Posts Tagged ‘Josh Powell’

Big news this morning: 84 previously-sealed documents dealing with the disappearance of Susan were unsealed and released to the public. The news is just now coming out, so more details on the documents, as well as the documents themselves, will be released later today.

Thanks go to the Salt Lake Tribune for getting these documents released to the public.

So far the story is up on the following news sites:

FOX-13 News, Salt Lake City, who had this to say:

“The documents also reveal that the oldest Powell child told investigators that Susan did go on the infamous camping trip, but he told detectives [his] mother decided to stay at the campsite.”

From King 5 in Seattle:

“As early as two days after Susan Powell was reported missing, authorities in their hometown of West Valley City, Utah, were describing the case as a murder, kidnapping, unlawful detention and obstruction of justice probe, the documents reveal.”

KSL News in Salt Lake said this:

From the earliest stages of their investigation, West Valley police focused on "blood stain patterns" found on the sofa, carpet and floor of the Powell’s West Valley home. In a search warrant affidavit from Dec. 14, 2009, detectives believed "that someone was injured and lost blood while on the sofa inside the residence." Forensics testing later confirmed the blood was Susan Powell’s.

“Detectives also noted in court documents: "There was nothing missing from the residence, there was no signs of forced entry and it didn’t appear there was a robbery, home invasion, burglary or signs of a struggle."

“Also compelling for police were the statements of Josh and Susan Powell’s son Charlie Powell, who was 4 at the time. He told detectives that "his mother had gone with them camping on Sunday and that for some reason she stayed at the campsite and did not return home with them," according to a search warrant affidavit filed the day after Susan Powell was reported missing.”

The Salt Lake Tribune had some really interesting tidbits from the documents, including the following:

* “The last call on Susan Powell’s phone was made at 2:29 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2009, to Jovanna Owings, a friend. Josh Powell called his father at 12:14 p.m. that same day. One affidavit said Steve Powell later said his son had called him for a pancake recipe.

* “during an initial interview Josh Powell said he left the couple’s West Valley City home between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. to go camping near Cedar Fort to test a newly purchased generator.

* “Josh Powell also claimed to not know where his wife was and "did not appear to have any concern at this time for her welfare."

* “In the search of the couple’s van, police found a generator, blankets, a gas can, tarps, circular saw, humidifier, utility knife, latex gloves, rake, sleds, and a shovel.

* “They also found Susan’s cell phone in the center console of the Chrysler Town and Country van. The SIM card was missing.

"’ ‘This phone was off and upon finding it Mr. Powell appeared nervous and could not account for the phone being in the vehicle,’ according to a different affidavit taken from West Valley City Detective Ellis Maxwell.

* “Josh Powell seemed unresponsive when Maxwell told him that Susan Powell’s purse, filled with her credit cards, identification and other personal items, was left in the home. What Maxwell didn’t mention in that interview was that investigators also had found a key to Susan’s secret safety deposit box.”

The Salt Lake Tribune will be posting the 84 documents in their entirety in this article in the next hour or so.

Edited to add: FOX 13 has complete PDFs of all 84 documents here.


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From the Seattle Times:

In a report released this morning, the state Children’s Administration found that while social workers like Griffin-Hall demonstrated a high concern for Charlie and Braden, their awareness that Powell was a suspect in his wife’s disappearance should have prompted greater vigilance. The 12-page Child Fatality Review, compiled by a panel of lawyers, a judge, a police officer, social service providers, a psychologist and two state senators, said the Children’s Administration should have tried harder to find out more about the potential threat to the children because of the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell.”

According to the Seattle Times, the report made the following recommendations for future dealings with children:

• If there’s an active criminal investigation involving someone connected with a child dependency case, Children’s Administration should make an effort to consult with law enforcement involved before making any changes in parent/child visitation agreements.

• There needs to be ongoing domestic-violence training for Children’s Administration staff.

• The courts need to articulate its reasons for placing children with a caregiver over the objection of a parent.

• Children’s Administration should reassess visitation agreements and other supervision issues soon after a psychosexual evaluation is issued.

"The message from this report is there are a lot of people reviewing the matter, myself included, who really expected to find fault in some fashion but from my perspective it really wasn’t there," Anderson said. "This is a tragic situation, despite the best efforts of the people involved in the case. There are things to be learned from it, but more it’s a ‘here’s how we can improve on things in the future’."

You can read the entire state report in a sidebar to the Seattle Times’ article, or a direct PDF link here.

Many news sources weighed in on this report today:

KSL News in Salt Lake City

Attorney Anne Bremner, speaking this morning on the Dori Monson show, Seattle

From the Associated Press, as reported by KIRO TV, Seattle

The Salt Lake Tribune spoke with Chuck Cox, who had this to say about the report:

“… That last conclusion drew a strong response from Chuck Cox, the missing woman’s father.

"We told them Josh was capable of killing the children," Cox said. "We had warned them of that very possibility. We told them of our concern that if Josh Powell was cornered and was going to lose the children or be arrested, he would be capable of killing the children and himself. And that is exactly what happened."

Cox said he and his wife Judy shared that concern with caseworkers, psychologists, police and attorneys involved in the case after receiving temporary custody of their grandsons in September 2011.

"They heard us, they knew about it and they chose to dismiss it," he said. "And, as a result, our grandchildren are dead."

…. Cox said that while he believes case workers were doing the best they could and had genuine concern for his grandsons, the child welfare system is flawed because of its focus on reunification of children and parents.

"Pointing fingers is not going to bring the children back," he said, "but perhaps the notoriety of this case will help protect other children and makes changes to focus on the best interests of children."


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During the second week of May 2012, Steve Powell’s voyeurism trial began.

The mother of the two neighbor girls—victims of Steve Powell’s voyeurism—testified, and so did her two daughters, the victims.

The jury viewed pictures of the voyeuristic evidence. They were ordered every day by the judge not to view, read or research anything about the case, or about Josh or Susan Powell.

Many wondered why Susan was not named as a victim, since Steve Powell had taken many photos of her without her knowledge, and admitted in his journal that he was a voyeur as he wrote obsessively about Susan and others.

Anne Bremner, an attorney for the Cox family, explained that Susan couldn’t be named as a victim because she was not there to testify that she didn’t know Steve was videotaping and photographing her without her knowledge.

Detectives from both Pierce County, Washington and West Valley City, Utah testified against Steve Powell. Jennifer Graves, Steve Powell’s daughter, also testified against her father.

The defense did not call any witnesses. The jury deliberated for about 6 hours but finally returned a unanimous “guilty on all counts” verdict against Steve.

During the trial Alina Powell, Josh Powell’s younger sister, put up a website claiming her father was innocent and had a perfectly normal, innocent relationship with Susan. She also claimed police planted the evidence against her father.

Those close to Susan were grateful to Alina for releasing videos of Susan, but felt her messages and claims were the mark of desperation, and agreed with Brent Hunsaker’s view of this website:

“But in truth, I saw very little interaction between Susan and Steve in the videos. No eye contact. No direct conversations. If anything, it appears Susan is ignoring her father-in-law and focusing almost exclusively on her two boys.

“I do not see what Alina sees.

”As someone pointed out to me, there are films of Adolph Hitler playing with his dogs. Does that prove he was a loving man? No. How do we know? Context.”

Steve Powell was returned to jail, and the sentencing hearing was set for June 15.

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On Saturday, February 11, funeral services were held for Charlie and Braden Powell, ages 5 and 7. Susan’s beloved little boys were celebrated and remembered by friends, teachers, and family. The funeral was live-streamed via internet and TV in Washington and Utah. (Watch the complete funeral service here, courtesy of KIRO-TV.)

Image from Seattle Times

Coverage from KSL-TV

Huffington Post

ABC News

Funeral notice by funeral home


A copy of the funeral program, provided by Seattle’s King-5

Seattle Times photos from the funeral

 Video memorial for the boys, courtesy of KING-5, Seattle

Eulogies for Charlie and Braden

At the request of ABC News, I wrote about the events of that weekend. You can read it here.

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On February 6, 2012, new details were released by Pierce County police about what happened in Josh Powell’s rental house the day before.

Josh apparently attacked his children. With a hatchet. BEFORE setting the gasoline-soaked house on fire.

There are no words.

What kind of evil fills a person who can do this to his own children?

Other revelations followed. Josh Powell had planned this murder/suicide days in advance. Pierce County CPS/court system also released huge stacks of CPS documents, psychologist reports, and details of Josh’s visitation with his boys. The 911 call by the visit supervisor that Sunday was released, including audio versions by the visit supervisor and also Alina Powell, Josh’s younger sister (who was living at Steve Powell’s house).

Dr. Phil covered the story in a one-hour episode on Friday, February 10.

Dateline-NBC (look down the left side and click on “A Family’s Story, part 1”) and ABC’s 20/20 (episode called “Sins of the Father”) both covered the murders in a full episode the night of Friday, February 10. (Months later, at the end of May, so did the show E! Investigates on the E! Channel. Their show was called “E! Investigates: a Family Tragedy: the Powells.”)

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The events of this day (just like the day Susan was first reported missing, on December 7, 2009) will forever be burned into my mind.

I returned home from church at about 2:20pm (Mountain time) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Right after walking in the door, my phone rang. I saw that it was ABC-4, one of Salt Lake City’s local TV news stations.

I sighed as I thought, “What now?” I figured there must be some sort of news.

I had no idea just how devastating this news would be.

The person on the phone told me they were sorry to be the one to tell me this if I didn’t know, but they had just received reports of an explosion at Josh Powell’s house.

I was confused. “What do you mean? An actual explosion, or a verbal explosion?” I was thinking they were referring to some sort of yelling match.  I also asked if it was at Steve Powell’s house, or Josh’s rental house.

They answered, “The rental house. An actual explosion. And it was during Josh’s visitation time—there are reports that the bodies of two children were found.”

Time seemed to stop. I screamed, “NO!!! NO, no, no!!” My family came running down the stairs and gathered around me. They thought I’d just received news of a car accident—I had a sister and her family who were driving across the country that day, to the West Coast.

The ABC-4 person was saying something, but I interrupted them and gasped out “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now.” I hung up and dialed Chuck Cox, with trembling fingers.

He answered right away. I was crying so hard I could hardly talk. I said, without preamble, “Is it true?? A news station just called me. Is it true??”

He said, “I don’t know. I’m on my way there right now. I’ll call you back as soon as I know.”

The next thing I had to do was make two of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make in my life. The first one was to Jennifer Graves, and the next one was to Debbie Caldwell.

Jennifer is Josh’s sister, and had plans to adopt Charlie and Braden. She already loved and knew them as her nephews, and thought of them as her future sons. She had been through two years of hell, along with the Coxes and myself and others who knew and loved Susan, and courageously stood up for Susan even when Josh, Steve, and their other siblings in Washington publicly “disowned” and defamed her.

Debbie was Charlie and Braden’s daycare provider before Susan disappeared (she’s also the one who raised the alarm that Susan, Josh, and the boys were missing when the boys didn’t show up to daycare on December 7, 2009). Susan’s boys spent 12 hours a day with her, three days each week, and thought of her as their Nana. She loved them like her own grandchildren. She worried about and grieved for them every day they were in Washington, and called CPS right after Josh moved them there in 2009 to beg CPS to do a child welfare check.

I did not want to be the one to tell either of these amazing women, who have become two of my closest friends. But I would rather they heard it from me than hear the news from a stranger (no offense to any media person reading this).

I won’t infringe on their privacy by reporting their reactions, but I’m sure you can imagine how they felt.

I was praying and crying and pacing nervously while waiting for Chuck to call me back. The phone rang a few minutes later. “It’s true,” he said heavily. “I’ve just been there and talked to the sheriff. Josh blew up the house and they’ve found three bodies inside.”

I was crying so hard I couldn’t talk. Chuck said, “I wish there was something I could say to help.” Even in my grief, I was amazed…these were his grandchildren, and he was trying to think of something he could say or do to comfort me.

He told me he was still in crisis mode and hadn’t had a chance to process. I felt the same.

Throughout the afternoon, friends and church members stopped by. We hugged and cried, not saying much. News trucks descended in force. The media were all very kind. I know this tragedy affected those reporters, too—many of them have covered this case in every detail since Susan disappeared.

That evening, I found out a few minutes before it started that some total strangers had planned a candlelight vigil in the parking lot of an elementary school. I packed up my family and we went there to meet a group of about 30 or so people, none of whom had any connection to Susan but who just wanted to show their love and support. They were so wonderful to do such a kind thing to help us grieve together over Charlie and Braden’s loss.

Some of the huge amounts of news coverage from that terrible day:


KING-5, Seattle

CBS News

Huffington Post

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On Wednesday, February 1, 2012, Josh Powell went to court again to try to regain custody of his two sons, Charlie and Braden. After a tense afternoon for those in the courtroom (and many following the proceedings all over the world), the judge ruled that Chuck and Judy Cox/Washington state would keep custody of the boys until July 2012, when court would reconvene for another hearing.

The judge also ordered Josh to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation, including a polygraph test, because of suspicious pictures of (what was later revealed as) “computer-animated incestuous images” found on his Utah computer, seized by police in 2009.

News coverage of the hearing:

KIRO-TV, Seattle

ABC News

Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Reaction from Salt Lake-area friends from ABC-4

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