Missing: Susan Powell (2009)

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This case is about the disappearance of Susan Powell. This case is very heartbreaking, sad, and takes a few twists and turns.

On the morning of December 6, 2009, Susan Powell and her 2 sons Charles and Braden attended church services. One of the neighbors had been at the home in the afternoon and leaving around 5:00 PM, this was the last time anybody outside the Powell Household would see Susan.

At First, the entire Powell family was reported missing on December 7, by relatives. Joshua’s mother, Terrica and sister, Jennifer Graves, went looking for the family when the children had not been dropped off at daycare that morning and the staff called looking to see if they had heard from them. They called the police when they could not make with either Susan or her husband, Joshua.

The police decided to break into the families home with the permission of Joshua’s mother and sister, they were fearing that the family had died from monoxide poisoning. Once the police were inside they did not find the family, but they did notice two box fans blowing at a wet spot on the floor in front of the couch and had noticed a spot on the couch that had recently been cleaned.

They also discovered, Susan’s cell phone, wallet, ID, and her snow boots were all found in the house. Now your wondering why I mentioned Snow boots, this case was based out of Utah and they were suppose to get a blizzard and their was already snow on the ground so that’s why I mentioned the snow boots.

Susan also did not show up at her job on December 7th. Later that day, around 5:00 pm, Joshua returned home with the two boys and was immediately taken in for questioning. He claimed he left Susan sleeping at home just shortly after midnight on December 7th, and had taken his 2 young boys camping to Simpson Springs. Police did visit Simpson Springs but found no evidence of the campsite that Joshua had described to them. They also did find it very suspicious that he would take his boys camping when it was blizzard conditions when he had to go to work in a few hours. Joshua had not told his boss that he would not be coming into work that day, but explained to police it was because he thought it was Sunday.

What? This is crazy, how could you not know that it was Sunday when you knew that Susan and the boys had been at church earlier, that makes no sense. Why was he not cooperating with police?

On December 9, police began searching the Powell residence, and investigators found traces of Susan’s blood on the floor, life insurance polices on Susan for $1.5 million and a handwritten letter from Susan expressing feat for her life. When police sent in the DNA samples, they got the results that one blood sample was Susan’s while the other sample was determined to be from an “unknown male contributor.” Well did they do a DNA test on her husband, Joshua? That’s what I would have done.

While police interviewed Joshua just days after the disappearance, another police officer took the oldest son, Charlie and interviewed him as well. Charlie tells them that they were camping with Joshua, but he also stated that Susan was with them but she wanted to stay camping. Now, Charlie is 5 at the time and when police told Joshua what Charlie had said, Joshua told the police he was making it up, now why would a 5 year old lie? Why would he lie about his mom being there?

Weeks after Susan’s disappearance, a teacher from the daycare reported that Charlie had claimed that his mother was dead. Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, claimed that while at daycare several months after the disappearance, Braden, 3 at the time, drew a picture of a van with 3 people in it and told daycare staff that “his mommy was in the trunk.” Why would these boys lie about this? They obviously seen this happen or they wouldn’t have said it.

On December 14, Joshua decided to hire an attorney in connection with the investigation after that police said that he grew uncooperative. A few days later, he took his boys to Puyallup to stay with his father, Steven for the holidays. But on January 6, 2010, he came back to West Valley City with his brother Michael, and packed up the families belongings indicating he was permanently moving back to Puyallup.

Why would he just pack up and move when he is a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife? Why would you leave? Why wouldn’t you stay and help search?

Soon after moving back to Puyallup, there was a website, SusanPowell.org that was launched. This was a website that had anonymous entries defending Joshua as the victim of a smear campaign by Susan’s family, his sister Jennifer, and the LDS Church. Other posts speculated that Susan’s disappearance was connected to a man name, Steven Koecher, a journalist who vanished the same week as Susan and that they ran off to Brazil together.

But what happens next just throws a wrench into everything, police had gotten a warrant to search Steven’s house when a family friend said that he had been obsessed with Joshua’s wife Susan. Police recovered 4,500 images of Susan taken with her knowledge, including close-ups of specific body parts. But the weird and nasty thing that the police had found was used tampons, used q-tips, and worn underwear. That’s just the weirdest and grossest thing I could ever imagine, used tampons? Really?

On September 14, 2011, Utah authorities discovered what they believed to be a possible gravesite while searching Topaz Mountain, a desert area near Nephi that Joshua had used frequently as a campsite. There was signs of recent soil disturbance and shoveling but after digging a few feet, police were unable to find any remains.  So why would they call it a gravesite?? If nothing was found? It was just disturbance?

Relations between and within the Powell and Cox families became increasingly hostile. After a police raid in their home in 2011, both Joshua and Steven spoke to major news outlets regarding journals that Susan had allegedly written about the relationship between Steven and herself. Steven 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 teenager) as evidence to support his theory that she was mentally unstable and could have run away with another man. A judge issued a permanent injunction forbidding Joshua and Steven from publishing any material from Susan’s journals, ordering the pair to either return or destroy any journals already published.

On September 22, Steven was arrested on charges of voyeurism and child pornography after police found evidence that he had secretly videotaped numerous women and young girls, including Susan. John Long, assistant attorney general for Washington State, said that Joshua was a “subject” in the child pornography investigation. A friend of Steven claimed that he was preoccupied with pornography and “was hung up on Susan sexually”. Chuck Cox filed for custody of Susan’s children the day after Steven was arrested. A Washington court eventually granted Cox temporary custody of the boys, ruling that Joshua would have to move out of Steven’s home if he wanted to regain custody. Joshua rented a house in South Hill, but authorities later alleged that he had never actually moved into that house, merely making it appear as if he had satisfied the court’s instructions while continuing to reside at Steven’s home.

In late 2011, Joshua underwent a series of court-ordered evaluations in Washington. The evaluations by James Manley determined that Joshua had adequate parenting skills, a steady employment history and no criminal record or history of domestic violence. However, Manley also raised issues concerning the ongoing criminal investigations, Joshua’s failure to admit normal personal shortcomings, his overbearing behavior with his sons, and his persistent defensiveness and paranoia attributed to the police and media attention in conjunction with underlying narcissistic traits. The initial recommendation was for Joshua to have visitation with his sons several times a week, supervised by a social worker.

In the last week of January 2012, Utah police discovered about 400 images of simulated child pornography, bestiality and incest on a computer seized from the Powell family home. The pornography had been cached when viewed by the previous owner of the computer, which had been purchased by Susan secondhand. However, Utah authorities misled the court and accused Joshua of having viewed the images. The images, while not illegal due to their being in a hand-drawn or cartoonish 3-D format, were cause for “great concern” to Manley, particularly given Joshua’s earlier denial of possessing any such material. Joshua was recommended to receive a more thorough psychosexual evaluation and polygraph test, but Manley suggested no change in the visitation schedule with the Powell boys.

On February 5, 2012, this is where it all changes and things go from bad to worse and my heart just wrenches at this. Social worker, Elizabeth Griffin Hall called 9-1-1 after taking Charlie and Braden to a supervised visit at Joshua’s house in South Hill. Hall, who was supposed to monitor the visit between Joshua and the boys, reported that he grabbed them and would not let her through the door, the social worker said that she heard Joshua say, “Charlie, Braden, I have a surprise for you,” which then followed a scream from one of the children. While she was on the phone with 9-1-1, the whole house exploded, killing Joshua and his 2 young boys.

Officials confirmed after a short investigation, that the cause of death for Joshua and the boys was determined to be carbon monoxide poisoning, but the coroner also noted that both children had significant chopping injuries on the head and neck, an a hatchet was recovered by Joshua’s body, investigators believed that Joshua attacked the boys before setting fire to the house. They also found 2 five gallon cans of gasoline and as well as gasoline spread throughout the house.

Friends and relatives of Joshua told authorities that he had contacted them by email minutes before the incident to say goodbye. Some of them, including his local bishop, received instructions for finding his money and shutting off his utilities. Joshua 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.

On February 11, 2013, approximately one year after the death of Joshua and his sons, Michael took his own life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he had moved for graduate school. He jumped from the roof of a parking garage. Police had questioned Michael several times in 2012 after discovering his abandoned Ford at the Oregon wrecking yard; Michael was “evasive” about why he left the car at that location. Utah authorities have since said they believe that Joshua and Michael were accomplices in the murder of Susan.

On May 21, 2014, West Valley City Police closed the active investigation into Susan’s disappearance. Her remains were never found and she still remains a missing person still to this day. Susan’s friends and family will never know what happened to her, but they have a pretty good understanding, they are also mourning with the deaths of the 2 boys who were victims to their fathers cruel actions.

Sources:

Disappearance of Susan Powell – Wikipedia

Susan Powell’s Disappearance: Was Her Remains Found? How Did Susan Powell Die? (thecinemaholic.com)

Susan Powell Update: Police close case of missing Utah mom, offer new details – CBS News

Who was Susan Powell? Body of missing Utah mom never found after husband killed sons, self in murder-suicide | MEAWW