Story Summary

Susan Cox Powell disappearance case

Susan Cox Powell disappeared from her West Valley City, Utah, home on Dec. 6, 2009. Her husband, Josh Powell, who had been considered a “person of interest” in her disappearance, later moved to Washington state with the couple’s two children. He killed himself and the couple’s two children in an explosion and house fire in Graham, Wash.,  in February 2012. Josh’s father, Steven Powell, of Puyallup, Wash., was convicted in 2012 of voyeurism and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He has cited his Fifth Amendment rights on refusing to discuss Susan’s case.

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PUYALLUP — A group of cadaver-sniffing dogs will search Steven Powell’s former home soon, Friends of Susan Cox spokesperson Anne Bremner confirmed.

The cadaver dogs will search the home in the 18000 block of 94th Avenue Court East in Puyallup, handed over to the victims’ of Powell’s voyeurism as part of a civil judgement award. No date was set yet for when the dogs will search the home.

Powell was convicted of voyeurism in 2013 for spying on two young neighborhood girls and was ordered to pay the girls’ family more than $1.9 million. Powell handed over the house as part of fee.

stevenpowellPierce County Sheriff’s Department officials emphasized the search dogs were brought in to Powell’s former property privately, and there were no signs that any bodies were located within the home.

Powell was released from jail in March after serving his voyeurism sentence. He no longer lives in his former home.

Powell is the father of Josh Powell, who investigators believe murdered Susan Cox Powell in 2009. Josh Powell later killed himself and his two young sons when he set his Puyallup home on fire in Feb. 2012.

Susan Cox’s sister, Denise Cox, said she is hopeful the search will turn up new clues about her sister.

Steven Powell is currently in a legal battle to obtain a portion of his son’s life insurance policy.


stevenpowellSEATTLE — On Tuesday, the Department of Corrections announced it is rescinding its release plan for Steven Powell. The plan was rescinded after the Tacoma property owner withdrew their offer to provide Powell with housing upon his release.

Powell has been serving time at the Monroe Correctional Complex; he was sentenced to 30 months on voyeurism charges of photographing and video taping young girls in his Puyallup neighborhood.

Powell is also the father of Josh Powell, the husband of Susan Cox Powell, who went missing in Utah in December 2009. Her body has never been recovered. Josh Powell, a person of interest in the case, killed himself and his two young sons in a home explosion in February 2012.

Steven Powell can submit another release plan for the DOC to review. In order for the DOC to approve the plan, it must include a safety plan for victims, a suitable address and plan for Powell to participate in treatment and to support himself.

If Powell is unable to submit a release plan that the DOC can approve, he will be released from prison when he finishes serving his full sentence in March 2014.

Local News

Steven Powell to be released from prison Nov. 4

TACOMA — Steven Powell, 63, father-in-law of missing Susan Cox Powell, is scheduled to be released from prison Nov. 4.

He is now clean-shaven, with a fresh haircut, and is just weeks away from completing a 30-month sentence for voyeurism in which he took photos and videos of young neighbor girls in their bathroom in Puyallup.

stevenpowell3“We knew this day would come.  I was just hoping it would be a lot further away,” Susan Cox Powell’s sister, Denise Cox Olsen, said.

Perhaps more than anyone, Denise Cox Olsen is worried about Powell’s pending release.

Steven Powell’s son Josh was a suspect in the disappearance of Susan from her and Josh’s home in Utah. Susan is believed dead but her body has never been found. The Cox family believes Steven Powell might know where Susan’s body was buried, although he has denied knowing nothing about her disappearance.

In February 2012, Josh killed his and Susan’s two sons and himself in an explosion and house fire in a rental house in Graham, Wash. Steven Powell was arrested and in jail prior to that murder-suicide.

“He’s been to my house before,” Olsen said of Steven. “He knows where I live. Just worried what his frame of mind is; if he’s out for revenge. He has never liked our family.”

When Powell is released, he’s expected to stay in a halfway house in the 3600 block of East J. Street in Tacoma.

“I can’t imagine having a man of his nature moving in next door,” neighbor Clarissa Stafford said.

But that’s exactly what’s about to happen.

Stafford has five children, including four daughters. She’s not happy at all about the pending arrival of her new neighbor.

“He doesn’t seem like a very neighborly person and I wouldn’t want him living next door to anyone that lives on my block,” Stafford said.

Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said, “Mr. Powell did every day of his sentence. He didn’t receive anything off for what’s called good behavior.”

Lindquist put Powell in prison. He asked for a 10-year sentence, but the judge gave Powell only two and a half years.

Lindquist insists Powell will be watched very closely once he`s on the outside.

“He will be required to wear a GPS locator, attend a sex offender treatment program and check in with his community corrections officer twice a month. Furthermore, he will be subject to random field checks by the corrections officer. If he deviates from any of the conditions that have been imposed on him, he’ll land back in prison,” Lindquist said.

“I’m just hoping when he does get out that we can find Susan and he’ll give us the answers we really need,” Olsen said.

Powell will be supervised by a correction officer who is part of the DOC Specialized Sex Crimes Unit. Powell will be under close supervision until May 2016.

By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times

chuck cox

Photo courtesy of John M. Glionna/Los Angeles Times

Chuck Cox was leaving home again. In early summer, he loaded up his black Dodge Ram truck with the big V-8 engine and headed southeast. This time, one of his three surviving adult daughters rode shotgun to answer nonstop calls on his cellphone, with two volunteer private investigators trailing in a van.

Anything to find Susan.

With the certitude of an old investigator, Cox recently sat inside his living room in this Pacific Northwest town, recounting his relentless life on the road, part of the four-year quest to find his third-born daughter.

For a week, after reaching northern Oregon on that June trip, the search party leapfrogged its way along Interstate 84, stopping at every exit on the 485-mile stretch between Pendleton, Ore., and Tremonton, Utah — consulting local police, distributing fliers at gas stations. They examined roadside ditches and woods, trying to think like criminals looking to get rid of a body.

Cox looked strangers in the eyes, shook their hands and introduced himself as the father of Susan Powell, the 28-year-old Utah stockbroker and mother of two whose disappearance in December 2009 made national headlines.

The 58-year-old Cox believes his daughter was abducted and says evidence suggests her husband, Josh Powell, may have disposed of her body somewhere along this mostly isolated stretch of I-84.

The investigator in him surmises that Susan is dead, but the father in him carries on, holding out hope she’s somehow still alive. He wants hikers, road crews and everyone else to be looking for her. “I got a lot of support,” he recalls of the trip. “Most people had heard of Susan. They remembered what happened to her.”

Cox was a veteran crash investigator with the Federal Aviation Administration who retired early to assume a new role: that of a tireless inquisitor using his skills to assist police in the most emotionally freighted case of his life.

Along the way, Cox has lost 60 pounds, and the stress of the hunt has divided his family. His wife, Judith, is weary of the media circus. His daughters want their father back. Two of the remaining three want him to give up the chase.

But Cox isn’t ready. He’s been deprived of closure. He’s had no bittersweet satisfaction of a conviction, nor the catharsis of a funeral.

“If it were up to me, I’d pack up and be gone. I’d buy a camper and stay on the road until I found her,” he said. “I tell my daughters I love them, but that I’m going to find Susan. I’m not going to give up on her. I can’t.”

Rose Winquist, a private eye who accompanied Cox to Utah in June, says she’s amazed at his doggedness to follow every lead: “There have been psychics who claim to have gone to the other side to talk to Susan. I pass every one of those tips on to Chuck. He believes every lead that comes to him was meant to come to him.”

Denise Olsen, 34, who joined her father on the recent I-84 search, says he’s a different man today. “After losing Susan, he’s been a lot more open and understanding,” she says. “But every time he talks of not stopping until he finds her, his eyes tear up. And you just have to change the subject.”

Quiet and compact, with oversize glasses, Cox also remains tormented by the killing of Susan’s two boys.

For years, he implored detectives in the community of West Valley City, just outside Salt Lake City, to arrest his son-in-law in Susan’s disappearance. He said Josh considered Susan a thing he owned and probably became angered when she told him she was considering a divorce.

He pointed to inconsistencies in Josh’s alibi that he and the couple’s two toddlers went camping in the middle of winter while his wife inexplicably ran off, deserting her family. A day-care provider had reported Susan missing when the children did not show up at her home.

Lacking sufficient evidence, police said, they couldn’t detain Powell, their only “person of interest” in the case. Years later, Susan’s sons began to share recollections of the night their mother vanished, stories Cox believed would implicate Powell.

Then in 2012, police say, the son-in-law used an ax to cut the necks of 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles before killing himself in a fire he set in his Seattle-area home.

This year, Michael Powell, who Cox believes helped his brother dispose of Susan’s body, committed suicide, jumping off a Minneapolis parking garage. Steven Powell, Josh’s father, is serving time in prison in Washington state for voyeurism of young girls. He was sexually obsessed with Susan long before her disappearance, police say.

In a diary confiscated by detectives, Steven Powell wrote a year before Susan vanished: “What has driven me in the past year is primarily lust. I have never lusted for a woman as I have for Susan. I take chances sometimes to take video clips of her, which I watch regularly.”

That obsession prompted Susan to move with Josh and the boys from Washington to Utah. The father-in-law has refused to talk to police.

In May, Utah police announced they had run out of promising leads in the case. Although detectives believe Josh Powell was probably responsible for his wife’s disappearance, they say they have no choice but to wait for new information.

Even now, Cox says, Utah investigators refuse to release case files he needs for his investigation. He’s considering suing the West Valley City police, who have from the start treated him more like an overwrought and meddling parent than a veteran investigator, he says.

From the start, he says, the detectives’ vague answers to any question maddened him. Each tip he tried to pass along was met with “We’re looking into it” or “There’s nothing there.”

“I was the victim’s father, a parent,” Cox says. “The idea was, ‘We can’t trust him. He’s a civilian, not capable of grasping the intricacies of police work.’ In reality, I was a veteran investigator. But I wasn’t a cop. I didn’t carry a gun. I understood why they didn’t include me. They had to do the investigation. But their look always said, ‘You’re not one of us.’”

Mike Powell, a deputy police chief in West Valley City, acknowledges that police kept their distance from Cox. “Just because he was an FAA investigator doesn’t make him part of this investigation,” he says. “It wasn’t prudent to tell him everything that was going on.”

The police official, no relation to Josh Powell, says the case files should stay private. “There are aspects to this case that are not for public consumption,” he says. “We have to respect the privacy of certain individuals.”

These days, Cox has turned his Puyallup home, 35 miles south of Seattle, into his search headquarters, plotting his strategies in Susan’s childhood bedroom, working at a desk littered with case files and Post-it notes. He also started a website to field tips.

The father has found people who knew Susan. He drove to Spokane to copy 300 pages of files on Steven Powell’s 1992 divorce to flesh out unsavory aspects of Josh’s childhood, such as his early violence toward animals. Once in a while, the police would relent and let Cox accompany them when executing search warrants.

After Josh returned to the Seattle area where his father lived, Cox continued to press police for his arrest. Yet he feared direct confrontation with his son-in-law. “I once asked him, ‘Where is she?’ But he wouldn’t look me in the eye. To get him to talk, I would have had to use physical violence. That might work for Rambo or on TV, but it’s not real life. He would have lashed out against the boys.”

Cox says he respects the detectives who spent years grappling with a complex case. “You’ve got people who tried their hardest, and now some idiot is second-guessing them,” he says. “But I believe some of those investigators took ‘no’ for an answer too easily. They didn’t follow through on things.”

One of the worst moments came after the deaths of his grandsons. That’s when a Utah police official called Cox to say he’d been right: They should have arrested Josh. The admission filled him with a mixture of justification and profound sadness: “I just sat there thinking, ‘I didn’t want to be right. I just want to find my daughter.’”

In an early interview with police, older grandson Charles had talked about an outing he and his brother took with Josh the weekend Susan vanished.

“Mommy stayed with the dinosaurs,” he told police.

Cox guessed this might have been a reference to Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, and in July walked the rugged landscape there, searching for Susan’s body. All he found was a woman’s shoe that was not his daughter’s and some animal bones. Nothing more.

The father still speaks of his daughter in the present tense. “She’s a very happy person, the kind who’d find a roomful of manure and say all this means is there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere,” he says.

Yet he doesn’t understand what Susan saw in Josh: “She wanted to be married. She wanted children. She wanted a husband and she figured they were pretty much all the same.”

These days, Cox still receives tips through his website, on which he blogs about his search and encourages women terrorized by abusive husbands to get help. When he’s not on the road, he thinks about the road — and all those leads yet to be tracked down.

Now Cox the investigator is considering a new search tool. He wants to buy a cadaver dog.



WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (KSTU) – As he sat in a chair in a corner of an interview room waiting for a detective to come in and talk to him about his missing wife, Josh Powell stared at his hands and cried.

josh1He’d pestered detectives to take pictures of the cuts, even though they didn’t seem too interested in them. Later, he’d accuse them of suggesting they were defensive wounds.

“Do you feel like you’re under arrest?” a detective asked him as the interview got under way.

“I don’t know,” he cried. “I didn’t even think it was that. I don’t know where she’s at and she ain’t back yet.”

The West Valley City Police Department released nearly four hours of videotaped police interrogations to FOX 13 (KSTU-TV/Salt Lake City) on Wednesday, under a public records request. Throughout the interview, police try to pin a clearly anxious Powell down about details surrounding his whereabouts and what may have happened to Susan Cox Powell.

Powell was cagey.

“You guys are already trying to trap me on little things,” he told a detective.

Detective Ellis Maxwell asked Powell why he was so scared of them, since they are trying to solve a missing persons case.

“I just want to talk, but I’m getting scared,” Powell said.

“Well, if you haven’t done nothing wrong, if you haven’t done anything wrong, Josh, if you didn’t do anything wrong, there’s nothing to be scared about,” Maxwell replied.

“Well, I’m scared about the possibilities,” Powell said.


“Of what’s happened,” Powell blurted out.

As the interview progresses, Powell offers his version of events. He pauses for lengthy periods of time. At some points, he says he simply can’t remember details.

He claims he took their two sons camping in the midst of a snowstorm in Utah’s West Desert, returning to phone calls from anxious family members worried for the family’s safety.

“I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool. We’re found, so quit obsessing,’” Powell recalled to detectives. “Then I was going to pick up Susan, and waiting for her and she didn’t come down, and about the time I was trying to decide what to do next, it was either my mom or my sister called me.”

Family and friends had already called West Valley City Police on Dec. 7, 2009, reporting the entire family missing. Police broke into the Powell home to find it empty. Susan’s purse was on a dresser in their room, a pair of fans were blowing on the couch. In the interview, Powell told detectives he’d cleaned the couch at Susan’s insistence. He was upset with police for breaking a window to find the family.

As the interview progresses, detectives scrutinized Powell’s version of events. He accused police of trying to entrap him. Detective Maxwell said they were trying to get information about Susan that could help find the missing woman.

“The closest people to a person is always the top suspect,” Powell told detectives.

Eventually, Powell expressed an interest in leaving. Maxwell said he would read him his Miranda rights before proceeding with more questions. Powell became more insistent that he leave.

“Well, if you don’t want to talk…,” Maxwell told him.

“Then what?” Powell asked.

“Then I guess you can leave. I mean, you could leave any time, anyways.”

“I, yeah. I mean, let me think about it for a couple of days, and…”

“Your wife is missing, Josh,” Maxwell insisted.

“Yeah, but…”

“And you want to think about it for a couple of days?”

“I’ve already answered everything. I’ve told I would answer everything. I don’t understand why…”

Just as Powell had stood to leave, another detective enters the room and talks to him. Then Maxwell returns to the room and tells him to sit down.

“One of our detectives just interviewed your children, and your children are telling our detectives that mom went with you guys last night,” Maxwell told Powell. “She didn’t come back.”

Powell insisted his children were not telling the truth.

“There is nothing that happened,” he said. “She was not with us, and if my kids said that…”

“So your kids lie then? Your kids lie?” one detective asked Powell.

“Sometimes they do. I mean, if they said that she was with us, they know that’s not true, and if they say that she was with us, then I guess that would put her out on the Pony Express (Trail).”

“That’s my concern,” the detective told Powell. “That’s our concern.”

Powell asked for an attorney. After police took his phone and left the room, he sat alone for a few minutes. Then, detective Maxwell returned and said he was free to go.

It was immediately after that, police said, that Josh Powell rented a car and put more than 800 miles on it. Where he went remains a mystery. Powell ultimately killed himself and the couple’s children in an explosion and house fire last year in Graham, Wash.

In closing their active investigation into Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance last month, police revealed that they suspected Josh Powell had killed his wife — and that his brother, Michael Powell, had helped dispose of her body.

Police recently searched a property in Oregon that Josh Powell was familiar with, but had come up with nothing. Susan’s family has hired a private investigator and launched their own searches in hopes of finding her remains.

flier1PENDLETON, Ore. — Chuck Cox, father of missing Susan Cox Powell,  handed out fliers Monday in the Pendleton, Ore., area and along the I-84 corridor – seven days after  Utah police ended their active investigation of her 2009 disappearance.

Cox and his daughter Denise handed out fliers showing the Ford Focus that Susan’s husband, Josh Powell, rented and the Ford Taurus that belonged to Josh’s brother, Michael Powell, in hopes someone spotted either vehicle in December 2009, when Susan vanished.

They said they believe Josh and Michael Powell  dumped Susan’s body somewhere along I-84. Both Josh and Michael are dead.

Cox said he and his daughter are headed to Idaho on Tuesday to continue their trek along the interstate to look for Susan.

Pendleton is where Michael’s Taurus broke down and he sold it to a salvage yard.

Cox said they will also go to Tremonton, Utah, where Josh bought two new cell phones shortly after Susan disappeared.

Local News

Susan Cox Powell video message released

Q13 FOX News/CNN

(FOX13) — A lawyer for the family of missing Susan Cox Powell announced Tuesday that federal authorities are now investigating her disappearance – a claim denied by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah.

powellAnne Bremner said in Seattle Tuesday that federal authorities are continuing the investigation that West Valley City, Utah, police have said has gone cold.

“This is not over, and there will be further investigation in this case involving Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance and all the other circumstances that we know about,” Bremner said.

Bremner said she could not name the federal agency investigating the disappearance, but said they were looking at Susan’s father-in-law, Steven Powell.

In a statement to FOX 13 on Tuesday night, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah said it was not conducting any investigation.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies in Utah have provided assistance to the West Valley City Police Department, at the police department’s request, at various times during the course of the investigation,” spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said.

“If there are new developments in the case in the future, and the West Valley City Police Department requests our assistance, we would be willing to assist again. At this time, however, we do not have any plans to conduct any further investigation.”

powellWEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (FOX13) – The West Valley City Police Department announced Monday that, after 3 ½ years, they will no longer be actively investigating the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell, although the case will remain open.

West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle announced the end of the search for the missing West Valley City woman during a news conference Monday afternoon. She disappeared in 2009. Her husband, Josh Powell, was a person of interest in the case, but he killed himself and their two children in Graham, Wash.

According to The Salt Lake City Tribune, Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell (who is not related to the Josh Powell family) said, “We have left no stone unturned during the last 3 1/2 years of this investigation.”

Mike Powell said during the news conference that investigators believed early on that Josh Powell was involved in his wife’s disappearance, but were unable to find evidence with which to charge him.

Mike Powell also said that Josh Powell’s father, Steve Powell, was not directly involved in Susan’s disappearance but may have learned of it afterward.  “He is entirely uncooperative and wants nothing to do with law enforcement,” Mike Powell said.

Police were not able to decipher encrypted communications that were passed between Josh Powell and his brother Michael, who committed suicide last year.

Police have released more than 30,000 pages of documents related to the Powell case.  The documents were given to FOX 13 under a public records request.

Click here for the initial and supplementary reports.

The initial report details how West Valley City police were called to the Powell home on Dec. 7, 2009, on a welfare check.

“My son and his wife and their two children haven’t responded to anything this morning,” Josh Powell’s mother, Terica, tells a 911 dispatcher. “They’re not responding to calls, they’re not responding to people pounding on their door, there’s no tracks coming out of the driveway.”

A police report describes how officers broke into the house after Josh’s mother worried they might be victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. Inside, they found a pair of fans pointed at the couch. Officers also describe finding a carpet cleaner in the master bedroom, and Susan’s purse. Her keys were still inside.

A camcorder was on a bookshelf, pointed at the front door. Police later said they found blood droplets near the front entrance.

Police also released a series of voice mails recorded on Susan’s cell phone.

“Hey Susan, I’m just worried about you,” her mother, Judy Cox, said in one message.

Another message was left by her husband, Josh.

“Hello Susan,” he said on the recording. “We are on our way back and… um, I can’t believe, somehow my brain missed a day and I thought today was Sunday. That was really, really stupid, but hopefully you got to work OK.”

Police wrote in their reports that when investigators did finally track down Josh Powell to question, he was evasive.

“I spoke briefly with Josh and I asked him where he was,” an officer wrote. “He stated he was getting his boys something to eat. Then he would ignore me and talk to his boys, asking them if they wanted pizza or hamburgers. I explained to Josh that we had been at his house since 1000 hours this morning and had spent the entire day trying to locate him and his family. I asked him if Susan was with him. Josh stated, ‘No.’ I asked him where she was. He stated she should’ve been at work.”

In other interviews conducted by West Valley City police, Josh Powell appeared evasive. At times, he wouldn’t answer questions and he trailed off in thought.

“Do you know where Susan’s at?” West Valley City Police detective Ellis Maxwell asked him.

“Hum,” Josh replied.



Maxwell noted Josh would not provide answers or ideas to help locate his missing wife.

“What do you want us to do?” he asked in another interview. “Do you not want us to talk to you, do you not want us to talk to anybody and just leave you alone and hope she shows up?”

Later in that same interview, detectives reveal that the couple’s children had said “Mom went with you guys last night and that she didn’t come back.”

“She did not go with us,” Josh replied.

Detectives tried to press Powell, but he insisted “there’s nothing that happened. She was not with us and if my kids said that…” he trailed off.

After a few more attempts at questioning, Josh Powell said he wanted a lawyer and ended the interview.

After that interview, police believe Josh Powell rented a car and drove hundreds of miles. Where he went, remains a mystery. The documents released by West Valley City police include photographs of the rental car and Josh Powell’s minivan.

Among the evidence, a diary written by Susan that included an undelivered note to her husband detailing her complaints with him; a folder that said “Don’t Throw Away – Josh issues;” and a “Last Will and Testament,” the claimed that if anything happened to her it wouldn’t be an accident. There was also a letter that included a note to her children that said, “I would never leave you!”

Other reports detail how police looked at other members of Josh Powell’s family for any involvement in Susan’s disappearance. In 2010, police persuaded Josh Powell’s sister, Jennifer Graves, to wear a wire and confront her brother inside her family’s Puyallup, Wash., home.

Police also pursued hundreds of tips. Some were from psychics, others from ordinary people with their own theories on the case. In one, a woman named “Kourtney” claimed to have had an affair with a man named “John Staley,” whom she said was Josh Powell. Police noted the woman was not very cooperative.

The documents also detail the searches, wiretaps and efforts to locate Susan.

Josh Powell killed himself and the couple’s children in February 2012. In photographic evidence, police showed the charred minivan in the garage and a scorched hatchet they believe Josh used on Charlie and Braden before the home exploded in Graham, Wash.

It wasn’t until police got a tip that Josh’s brother, Michael Powell, had sold a car to an auto yard near Pendleton, Ore., shortly after Susan’s disappearance that they began to look closely at him for any involvement. Michael Powell committed suicide earlier this year.

Mike Winder, West Valley City mayor, said in a press conference he believes police did all they could to solve the mystery.

“Tens of thousands of pages, and as you go through those it will be easy to Monday-morning quarterback perhaps, but I think at the end of the day you’ll see a police force that was completely dedicated from the beginning, completely professional from the beginning,” he said. “And did everything they could do to find Susan and bring her home.”