— Charles and Judy Cox reluctantly sent their grandsons to a court-ordered visitation with their father that ended in their deaths. Now, the heart-stricken grandparents believe their son-in-law Josh Powell should never have been allowed to have the boys in his home.
"I don't think the visitation should have (taken) place in (his) home," Charles Cox told Ann Curry in an interview live via satellite from Seattle, Wash., Tuesday. "We get lumped in with the mass of people that (social services) have to deal with, but this was such an extraordinary circumstance that we felt they should have taken more care."
The Coxes had custody of their grandchildren Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, while Powell remained under investigation for the 2009 disappearance of his wife Susan. Powell had recently lost a court bid to regain custody, but was still entitled to court-supervised visitation.
On Sunday, the worst imaginable scenario took place: Powell locked a case worker out of his home and set the house ablaze using gasoline as an accelerant, killing himself and his sons. A hatchet was recovered at the scene and autopsies showed the boys suffered chop wounds to the head and neck. Authorities say Powell sent several emails to his lawyer and a family member to put his affairs in order.
Charles Cox told Curry Tuesday he had feared Powell might do something drastic; he was upset about the Coxes gaining custody of his sons and also that the boys had become increasingly talkative about the night their mother went missing.
"We knew that if he was cornered and felt like there was no way out, he was capable of this," he told Curry. "We had made it known to police, all of the law enforcement involved and the social health services. They were aware of our concerns."
Powell had long told authorities he was away with his sons on a camping trip when their mother disappeared from their West Valley City, Utah home in December 2009. But Charles Cox said a drawing Braden had made in preschool told a different story.
"He drew a picture of the minivan, and the care providers asked him who the people were," Cox said. "He said it was his daddy, Charlie and himself, and mommy was in the trunk."
Judy Cox said both boys had recently been more forthcoming about what happened to their mother. "They basically kept saying how they went on a vacation in the desert...they stopped at some place, and mommy and daddy left, and then only daddy came back," she said.
During the six months that the Coxes had custody of their grandchildren, the boys became increasingly content and happy. That bothered their father, Judy Cox told Curry. "(Powell) didn't like us, and he just wanted to get the kids away from us so much," she said.
Charles Cox noted there were several visitations before "with no problems, so I can understand why they would think they were OK." Still, both grandparents say the boys were reluctant to visit their dad on what turned out to be the last day of their lives.
"They didn't want to see their dad, and I was kind of surprised, because sometimes they really looked forward to it," Judy Cox told Curry. "But it was definitely, 'I don't want to go,' and I know because of the laws they had to go."
Added Charles, "It just makes you wonder, should you have told them, 'OK, you don't have to go?' It would have been different, obviously."