TACOMA – A jury heard emotional testimony Tuesday from the sister of a man who killed his two sons in 2012. The trial continued at Pierce County Superior Court in a case against the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Jennifer Graves is the sister of Josh Powell. While on the witness stand, she could not hold back tears when she was talking about her sister in-law, Susan Cox Powell. Susan is the mother of 7-year-old Charlie Powell and 5-year-old Braden Powell – two young brothers killed at the hands of their father.
Graves recalled the moments after she spoke with investigators about Susan’s disappearance in 2009.
“I suddenly had this horrible feeling Josh did something to her,” said Graves while tears rolled down her face.
Graves said shortly after Susan disappeared, her brother moved the kids to Puyallup to live with Graves and Powell’s dad.
She told the court she spoke with an official from the state Department of Social and Health Services—concerned about Powell’s relationship with Susan and their young boys.
Graves said she also told that official she believed her brother was responsible for Susan’s disappearance and was worried he was capable of hurting his sons.
In 2012, Charlie and Braden were brought to Powell’s house for a supervised visit, but he locked a Washington state caseworker outside. He then attacked his kids with a hatchet and doused them in gasoline before all three died in an explosive house fire.
Graves said her whole family was devasted when they heard about the boys’ death. She mentioned she had a very close relationship with Susan and her nephews. While testifying, she became emotional when looking at a picture of Susan, Charlie and Braden taken shortly before Susan disappeared.
“Braden was only two when she disappeared,” said Graves. “They were so energetic and active.”
Cox’s parents filed the lawsuit against DSHS and CPS, claiming the agencies did not do enough to protect the children from their father. Attorneys representing the Cox family said the chief social worker in charge of the Powell brothers’ case is expected to take the stand Wednesday.