When it comes to true crime, it's no exaggeration to say Keith Morrison has seen it all.
For nearly 30 years, the Dateline correspondent has investigated events as tragic as the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, as chilling as the Robert Durst murder trial and as head-scratching as the tale of convicted killer Pam Hupp.
And yet, Keith tells E! News he's shocked by the events that have unfolded since siblings Joshua "J.J." Vallow, 7, and Tylee Vallow, 17, went missing in September 2019, as detailed in the NBC Dateline podcast Mommy Doomsday.
"Shock has become a big word in my vocabulary," he explains. "I mean, people are capable of doing the most horrific things that don't make any sense. And you don't understand why and what makes people think and behave the way they do."
Even so, Keith says he and the Dateline team knew something was afoul when police showed up at the home of Lori Vallow on Nov. 26, 2019 with questions regarding the whereabouts of her two kids. Keith recalls, "From the moment we first heard about it, it was pretty clear from the start that something very bad had happened to these children."
"For a little while, I think that there was some hope that those children would be found alive. And certainly, anybody who cared about them, as obviously their families did—what was left to their families—was desperately hoping that they were okay," he continues. "But, you know, there was certainly an understanding as well, that the outcome of this was probably not going to be good."
The journalist adds, "I think just how awful it was, how shocking—nobody foresaw."
For the past year, Keith has spoken to investigators, as well as those closest to Lori, to uncover what he describes is a "story with deep tentacles."
As Mommy Doomsday reveals, Lori is a complicated woman, who, from the outside looking in, dedicated her life to raising a family motivated by the teachings of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Then, she met her fifth and now-husband Chad Daybell, an alleged leader of an extremist religious group who believed the end-times were coming. Chad is said to have convinced Lori of their intertwined past lives, seemingly setting off a series of unfortunate events that concluded with the deaths of J.J. and Tylee.
Since Lori and Chad's fateful introduction, five people connected to the couple have died.
Lori's fourth husband, Charles Vallow, died in July 2019 when her brother, Alex Cox, allegedly shot him in self-defense. This was witnessed by Lori and Tylee, who according to Mommy Doomsday backed up Alex's claims that Charles was hell-bent on attacking him with a baseball bat.
However, Charles' loved ones claim he was killed by Alex and Lori, who acted under the belief that Lori would be the recipient of a $1 million life insurance pay-out.
Detectives have struggled to uncover the truth though, because Alex died just months later in December 2019. An autopsy report determined he died of natural causes.
Similarly, Chad's first wife, Tammy Daybell, passed away in her sleep of what was claimed to be natural causes in October 2019. At the time, Chad, who was already seeing Lori, declined an autopsy examination and she was subsequently laid to rest.
Two weeks later, Chad and Lori were married in a private ceremony in Hawaii.
Tammy's body has since been exhumed and the authorities completed an autopsy report this February, though the results have not been shared with the public.
Then, in a heartbreaking conclusion to a 9-month search, authorities discovered the buried remains of J.J. and Tylee in Chad's backyard last June, prompting the police to arrest both Chad and Lori. At the time, Lori and Chad were already in police custody after being extradited from Hawaii to Idaho on charges in connection with the children's disappearance.
The married couple are currently awaiting trial on numerous charges, including conspiracy to commit destruction of evidence. Both Chad and Lori pleaded not guilty to all charges, and neither have been charged with J.J. and Tylee's murder at this time.
Despite the criminal allegations against Lori, Keith says he's heard from authorities that she "remains convinced she's on the right path." He shares, "The stories that we have heard from her jailers are that she's reading Chad's books, she's writing him letters, she's dancing in her cell. She still seems to be caught up in the belief that she is going to be swept out of all this and taken up to heaven sometime in the next little while."
And while Mommy Doomsday explicitly details Lori and Chad's deceptions, there are those who momentarily believed that maybe, just maybe, the pair didn't play a role in the deaths of J.J., Tylee and, potentially, three others.
One such person was Melani Boudreaux, Lori's niece. She moved to Idaho to be closer to Lori and Chad. Melani was one of Chad's followers and moved to Idaho to be closer to his congregation.
Melani's ex-husband, Brandon Boudreaux, would go on to accuse Lori's brother Alex of attempting to shoot him, with the help of Melani. Melani denies any knowledge of an assassination attempt and faces no criminal charges in the ongoing investigation.
Then, there's Lori's eldest son Colby Ryan, who speaks about his mom with equal parts admiration and disbelief throughout the podcast. Keith declines to comment on whether he's spoken to Colby, saying, "He has his own feelings, and I can only guess what they are. I hope that he is coming to terms with it or finding some sort of peace. I'm sure he still cares about his mother. I'm sure he feels blindsided by a lot of this material."
He adds, "I have tremendous sympathy for his situation. He's faced a very difficult, difficult couple of years."
Those difficult years are not yet over, with authorities continuing their investigation into the deaths of J.J. and Tylee.
Additionally, Keith says the Dateline team is still "discovering" how Lori and Chad's decisions and actions "all contributed to the day in which those two children were found in a backyard cemetery."
It's for this reason, he anticipates, "There will certainly be future editions of Dateline with all the material that comes out, because there's still a lot more to be uncovered."
In fact, the Dateline team has a lot in store for fans, because in addition to their weekly shows, Keith says he's already working on his third podcast, which he's "enjoying immensely."
The veteran broadcaster explains that after working on Dateline for more than 20 years he's found writing podcasts to be "a liberating experience."
Until then, you can catch Keith Morrison on Dateline Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, as well as on the new Peacock streaming channel, Dateline 24/7. His podcast, Mommy Doomsday, is now available to stream wherever you get your podcasts.
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