— The parents of a Utah woman who disappeared more than two years ago — before her husband eventually killed himself and their two children — said Monday that they feel she would still be alive today if she had left her troubled marriage earlier.
Susan Powell was last seen in West Valley City, Utah, on Dec. 6, 2009, the night her husband, Josh Powell, claimed to have taken their two children camping in a snowstorm. Information from newly released search warrants indicates that Utah detectives suspected Josh murdered his wife from the beginning, yet did not charge him with any crime.
‘She stayed too long’
Susan Powell’s parents knew that she and Josh had issues in their relationship, the extent of which were revealed when police found a handwritten note from Susan in a safety deposit box in which she wrote of fearing her husband. The note, which had strict instructions preventing her husband from being allowed to read it, said that if she died “it may not be an accident, even if it looks like one.’’
“The bottom line is, she stayed too long,’’ Susan’s father, Chuck Cox, told TODAY on Monday. “We knew they had trouble, and she thought she could handle it, and she stayed too long.’’
The search warrants were released late Friday in connection with a separate case involving Josh Powell’s father, Steven Powell, who was charged with voyeurism and child pornography in September. The documents also depict Steven Powell’s obsession with his daughter-in-law: He kept multiple images of her in a locked cabinet in his home and had other images of nude female bodies with her face copied onto them. Susan had written in her personal journal that she did not want Steven Powell around her children, describing him as a pedophile.
On Feb. 5, Josh Powell murdered his two young boys and took his own life in a house fire. The search warrants from Susan Powell’s disappearance show that investigators found a generator, blankets, a gas can, tarps and a shovel in her husband’s car on the night she went missing. Investigators also found Susan’s blood on the tile inside the family’s home, along with two fans set up that were blowing on to a living room sofa that appeared to just have been cleaned.
“I feel that now seeing some of the evidence that was given right in the beginning, it surprises me that they didn’t arrest him or be able to at least somehow talk with him,’’ Judy Cox, Susan Powell’s mother, told Ann Curry.
“The only problem with blaming the police for me is that it’s based on a couple of assumptions,’’ Chuck Cox said. “Number one is that if they arrested him, they would’ve been able to keep him in jail, and they would’ve been able to successfully prosecute him. Obviously they didn’t feel they had that level of evidence, and that’s a judgment call that they had to make. We say that they made a mistake, but that doesn’t mean that they would’ve been able to keep him jail.’’
‘Everything but the body’
After news of Susan Powell’s disappearance made national headlines, her husband moved with their two children from Utah to his home in Puyallup, Wash., where authorities there say they waited for a call to arrest him. Utah police are defending their handling of the case but will not comment on the latest developments.
“There is direct evidence, there is circumstantial evidence, there is motive — there is everything but the body,’’ Pierce County (Wash.) prosecutor Mark Lindquist told NBC News.
“It’s unbelievable,’’ Chuck Cox said. “I think that there was certainly enough evidence at least to arrest him and get some serious discussion out of him. He was never actually taken in and interrogated. Even if they had to release him after the initial interrogation at least they would’ve have got something out of him.’’
Chuck Cox also believed other evidence could have been used to arrest his son-in-law. He said that Josh was found to have his wife’s cell phone after she disappeared, and used it for an alibi by leaving a message on it. His late grandson, Charlie, also indicated that something was wrong.
“Knowing somebody did something and proving they did it in a court of law is totally different,’’ Chuck Cox acknowledged. “I understand that, but I think when … Charlie said that his mommy went camping with him and didn’t come back, and then the next thing is he tells a primary teacher that his mommy’s dead. I think somewhere in there, there had to be enough to arrest him.’’
While they knew their daughter’s marriage was troubled, Judy Cox admitted that Susan was reluctant to confide in them about her problems with Josh and instead talked more about it with her sisters.
“She told them more than she told us,’’ Judy said. “She didn’t want to worry us. That just makes me real sad that she didn’t talk with us more and be more serious.’’