The case of the Utah missing woman, Susan Powell, has been in the news for over two years. Child custody battles between the father of the children, Josh Powell, and Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, have also been going on for years.
Apparently no one but the Coxes, Susan’s parents, could have predicted that things could only get worse – much worse.
Josh Powell left a voicemail for family members saying he couldn’t live without the boys and didn’t want to go on anymore. Then on Sunday, he set his house ablaze and killed himself and his two young sons.
Although Josh Powell painted himself as a tortured man, ridiculed without reason in the disappearance of his wife, the investigation and autopsy reports released showed the acts of a violent man who meticulously planned the double murder-suicide of himself and his two young sons.
Powell’s horrific murder-suicide seemed to come out of nowhere. Just days before, in a motion seeking custody of his children filed with a Washington state court, Powell said he missed his wife, and would remain strong for the boys. Things changed dramatically when the judge ruled against him, ordering the children to remain with Susan Powell’s parents for now.
On Sunday, Powell’s boys came for a routine supervised visit. They ran ahead, the social worker falling behind. Powell then locked the door, used a hatchet on his kids, and lit the house on fire. Powell and both boys died of smoke inhalation, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office.
However, they also suffered “chop injuries” that contributed to their deaths — 7-year-old Charles was struck on his neck and 5-year-old Braden had injuries to both his head and neck, Baker said.
Susan Powell’s parents, the boy’s grandparents, had legal custody of the kids before their death. They told NBC’s TODAY Show that Powell felt “cornered.” “We felt [the boys] were safe as long as they were with us, but we were concerned about the visitation,” Chuck Cox told NBC’s Ann Curry. ” Added Judy Cox, “He didn’t like us and he just wanted to get the kids away from us so much. And it really bothered him that the boys were showing so much affection to Chuck.”
The Coxes spoke with reporters on Monday. They said the boys played happily and didn’t want to visit their father when the time came for their weekly Sunday visit. But Judy Cox said she talked them into going — and she now regrets it. Chuck Cox said he didn’t necessarily think there was any more the court could have done legally to protect his grandchildren. However, he said he didn’t like that there was only one supervisor during their visits with their father.
Authorities recovered two 5-gallon cans of gasoline inside the home. Gasoline from one 5-gallon can was spread throughout the house and used as an accelerant. The other can was found by the three bodies, said Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer. “This was definitely a deliberate, planned-out event,” Troyer said.
Powell sent emails to several people, including his lawyer, saying, “I’m sorry. Goodbye.” To others, including his cousins and pastor, he sent longer emails, with instructions on where to find his money and how to shut off his utilities. Shut off his utilities? This is a detail this man was concerned about before a murder-suicide? Guess what? The utility companies will shut off your power when you don’t pay your bill. In at least one email, he wrote that he couldn’t live without his boys, Troyer said. Apparently, he didn’t want the boys to live with anyone else either.
The only mention of his wife, who has been missing for over two years, was in one of the emails. He said, “There’s no indication about Susan in anything that we’ve found so far.”
Josh Powell claimed that the night his wife vanished in December 2009, he took the boys from their West Valley City home, about 10 miles outside Salt Lake City, on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures — a story her parents never believed. Authorities searched the area in the central Utah desert but came up empty.
Chuck Cox said that the summer after his daughter disappeared, Braden (one of the boys) drew a picture at day care of a van with three people in it, and told caregivers who asked him about it that it was a picture of his family going camping: “Mommy’s in the trunk,” the boy reportedly said.
Although Josh is gone and was always a person of interest, his father also still remains a person of interest. Josh’s father, Steve Powell, claimed on national television last year to have had a flirtatious or even sexual relationship with Susan — something her family has adamantly denied.
Steve Powell has been in jail on voyeurism and child porn charges since last fall after authorities found explicit images on his computers during a search of his home in the case of his missing daughter-in-law.
West Valley, Utah, Police Chief Buzz Nielsen, who is in charge of the investigation into the young mother’s disappearance, is not giving up on solving the missing person case of Susan Powell.
Nielsen said Utah authorities would continue with their investigation and hoped to make an arrest in the Susan Powell case this year.
“On a criminal case of this nature, you’ve got one shot. You’ve got to make sure everything is done right,” Nielsen said. “Our case is not closed.”
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