GILBERT, AZ — A Gilbert dog trainer may have been one of the last people to see one of two missing kids with ties to Arizona.
J.J. Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, were last seen in September in Idaho. They used to live in Gilbert.
Police say their mother Lori Vallow Daybell and her new husband Chad Daybell are "persons of interest" in their disappearance. The couple was found in Hawaii last month.
Lori Daybell was served a court order to present her kids to police in Rexburg, Idaho, but she never showed up.
Owner of Dog Training Elite Neal Mestas said he knew the Vallows well. He met the family in December 2017 and said he helped train a Goldendoodle puppy to become a service dog for J.J., who has autism. The dog's name was Bailey.
"Sometimes kids with autism will wander off, they will get distracted. Bailey was there to keep him on task and alert the parents if he was wandering off," he said.
Bailey's biggest assignment was to help J.J. with sleep and anxiety.
"He would get up in the middle of the night and they had to have all the doors locked and everything secured so he wouldn’t wander off into the neighborhood," said Mestas. "One of the first nights that J.J. slept through the night and stayed in his bed was the first night that Bailey stayed there with him.”
In August, Mestas said Lori called him saying he needed to get Bailey and find him a new home. She told him her husband had passed away and they were moving to Idaho. Mestas said he thought it was odd that they'd get rid of the dog.
“The dog was for J.J., and I would think, especially after your dad has passed away, that’s when you’d really need that emotional support," said Mestas. A few days later, Mestas went to the Vallow's Gilbert home to pick up Bailey.
“When I got to the house, J.J. was in the backseat of the SUV with his tablet. She (Lori) was loading bags," he said.
"She asked me if I had found a home for Bailey and I said, 'No I hadn’t, I didn’t have time to do that.' She said, 'Well if my daughter asks just say that you have because she’s really upset about all of this.' 'I said, 'Okay' but the daughter never came out. I never saw if she was there.”
He said at the time, he had no idea Lori's husband Charles Vallow had been shot to death. “It was hard to believe at first, very hard to believe," said Mestas.
According to Chandler police, in July, Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori's brother Alex Cox, who said it was self-defense.
In December, Cox was found unresponsive in Gilbert. Gilbert police told ABC15 they are waiting for the autopsy results.
There's an open investigation into a death on Chad Daybell's side as well. His wife Tammy Daybell was found dead in October in Idaho.
Fremont County deputies first thought she died of natural causes, but now say it's suspicious. They're also waiting for autopsy results.
Back in Rexburg where J.J. and Tylee were last seen, investigators recently went through a storage unit that Lori Vallow used before she left for Hawaii in November.
According to EastIdahoNews.com, Rexburg police found children's clothes, sports equipment and photo albums with pictures of both kids.