Those who follow true crime know that there are crimes that break your heart and crimes that infuriate you. Then there are crimes that manage to do both. Netflix’s documentary series, Sins of Our Mother, is firmly in the latter category.
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Sins of Our Mother explores the series of events that led a supposedly loving mother, Lori Vallow, to murder two of her children. (Allegedly, at least – she has yet to be found guilty in a court of law.) Even if you’re not a follower of true crime, you have almost undoubtedly heard Vallow’s name. In 2019, Vallow’s two missing children – Tylee and JJ – were all over the news. People were outraged to discover that their mother, Lori, was getting married on a beach while her children were missing.
As the search dragged on, everyone feared the worst. And rightly so, as their bodies were eventually discovered, and their mother (along with her husband, Chad Daybell) was charged with their murders.
As so often happens when parents are accused of murdering their children, people couldn’t help but ask why. Why would Lori murder her children? What could drive a mother to commit such a horrific crime? It would later be revealed, however, that the murder of the Vallow children was nowhere near the beginning of the story.
The End of Days
While Sins of Our Mother explores Chad Daybell’s role in the murders, Netflix’s documentary series focuses primary on Lori. Viewers are taken through her past, her various relationships, and her eventual attraction to a doomsday cult. It explores her delusions about angels and her self-proclaimed purpose. The documentary doesn’t shy away from the reality that Lori Vallow is not mentally well. Which may be the reason for her actions, but it isn’t an excuse for her actions.
What’s particularly infuriating about Vallow’s story is the realization that it didn’t have to end this way. There were numerous opportunities for people to intervene. Her husband – who her brother murdered well before her children were killed – saw the danger growing. Yet nobody listened. Not the police. Not the therapist who assessed Vallow during a period of commitment. And not the friends who heard Vallow talk about her conspiracy theories and didn’t intervene.
Now, it’s absolutely true that hindsight is 20/20. It’s also important to remember that those with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators. Vallow’s delusions were outlandish, but it’s still a bit of a leap to go from “I see angels” to family annihilator. It might even be a bit of a leap to go from accusations about “dark spirits” to child murderer. But seeing how the story ends, you still want to scream. Someone should have seen things spiraling. If not before her estranged husband, Charles, was murdered, then at least after. But, of course, we’re watching the documentary because nobody did.
Trials and Tribulations
The first episode of the Netflix documentary focuses on Vallow’s past, leading up to the point of her estranged husband’s death. The second episode focuses on the events leading to Tylee’s and JJ’s deaths and the subsequent search to find them. It delves into Vallow’s romance with Daybell (and his first wife’s mysterious death). Her belief in “zombies.” And her increased affiliation with the doomsday cult. The final episode focuses on Daybell’s trial, the determination of Vallow’s lack of competency, and her utter lack of remorse.
The last is perhaps the hardest part of all to hear. It’s unbearable to think a mother could murder her children. It’s unthinkable to think she wouldn’t feel regret for doing so. But she apparently believed her children were “zombies,” and even in jail, it’s clear that she doesn’t believe that they were still her children at the time of their murder.
I can’t conceive of doing the things Vallow did. And understanding the possible reason for her actions – her inability to fully grasp the reality of her actions – doesn’t take away from the gravity of what she did. Again, allegedly. What happened to JJ and Tylee is tragic. The fact that (almost) nobody saw the warning signs before it was too late is infuriating.
At the end of the final episode of the documentary, it’s noted that earlier this year, Vallow was finally found competent to stand trial, which she is scheduled to do in 2023. If her mental state has indeed recovered to the extent that she’s once again legally competent, it’s possible that she now has the capacity to understand the gravity of her actions.
If the allegations against her are true, then she murdered two of her children. I can’t imagine doing what she did, but I know I’d never be able to live with myself if I did.
Sins of Our Mother releases on Netflix on September 14.