The fire at Josh Powell’s home added more to the very public scandal that began when Susan Powell suspiciously disappeared in 2009. The case has since blown up into accusations of family members having illicit sexual relationships, and now the horrible loss of two young boys. This is one of the worst cases of sexual and domestic violence. It shows how sexual abuse of women often leads to physical abuse and sometimes even death.
The children, 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles, were ordered by a judge to go live with Susan’s parents as the case was investigated. On Sunday, the lawyer for Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, said the children had started talking to their grandparents about things they remembered from the night their mother disappeared, 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.”
Josh Powell raced home Sunday for what was supposed to be a supervised visit, leaving the social worker behind. She had pulled up in the car, and the kids ran out ahead of her. By the time she got there, Powell had locked her out and his sons in. The social worker had called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas. Seconds later, the home burst into flames.
“I’m sorry, goodbye,” Powell wrote in a suicide email to his lawyer just minutes before he set fire to his home, killing himself and his two young sons after he was denied custody of them once again and ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation.
Susan Powell, a young mother of two, was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for her job. Authorities in the couple’s hometown of West Valley City, Utah, soon suspected Josh Powell as the leading suspect in the case. Kirk Graves, 39, of West Jordan, Utah, whose wife is Josh Powell’s sister, said of Josh, “He’s a narcissist and he has no love for anyone but himself.” In a statement Sunday night from West Valley City police, they said the investigation will continue as they work to find Susan Powell’s body.
About a month after Susan turned up missing, police spent 12 days in the remote central Utah desert looking for clues, which 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. Police turned up nothing in their search, but a day before ending it Josh’s father, Steven Powell, 61, was arrested and accused of secretly videotaping his daughter-in-law, other women, and young girls in neighboring homes. He is now jailed and facing child porn and voyeurism charges.
Susan’s father said Steven Powell had been initiating unwanted sexual advances, and that his daughter had no sexual interest in her father-in-law, contrary to what her father-in-law claimed. Josh Powell had lost custody of the children and the judge had ordered the children to remain with Susan Powell’s parents, until he had a psycho-sexual evaluation. The judge had ordered it because of the findings of explicit material on computers inside Steven Powell’s home, which led to his arrest.
Update: The boys also suffered “chop injuries” from a small hatchet, which was recovered at the scene, that contributed to their deaths. The 7-year-old Charles was struck on his neck and the 5-year-old Braden had injuries to both his head and neck, Baker said.
Josh Powell claimed that the night his wife vanished in December 2009, he took the boys from their West Valley City home, about 10 miles outside Salt Lake City, on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures. The summer after the boys’ mother disappeared, Braden drew a picture at day care of a van with three people in it, and said that it was a picture of his family going camping: “Mommy’s in the trunk,” the boy said.
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- Fire Kills Husband of Missing Utah Woman, 2 Boys (abcnews.go.com)
- Josh Powell, kids die in alleged murder-suicide – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- Missing mom’s slain sons: She was put ‘in the trunk’ (usnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- Did authorities do enough to protect Powell boys? (cbsnews.com)
- Powell Tragedy: Son Spoke of Mom’s Disappearance (abcnews.go.com)
- Missing Mom’s Husband and Kids Killed in Fire (foxnews.com)