Monday, February 6, 2012

Such a tragedy!

I don't often use this blog to comment on other cases, unless they have a direct bearing on Scott's case, but this news is so heartbreaking.  Just really heartbreaking.

Police: Missing mom's husband intentionally set fire to home, killing himself and two sons

Published February 06, 2012
| Associated Press
Josh Powell's note was simple and short, a farewell to the world after two years of being scrutinized in the media, hammered by police and questioned by judges, prosecutors and social workers, living his life under a microscope since the day his wife vanished.
Just minutes before authorities say he set fire to his home, killing himself and his two young sons days after he was denied custody and ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation, Powell sent an email to his attorney.
"I'm sorry, goodbye," he wrote.
The Sunday blaze at Powell's home brought yet another twist in the very public scandal that began when Susan Powell vanished in 2009. The case had since spiraled into a salacious saga of finger-pointing and accusations of sex and lies -- and now the unthinkable loss of two young lives caught in the crossfire.
A social worker brought the two boys to Josh Powell's home Sunday for what was to be a supervised visit, and Powell let his sons inside -- but then blocked the social worker from entering, Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Franz told The Associated Press.
The social worker called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas. Moments later, the home burst into flames, igniting an inferno that neighbors said rattled their houses.
Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ed Troyer said it appeared some sort of accelerant was used to make the house burn faster.
He said emails Powell sent just prior to the explosion that authorities were made aware of seemed to confirm that Powell planned the deadly blast. Troyer didn't elaborate on the content of the emails.
Jeffrey Bassett, who represented Powell in the custody case, said he received an ominous email from his client just minutes before the blast.
"I'm sorry, goodbye," it read.
Susan Powell, a pretty 28-year-old mother of two, was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job in Utah.
Authorities in the couple's hometown of West Valley City, about 10 miles outside Salt Lake City, quickly turned their attention to Josh Powell. He's been the only "person of interest" in the case, but had repeatedly denied any involvement in her disappearance.
"I would never even hurt her," a tearful, red-eyed Josh Powell told CBS' Early Show in August. "People who know me know that I could never hurt Susan."
About a month later, police spent 12 days in the remote central Utah desert looking for clues, and Josh Powell and his father, Steven, quickly disappeared from the limelight. The search area around Topaz Mountain, a popular spot for rock and gem hunters, was about 30 miles south of where Josh told police he went camping with his two children in the hours before his wife's disappearance -- his steadfast alibi.
On Sunday, the lawyer for Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, told the AP the children had started talking to their grandparents about things they remembered from the night their mother vanished.
"They were beginning to verbalize more," said attorney Steve Downing, whose clients had custody of the children. "The oldest boy talked about that they went camping and that Mommy was in the trunk. Mom and Dad got out of the car and Mom disappeared."
Police turned up no clues in their desert search, but a day before ending it, Steven Powell, 61, was arrested at his Washington state home and accused of secretly videotaping his daughter-in-law, other women, and young girls taking baths and sitting on the toilet in neighborhood homes.
The elder Powell is now jailed and facing child porn and voyeurism charges. He claimed in previous television interviews that he and Susan Powell were falling in love and even implied a sexual relationship had occurred.
"Susan was very sexual with me," Steven Powell said in one interview at the time. "We interacted in a lot of sexual ways because Susan enjoys doing that."
Susan's father denied the allegations and said Steven Powell had been initiating unwanted sexual advances, and that his daughter had no interest in her father-in-law.
The children, 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles, were ordered by a judge to then go live with Susan's parents as the parallel cases were investigated.
The custody matter got so heated that at one point a court commissioner in Washington state ordered Chuck Cox and Josh Powell to keep 500 feet apart.
Custody hearings continued, with the latest on Wednesday, during which Josh Powell pleaded with a judge to return his children to him.
"For over four months already, my interactions with my sons and many other aspects of my character have been investigated and documented by" social services, he wrote in an affidavit to the court. "I have proven myself as a fit and loving father who provides a stable home even in the face of great adversity. ... It is time for my sons to come home."
But the judge ruled against him, ordering the children to remain with Susan Powell's parents, at least until Josh Powell underwent a psycho-sexual evaluation in light of the explicit material found on computers inside Steven Powell's home that led to his arrest.
Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services, said the social worker who was with the children Sunday was not a Child Protective Services employee but a contract worker with a private agency that supervises visits for the state.
"The visit supervisor for this particular agency had taken the children to the home. When she does that, she sits through the visit and might take notes on her observations," Hill said. "She pulled up in the car, and the kids ran out ahead of her. He closed the door and locked it. She wasn't able to get in, and that's when she smelled gas."
Downing called it "the most horrifying thing you can imagine happening ...The Coxes are absolutely devastated. They were always very fearful of him doing something like this, and he did it."
Bassett said he represented Powell free of charge because "every parent deserves the right to an attorney." Powell called or emailed him at least once a day, and often more than that, and in their conversations "he never once admitted doing anything regarding Susan. In fact, he denied it."
Sgt. Mike Powell of the West Valley City Police Department in Utah said it was too soon to say how Josh Powell's death may impact their probe.
"Quite frankly, this has obviously quickly unfolded up in Washington and we're obviously just working through the details ourselves here," said Powell, who is not related to the family.

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Burkey said...

Oh man, oh man.

This whole thing was weird, the camping story was too bizarre.

I don't know about you guys, but to me it looks like this guy killed his whole family. Sounds like the kids were finally starting to talk, and he decided to put a stop to that. Dear god.

I didn't know local governments were contracting out social services, that's a new one on me.
Thanks for posting this Marlene, it's the most detailed of the stories I've seen so far.

Marlene Newell said...

I look at this from the perspective of an innocent person feeling so helples and so hopeless to ever prove his innocence and sinking into deeper and deeper despair until there seems to be no way out except to end it all. The boys obviously were very happy to see him, as they ran to the house, and quite frankly, I don't believe anything that comes out of an attorney for the Cox's. Those boys were so young, and they could be coached to 'remember' just about anything, which probably only increased Josh's despair.

It's a horrible tragedy, and if Josh wasn't responsible for Susan's disappearance, then a lot of people share the blame for those boys' deaths. I doubt we will ever know what happened.

But I do believe that if he was guilty of Susan's disappearance, he would have confessed to his attorney, not just say goodbye.

Burkey said...

See, the way I look at it, someone who's capable of destroying the lives of his own two young children---a horrendous, selfish and incomprehensible act--- appears, to me, to be capable of killing his wife, as well.

Killing is something that doesn't come easy to normal people. Soldiers have to be brainwashed, beaten and videogamed into it. There's a basic innate resistance to killing, argues Lt. Col Dan Grossman who wrote the Killology website ( I agree with his arguments.

To me, the odds that a guy would be willing to off his kids and yet innocent of killing his wife, just don't seem that great.
There's just a lot of family violence out there, seems like every week I get new stories about a toddler or infant in the Inland Empire being harmed, abused or killed by a parent or parents. In fact just today another one was updated, a mother who allegedly killed her two year old child.

I wish it were less common than it is. I write about it on my other blog, Inland Night Lights. That is, I write about child abuse cases and/or familicides, that is, the ones that happen in my area, which is more than you'd expect and way too many.

Burkey said...

And that the kids ran to the house, and then he blew them up-----I'm sorry but this is horrible.

I can't muster sympathy...just can't do it...they run to him and..he kills them....unbelievable....what kind of cold heart?!!!

Marlene Newell said...

Maybe it takes having felt despair to know what despair feels like. I can't judge the man . . . sorry, just can't.

Burkey said...

I hear you, Marlene, that's just how you feel.....I do know how it feels to be accused of something you're not guilty of and have no one believe you....which is why, I think, Peterson's situation resonates with me.

Have a good night & take care, I'm going to go home now...another day done & gone. CB

LA Curry said...

Such a tragedy. I can't muster sympathy for the dad either.

I am a mom and I would die and give my life, without hesitation, to protect my children. I have never murdered anyone but have been accused of lesser things and was innocent.

One thing I know, without a doubt, people don't kill their children in such a horrific manner unless something is very wrong. On that point, I have no clue what was wrong in that family but it very well could have been that this man did kill his wife. My lack of sympathy for him has nothing to do with whether or not he was guilty of murdering his wife, it has more to do with his failure to protect his children, which is something that is naturally instilled in mentally healthy parents from the day our children are born. He didn't only fail in this regard, but he intentionally ended their lives, by his own actions. His actions go against every single thing a healthy parent thinks and feels. I do not believe a mentally healthy parent would ever harm their children...even if they were falsely accused of murder.

LA Curry said...

I feel I have to add that, in my opion, the term "mentally healthy" is the key to this tragedy.

It is possible that this man never knew the healthy emotional bond parents feel towards their children...because his own father was seems to have been a real fruitcake. When children are raised in unhealthy or harmful households, they have a difficult time bonding to others, including any children they might bring into this world. It is my opinion that this man's own father destroyed him, long before he was a teenager. In that regard, I suppose he too could be considered innocent via being mentally ill, in his actions regarding the death of his children.

I believe the court failed miserably in this case. But, without any evidence, how do you take a parent's children away completely? It is a tragedy that a psych evaluation was not mandated BEFORE he ever saw his children again.

Marlene Newell said...

There yet remains not a single piece of evidence worthy of convicting him for Susan's disappearance - and yet look what being the only suspect put him through.

He went back to his father's home, I'm sure to find some comfort and security from the storm. Instead he found that his father wanted to have sex with his wife and had pornography on his computer. That is what got the boys taken away from him, not anything he did.

But I do believe he loved his boys. Remember Sophie's Choice? Lots of people who saw that movie said they could never do what she did. Well, I hope they thanked God daily that they never had to find out.

I don't doubt he would have ran with the boys if he thought he had any chance of getting away. Desperate people do desperate things.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

He did a good job killing his wife, except for the stupid camping story...maynot been able to arrest him, but c'mon...the guy did it...theres no way him being a suspect, and rightfully so given the stupid alibi, caused him to blow up himself and his kids...he fekt guilt and the pressure got to him...maybe they put out the "the kids are starting to verbalize things" to see how he woukd react...would have been a perfect ending if not for the kids...and please lets not blame everone else exxept for him...the media...the cops...the in laws...his father.....they did not make him do this...he was a grown quite sure none of you here would kill your children because you were accused of a horrible crime....unless of course you did it...

Marlene Newell said...

yea, right, Bruce, everyone is guilty. it's pretty sad when a person who is absolutely sure he did it has to admit "may not been able to arrest him" -- pathetic!

Jane said...

They couldn't arrest him for the murder of his wife because there was no evidence.

Does this sound familiar?

Investigators seized the Powells' lone vehicle, a minivan, to look for possible clues. They also took Josh Powell's cell phone and many items from inside his house, including his bedding and a carpet cleaner, Petersen said.

"They started completely tearing his house apart," he said.

Reed said...

can we get an update? Something new I look everyday

Marlene Newell said...

I apologize for not having updates in quite a while. I've had some health problems the last few months, and have not been able to give this blog my attention. I hope to be back making updates again, soon. You can subscribe to receive an email when there is an update. Thanks for your support.