Emotional testimony from grandfather of murdered Powell boys: ‘I tried so hard to keep them safe’

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TACOMA -- It was an emotional day in court for the civil case involving Susan Cox-Powell's parents and the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

Susan's parents are suing the state agency after Josh Powell murdered their grandchildren and then killed himself during a supervised visit at Powell's Pierce County home.

Attorneys for Susan's family are arguing that DSHS could have prevented the horrific tragedy. On Monday, jurors heard from Susan's father about his efforts to keep his grandsons safe.

Chuck Cox's emotions are still raw when he describes driving up to Josh Powell's home engulfed in flames, asking firefighters if his grandsons were inside.

Cox wept on the witness stand describing the moment he learned his missing daughter's sons, Charlie and Braden, were dead.

He recalled asking out loud "What more could I have done? I tried so hard to keep them safe. I did everything that I was asked and more so, and I told everyone I could tell of my fears of the dangers... And yet here I am, looking at this building, powerless to save the boys."

This opened up testimony that is at the heart of this case: Chuck Cox's attempts to express the dangers he felt the children were in to DSHS employees when the boys were around their father, Josh.

He referenced a conversation he had with his grandson's social worker two days before the murders.

"The social worker, I warned her that I was afraid that he would do something to the boys, that they were not safe, and that supervision of the lady who came and picked them up was not going to be sufficient and she said 'don't worry about this, we got this, we'll have people there,'" he said.

Chuck Cox also described other times he spoke with Charlie and Braden's social worker about Josh Powell's concerning behavior.

"I had told her after I had gotten the information on Josh Powell's parents' divorce and reading about him killing a hamster, threatening his mother with a knife and all that stuff and the terrible things that were in that file. I realized at that point, to me, reading that, I said 'This is like how to create a psychopath 101.'"

He then spoke of the moment he knew something was terribly wrong after his daughter Susan disappeared. Initially, it was the whole family who seemingly vanished, but then Josh returned home with the boys.

When family questioned him about what was going on, Chuck Cox said Josh replied, "He said 'The boys are safe,' and I thought that was an awfully odd answer to 'Where have you been?' 'The boys are safe.'"

That was the start of the beginning of 10 agonizing years searching for his missing daughter. When asked why Chuck Cox still hasn't given up on looking for his daughter, he choked through his tears with this response.

"I know the state of Utah presumes her dead and issues a death certificate based on the fact that no one's heard from her, but there's too many cases, too many times when somebody shows up years after they've gone missing, and I'm not ready to give up on my daughter."

Tomorrow Chuck Cox will be back on the witness stand, subject to cross-examination by the state's attorneys.

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