rexburg about the case.

The city has a population of about 29,000 and is home to Brigham Young University-Idaho and the temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We were settled by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. People don't move a lot, so there are still a lot of people whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers were settlers," said Christopher Mann, the President and CEO of the Rexburg Chamber of Commerce.

Mann described Rexburg mainly as a college town. BYU is owned by the LDS church, and its students make up two-thirds of the population.

"I would say that they employ about half the people in town at BYU, so it is the economic center of the community," Mann added.

Tourism is another big draw. "We're the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. We have a wonderful opportunity for fishing and hunting," said Mann.

Now, Rexburg is at the center of a convoluted story involving two missing children, three suspicious deaths and investigations in multiple states.

"I think this is probably one of the biggest crime stories ever to come out of here, said Mann.

"That was really shocking," said Rachel Running. Running is an Arizona native who studies at BYU and lives just a few doors down from Vallow's old apartment.

"People are just really shocked that something like that would happen in Rexburg, Idaho of all places because it's generally really safe here and nothing really happens," she said.