TACOMA – The Cox civil trial against the state of Washington continued Thursday as jurors heard testimony from local law enforcement investigating Josh Powell, as he was the likely suspect in the disappearance of his wife Susan.
Ultimately, the question the trial poses to jurors: Is Washington state responsible for the death of Susan Cox’ two young boys, or does the blame fall on their father, Josh Powell?
A Pierce County Sheriff’s detective testified he believed the kids weren’t safe with their father; the state contends law enforcement didn’t have enough evidence to keep Josh Powell from seeing them.
“They were searching for affection, compassion,” said Det. Sgt. Gary Sanders. “In that home there was none.”
Sanders recalled what he saw during a search at the home where Josh Powell and his two kids lived along with Josh’s father after leaving Utah.
“In John’s room, he had a bag of toenail clippings, hair clippings, a large pterodactyl that was hanging from a noose,” said Sanders.
Even though investigators found child pornography on Josh Powell’s father’s computers, the state awarded custody of Josh’s children with their missing mother’s family. But, DSHS still allowed the boys’ father to have supervised visitations.
“Were you present for any of the hearings?” asked Ted Buck, an attorney representing the Cox family.
“Yes,” answered Sanders. “I think I was at every dependency hearing from the time the boys were placed until they were killed.”
It was during one of those visitations that Charlie and Braden Powell were killed by their father Josh in a murder-suicide at their Puyallup home in 2012.
Susan Cox’s family insists the state should have known the danger the two boys were in – but the state argues that well before the murders, police didn’t have the evidence required to limit Josh from supervised visits or intervene, even after the children made troubling statements during interviews.
“What did you do to inform the department on March 10, 2010, of your concerns for the boys at that night?” asked attorney Lori Kooiman, arguing for DSHS.
“At that night I did nothing,” replied Sanders.
“But you didn’t have enough to take them into protective custody at that time?” asked Kooiman.
“Not at that time,” replied Sanders. “No, I did not.”
Closing out testimony this week the jury heard the excruciating details when the social worker called 911 for help after Josh Powell took the boys away from the supervised visit.
Next week Susan Cox’s father is expected to take the stand.