Disappearance of Susan Powell
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Susan Cox Powell was last seen on December 6, 2009. She is anAmerican woman from West Valley City, Utah whose disappearance has garnered national press attention, and police investigation is ongoing as of 2012 primarily as a missing persons rather than a murder case. Significant public scrutiny focused on her husband, Josh Powell, who was considered a person of interest. Although there was considerable suspicion and circumstantial evidence, and Josh was largely uncooperative in answering questions from law enforcement, Josh was never named as a suspect nor charged with a crime in the investigation.
Josh's father Steven Powell was very close to Josh and, according to his journal, had a sexual obsession with Susan. He has been confirmed privately to be a person of interest, though he has never been formally named nor charged in connection with Susan's case. Steven was seen with Josh hiking in the Topaz mountains 3 months before the disappearance. Phone records show he conversed with Josh shortly before Susan disappeared. Steven then called in sick the 2 days after Susan went missing after telling one witness he was planning to go camping with Josh and his small boys. This coincided with Josh Powell driving a rented car over 800 miles.
In late 2011 Josh lost custody of the couple's two young children shortly after Steven, who was living with Josh and the children, was arrested onvoyeurism and child pornography charges. During a supervised visit with his children on February 5, 2012, Josh locked out the social worker, took a hatchet to his children, and killed himself and his children by setting his home on fire, using gasoline as anaccelerant. Susan Powell is still legally a missing person as the case is not closed, but especially since the fire, she has been widely presumed dead at at the hands of her husband.
Steven, who was convicted of voyeurism and sentenced on June 15, 2012 to two and a half years in prison, has invoked the Fifth Amendment on Susan's case. Susan's father and many others believe that Steven has knowledge of Susan's fate and that circumstantial evidence points to him having played important roles in planning and assisting in the disappearance. Steven may have been assisting in a cover up by promoting implausible theories and cover stories to mislead authorities and media.Nevertheless, Alina Powell continues to advocate on a website that Josh and Steven are innocent of all charges and suspicions, and that all criminal claims were false or fabricated.
Steven Powell was born in Portland, Oregon in 1950. Steven was said to be a strong negative influence on Josh Powell, husband of Susan. The "Times Tribune" of Tacoma, Washington concluded in an editorial that "Steve is far more than a common voyeur; his sense of sexual entitlement and contempt for women contributed to homicides in two generations of Powells. It is a testament to how much ruin one man can visit on his own family." 
Steven wrote he was a victim of parental kidnapping on his music website where he is also known as Steve Chantry. Steven's mother left her marriage, taking her children with her to live in Ohio. Steven's father came to Ohio, took his children and dropped them off with his (Steven's grandparents) parents in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. On his music website, Steven wrote of child abuse that he experienced at the hands of his grandmother. As he grew up, Steven joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(LDS Church), and served a 2 year LDS mission to Argentina.
Steven married Terrica "Terri" Martin in the Portland Oregon Temple in 1973. He first worked in real estate, and became a long-term furniture salesman for Virco Manufacturing near Spokane, Washington. Their first child Jennifer was born in 1974. Their other children were Joshua, born in 1976, Johnny born 1977 and Alina in 1985. There is also a brother named Michael.
By 1992, divorce documents were filed, and mother Terrica made statements describing disturbing behavior by Josh trying to commit suicide and threatened her with a butcher knife after being asked to do the dishes. Steven got custody of Josh and the other boys. Alina was given to her mother, but shortly after also moved to live with her father. Terrica wrote that Steve collected books on the occult and had an alarming interest in pornography.
Steven was transferred to Puyallup, Washington. Josh went to Rogers High School, as did Susan Cox. Josh Powell first met Susan Cox in 2000, when he was 24 after attending college and Susan was 19, as she had graduated from high school. They met at a church sponsored function.
Josh and Susan were married April 2001 at the Portland Oregon Temple. They moved into an apartment together near Susan's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, who had reservations about Josh but relented when Susan insisted she wanted to be married.Susan Powell worked as a cosmetologist and embraced being homemaker in the garden and learning to can, bake bread and crochet. Josh claims he graduated from the University of Washington with a Business Administration / Management Bachelor's degree in 2002, though this has not been verified.
To save money for their own apartment early in the marriage, the couple moved in with Josh's father, Steven Powell, into a dining room closed with a curtain. Susan soon felt uncomfortable around Steve and once caught him trying to watch her dress. After Steve Powell tried a romantic kiss, she told Josh they had to move out. She would return to visit Steven's house in Washington because she wanted Josh to be able to visit his family, but she did not enjoy it.
In 2004 the couple did move to Utah where Joshua's mother Terri and his sister Jennifer Graves had moved. They purchased a 3 bedroom home in West Valley City and joined the Hunter 36th Ward of the LDS church. Joshua initially worked for Homenet Real Estate, while Susan drew a salary at a call center at Fidelity Investments in Salt Lake City. She took maternity leave when son Charlie was born January 19, 2005 but soon quit to be a full time mother. Braden was born January 2, 2007, and Susan stayed home to care for them.
Susan was dismayed that Josh stopped attending church by 2006. She believed he was influenced by his father Steven who was "infecting Josh with his poison" of anti-Mormon beliefs.
The couple struggled financially as Joshua Powell racked up more than $200,000 in debts including credit card, furniture, and student loans and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2007. By January 2008, Susan was working at Wells Fargo Investments in Salt Lake City.
In 2012, a Utah woman reported that she saw Josh and his father Steven in the Topaz mountains. They were conspicuous because they were not dressed for the outdoors, and seemed to have an unusual agenda and were obviously not looking for crystals like most hikers who go there. Josh would later tell authorities that he often took his family camping and that he enjoyed camping in the Topaz mountains, but this is apparently the only confirmation that he ever visited the area.
The morning of Sunday, December 6, Susan (then 28 years old) and her two sons attended church services at the Hunter 36th LDS Ward / stake building. Josh was at home where phone records show he called his father Steven at 12:14PM. Some have speculated that Steven could have coached Josh on Susan's disappearance at this time. Susan and the two boys walked home with friend Kiirsi Hellewell after the service.
At 2 PM, neighbor JoVonna Owings arrived to visit with Susan to help untangle yarn for crocheting. Susan's last phone call to Jovanna Owings. was at 2:29 PM. In an unusual gesture, Josh offered to cook a late breakfast of pancakes with cream cheese, and scrambled eggs with onions and bell peppers. It was served after an unusual delay at 4PM. By 5PM, Susan excused herself as she was feeling ill and laid down for a nap about 5 p.m. Owings left as Joshua Powell told her he was also leaving to take the boys sledding. Susan's father Chuck Cox later speculated "when the husband fixes a meal for the family and all of a sudden, somebody's sick..." and when asked if Susan could have been poisoned, "anything's possible.. drugged.. or something."
At 8:30 PM, a neighbor saw Josh Powell return home and park in his garage, but no one recalls seeing Josh take the boys sledding. Police would later find that sometime before Josh left that night that a sofa had been cleaned. In 2012, unsealed documents also revealed that police had found that blood stains matching Susan were left on the floor nearby, and fans had been set up to dry the floor and carpet. Josh later told police that before leaving he "washed" the couch and placed a fan nearby to dry it. He says "we made an agreement, that I would wash the couch and she would shovel the walkway." Steven Powell, who was not there at the time, offered a slightly different explanation that Susan decided to clean the carpets herself, and the red spot on the carpet underneath the couch was probably just juice. A rug cleaner was later among the items removed as evidence from the home.
Josh told authorities that he told Susan he would be taking the boys camping after midnight, and that Susan said that she was "ok with it" as long as the boys stayed warm. He brought a generator to drive a heater, an unusual method of heating a standard minivan which had not been adapted as an RV for winter camping. The Pony Express trail head was less than 40 miles away from town. At 11:45 PM, a car alarm was heard going off in the garage by a neighbor shortly before Josh said he left on the camping trip, but it was reset before the neighbors came over to investigate. Josh Powell said that he saw Susan when she went to sleep at midnight.
Shortly after midnight, Josh woke up the boys for the camping trip. It was an ill-timed departure as Josh and Susan were supposed to work the next Monday morning and drop off the boys at daycare. Josh later gave the simple explanation that he was under the impression that it was Sunday even though Susan had walked home from church that morning. At roughly 12:45 AM, Josh left the house with his sons in the family minivan. It was their only vehicle as they had sold their other car to save money. Investigators would find that Josh had left the house with Susan's phone, a generator, blankets, a gas can, tarps and a shovel, but not any typical camping gear such as sleeping bags or tent. Susan's purse containing all of her credit cards, cash, identification, and keys were later located in the master bedroom undisturbed. According to Josh, he was headed for campgrounds at Simpson Springs Recreation Area and the Pony Express Trail. It was a story that only the few supporters of Josh would find to be credible.
At first, the entire Powell family — Susan, Josh Powell, and their sons Charlie and Braden (ages 4 and 2) — were reported missing on Monday, December 7, 2009, by family members. Josh Powell's mother and sister went looking for the family at their home in West Valley City, a suburb of Salt Lake City, shortly after being informed that the children had not been dropped off at daycare that morning. They called the police when they failed to make contact with Josh and Susan. The police broke into the home, fearing that they might be victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. They found no one inside.
Later that day, at about 5 pm, Josh Powell returned home with the two children but without Susan. He asserted that he left his sleeping wife at their home at about 12:30 am on December 7, to take the children on a camping trip on that snowy night to Simpson Springs Campground in western Utah. Susan Powell did not show up at her job at Wells Fargo Financial on December 7; her purse, cell phone, and car all were left behind at home; and she never contacted the police or anyone else.
Police and neighbors labeled Susan's disappearance "suspicious" and authorities began investigating. Authorities searched the Powell home on December 9, removing some items. Among the findings during the investigation were traces of Susan's blood on the floor of the home, life insurance policies on Susan for US$1.5 million, and a handwritten letter from Susan describing a turbulent marriage and expressing that she feared for her life.
Police interviewed Josh Powell and their 4-year-old son, Charlie. The child confirmed that the camping trip Josh described took place, however unlike his father he stated that Susan had gone with them and she did not return. Weeks after her disappearance, a teacher reported that Charlie said his mother was dead. The parents of Susan Powell said that while at day care several months after Susan's disappearance, Braden drew a picture of a van with three people in it, and told caregivers that "Mommy was in the trunk."
West Valley City Police Captain Tom McLachlan initially told the media that authorities planned to re-question Josh Powell.Police also subpoenaed all footage and interviews, aired and unaired, of Josh Powell from local television stations. By December 24, the police considered Josh Powell to be a person of interest in the investigation. On December 14, Josh Powell retained an attorney in connection with the investigation, and police said that he grew increasingly uncooperative with the investigation.
On December 28, 2009, the search warrants in Susan Cox Powell's case were sealed by a judge.[dead link]
Developments in 2010–2011
In January 2010, Josh Powell moved to Puyallup, Washington, where he occupied a home with his sons and father, Steve Powell, and indicated that he would rent the house in Utah. It was reported that he returned to his hometown of Puyallup after he had lost his job.
In early 2010, the website SusanPowell.org was established. Described as "the official website of Susan Powell," the site's anonymous entries describe Josh as a loving father and grieving husband who was the subject of a smear campaign by members of Susan's family, his sister Jennifer Graves, and the LDS Church to which Josh and Susan belonged. Additional pages on the site suggest that Susan's disappearance might be connected to the disappearance of Utahan Steven Koecher, an erstwhile Salt Lake Tribune contributor who vanished the same week as Susan. According to Salt Lake City news sources, the website was "widely believed to be written by Josh and his father".
In late 2010, Josh and Steven Powell claimed that Susan had abandoned her family due to mental illness, and also that she had left with another man. Susan's family rejected these claims as being unsupported by any evidence.
The Facebook page for Susan Cox Powell was taken down for technical and identity-verification reasons on January 30–31, 2010. The page was subsequently re-established, and has over 45,000 members as of early 2010.
On September 14, 2011, Utah authorities discovered what they believed might have been a grave site and human remains while searching Topaz Mountain, a desert area near Nephi, Utah that Josh had frequented as a campsite. Excavation of the Topaz Mountain site found no human remains. There were signs of recent soil disturbance and shoveling, but after digging a few feet down police were unable to find any remains, in spite of careful sifting of the soil. Federal anthropologists also ruled out the possibility of the site being an ancient burial ground. Police continued to examine the site for a time, but offered no explanation as to why they previously announced the finding of remains, when none had actually been confirmed yet. Authorities said they were following a scent detected by their sniffer dogs.
Relationships between and within the Powell and Cox families had become increasingly hostile. After a police raid on their home in 2011, both Josh Powell and his father Steve spoke to major news outlets regarding journals that Susan had allegedly written, and about the relationship between Steve Powell and Susan. Steve Powell claimed that he and Susan had been falling in love prior to her disappearance, and he cited the content of the journals (written when Susan was a teen) as evidence to support his theory that she was mentally unstable and could have run away with another man. On September 23, 2011, a judge issued a permanent injunction forbidding Josh and Steven Powell from publishing any material from Susan's journals, ordering the pair to either return or destroy any journals already published.
On September 22, 2011, Steve Powell was arrested on charges of voyeurism and child pornography. Police say he had secretly videotaped numerous women and young girls, including Susan Powell. John Long, assistant Attorney General for Washington, said that Josh Powell was a "subject" in the child porn investigation. A friend of Steven Powell claimed that Steven was preoccupied with pornography and "was hung up on [Susan] sexually, it seemed." After Susan's disappearance, the friend reported Steven's apparent obsession with Susan to police.
Chuck Cox (Susan Cox Powell's father) filed for custody of the children the day after Steve Powell was arrested. A Washington court eventually granted Cox temporary custody of the children. The court said that Josh would have to move out of his father's home if he wanted to regain custody of his children, so he rented a house in Graham, Washington. However, authorities later alleged that he had never actually moved into that house, that he merely made it appear that he had satisfied the court's instructions while he continued to reside at his father's home.
In late September 2011, Josh Powell's sister, Jennifer Graves, stated that she believes Josh was "responsible for his wife's disappearance". His other sister, Alina, had been suspicious of him as well, however she later withdrew her suspicions and felt that he had been unduly harassed by the investigation.
By the end of September 2011, West Valley City had spent more than half a million dollars on the case. On September 28, 2011, Mayor Mike Winder indicated that he felt that the case was worth the expense. He said that "we feel that we are getting to that tipping point where we have more hot evidence than we have had in the past two years" and that the case was moving forward.
In December 2011, Dateline NBC aired an interview with Josh Powell, to mark the second anniversary of Susan's disappearance. Josh declared that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
Death of Josh Powell and sons
On February 5, 2012, a social worker called 911 after bringing Braden and Charlie Powell to a supervised visit at their father's house in Graham, Washington. The woman, who was supposed to monitor the visit between Josh Powell and his children, said he grabbed the children and would not let her in the door. Soon thereafter, the house exploded, killing Josh and the two children. Local authorities treated the case as a double murder-suicide, saying that the act appeared to have been deliberate.
When authorities notified Steven Powell who was in jail, he "didn't seem very upset by the news, but was angry towards authorities who notified him"  Two weeks later Steven invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions about the Susan Powell case. Chuck Cox and others have stated they believe that Steven Powell knows what actually happened to Susan. Steven Powell was convicted of voyeurism charges in May 2012 in a trial which largely skirted the issue of Susan's case. 
After a relatively brief investigation, officials confirmed that the explosion had been deliberately planned. The official cause of death for Josh and the two boys was determined to be carbon monoxide poisoning, though the coroner also noted that both children had significant chopping injuries on the head and neck. A hatchet was recovered near Josh's body, indicating that he had attacked the boys with it before being overwhelmed by smoke and fumes. The fire investigation also found two five-gallon cans of gasoline on the premises, as well as evidence that gasoline had been spread throughout the house. Friends and relatives of Josh Powell told authorities that he had contacted them by email minutes before the incident to say "goodbye". Some of them, including his pastor, received instructions on finding his money and shutting off his utilities. Records also showed that Josh had withdrawn $7,000 from his bank account and had donated his children's toys and books to local charities the day before the incident.
The day after the explosion, officials released a statement saying that a comforter had been found in a storage unit Powell had been renting in Tacoma, Washington. The comforter reportedly had blood stains on it.
On February 8, 2012, authorities released recordings of the 911 calls from the social worker who had brought the children to the house. In the first call, the social worker stated that Josh had the children locked inside the home for ten minutes, that she was afraid for their safety, and that she smelled gas fumes. The dispatcher spent more than six minutes questioning the woman before sending a police deputy to the scene, saying "We have to respond to emergency life-threatening situations first." The dispatcher's handling of the call has prompted an investigation, though authorities agreed that there was little they could have done to save the boys even if a deputy had been dispatched sooner.
On May 29, 2012, Laura Ling hosted an "E! Investigates" television program on the "Powell Family Tragedy". It concluded that Josh was a deeply disturbed man who was most likely responsible for the deaths of his entire family, and who should have been stopped. It included an on-camera interview with Mr. James Manley who viewed images on Josh Powell’s computer which were disturbing. Kiirisi Hellewell related that “It had gotten so bad [financially] that their boys didn’t have enough food to eat. They were eating fruits and vegetables out of their garden and off their trees because Josh wouldn’t let her buy food and the boys were starting to have health problems". Another friend recalled that "Susan came to me and told me it became abusive physically. That he had shoved her and slapped her and tried to lock her out of the house." Chuck Cox, Susan’s father remembered that after Josh called his sister and she asked "where is Susan? What have you done? What’s going on?" and he hung up, he knew that Josh was "responsible for her disappearance and that he was lying about everything.” 
- Steven Powell's journal reveals obsession with Susan Powell (May 7, 2012)
- Father-in-law considered a 'person of interest' in Susan Powell disappearance
- Utah woman says she saw Powell, father in mountains before Susan disappeared
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- Parents of Susan Powell hoping for answers at voyeurism trial By GENE JOHNSON Associated Press May 7, 2012
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- Josh Powell’s lasting identity: murderer
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- [http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/crime-law/utah-woman-says-she-saw-powell-father-mountains-su/nHcTd/ Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 Utah woman says she saw Powell, father in mountains before Susan disappeared]
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- Associated Press (February 6, 2012). "US father Josh Powell blows himself up with two young children". The Guardian(London). Retrieved February 6, 2012. "[...] police said he appeared to intentionally blow up a house with all three inside [...] Ed Troyer, the county sheriff's spokesman, said emails that Powell sent authorities seemed to confirm that Powell planned the deadly blast. Troyer didn't elaborate on the contents of the emails, but said they make police believe "this is intentional, this is planned"."
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- http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/02/steven-powell-takes-the-fifth-on-susan-cox-disappearance/ Josh Powell’s Dad Takes Fifth on Susan Powell Disappearance Feb 15, 2012
- Steve Powell convicted of voyeurism charges
- KOMO Staff & news services (February 6, 2012).http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Autu-138825199.html. Retrieved February 6, 2012. "Seven-year-old Charles Powell and 5-year-old Braden Powell died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but an autopsy also showed that both boys were attacked by a hatchet, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner. [...] While it wasn't the official cause-of death, the medical examiner's report showed that both boys had significant "chopping injuries" to the head and neck."
- KOMO Staff & news services (February 6, 2012).http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Autu-138825199.html. Retrieved February 6, 2012. "[...] Troyer said that minutes before the fire, Powell sent emails to several people saying, "I'm sorry. Goodbye." To others, including his cousins and pastor, he sent longer emails, with instructions such as where to find his money and how to shut off his utilities."
- "Police piecing together timeline of Powell’s movements before explosion". kirotv.com. February 10, 2012.
- "In 911 call, social worker says Josh Powell had sons locked in home for 10 minutes". Washington Post.[dead link]
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- Laura Ling & 'E! Investigates' Bring Viewers Inside the Powell Family Tragedy On May 29
- SusanPowell.org website set up to establish innocence of Josh Powell and disappearance theories.
- Susan Powell Facebook Group, official group (Facebook account required to view)
- West Valley and Pierce County Malfeasance website set up by Alina Powell which asserts innocence of Josh and Steve Powell