Her Murder Led to Serial Killer 1
Fugitive Kidnapper Kills Himself 2
Unlikely Manhunt Leads to Tragedy 3

Stockbroker Susan Powell Missing in Utah; Husband's Actions Suspicious

By Pete Kotz in missing persons, unsolved
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 11:47 am
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UPDATE: Susan Powell expressed fear of her husband more than a year ago, and took pains to mention that she'd never commit suicide so people would know if she ended up dead. See update after the jump...



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Josh Powell claims he suddenly decided to take his sons -- ages 1 and 4 -- camping at 12:30 a.m. in frigid temps and snow
Josh Powell says he last saw his 28-year-old wife Susan as she was getting ready for bed in their West Valley City, Utah home. He claims he suddenly decided to take his two young boys camping at 12:30 a.m. In frigid temperatures and snow.

That was five days ago. No one's seen Susan since.

She failed to show up for her job as a Wells Fargo stockbroker on Monday morning. Her purse, cell phone, and car were all left at home.

At first, police thought the entire family was missing until Josh arrived home with the kids -- ages 1 and 4 -- on Tuesday. He claimed the reasons for the last minute camping trip was test out a new generator. But according to friends, the couple had been having marital problems.

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Susan Powell's keys, cell phone and car were still at the house
Friends say Susan wasn't the kind of woman who'd just take off. But they also say Josh's behavior has been surprisingly unworried since his wife went missing.

"They've had problems for a very long time and that's very obvious when you spend a short time with them, you can tell ... they're roommates," says friend Tim Peterson.

Josh told him it was normal for him to take the kids on impromptu camping trips in the middle of the night. But when Peterson talked to him, Josh showed more interest in discussing himself than his missing wife.

"I told him if my wife came up missing, I'd be going nuts, I'd be out looking for her. What do you think?" Peterson said. "He's like, the cops are handling all that... He was talking about his kids, about his clothes, about his sleep. He was talking about his van that police took. He was talking about his house -- talking like, I wonder if my bird is dead."

Susan Powell is described as 5-foot-4, 130 pounds, with long, brown hair and blue eyes.

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Susan and husband Josh had marital problems. They filed for bankruptcy in 2007.

UPDATE: Police say husband Joshua Powell isn't a suspect, but his version of the past week seems awfully suspicious.

Both friends and family say it wasn't unusual for Josh to take off at a moment's notice with the kids, but his version of events leaves something to be desired.

He claims he didn't show up for work Monday because he thought it was Sunday. He allegedly took the kids camping about 120 miles from their home. Police searched the area and found no sign of Susan, but fresh snow covered any indication that someone had been camping there.

Still, it's hard to believe a dad would take kids ages 1 and 4 camping in the middle of the night, especially when temperatures are falling to below zero in the area. And since Josh claims he wanted to test out a new generator, he doesn't sound like the kind of camper who's into roughing it in bad conditions.

Police nonetheless say he's not a suspect, though they expect to interview him further. Friends say the couple was having marital problems. Two years ago, they filed for bankruptcy in what appears to be a dual case of overspending and unemployment.

Both have been periodically jobless in the past. And it seems money woes forced Susan to give up being a fulltime homemaker and go back to work. She was a stay-at-home mom when they filed for bankruptcy in 2007. At that time, Josh's profession was listed as realtor.

But they owed more than $200,000 in credit card, furniture, student loan and other debts, suggesting they were living well beyond their means for such a young family with two small kids.

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Susan's dad says Josh Powell has a tendency to lose track of time and act on the spur of the moment

UPDATE II: Susan Powell's father doesn't think Josh Powell is capable of hurting his daughter, though you can tell he's conflicted.

"I don't see him as capable of harming her," Charles Cox told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I'm kind of concerned that all the focus is on him."

He said it wasn't unusual for his daughter to go to bed at that time, nor was it particularly weird that Josh took the boys camping in the middle of the night. Cox says his son-in-law has a habit of losing track of time and acting on the spur of the moment.

But asked point-blank if he believes Josh's story, and he only responded, "I don't know."

"Yeah, it may sound weird to a lot of people but let's not stop looking for my daughter," he said. "The more time spent on him, the less time there is looking at other possibilities, and there certainly are other possibilities."

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Why does Susan Powell's broke husband need a big-money defense lawyer if he's innocent?
UPDATE III: According to ABC, Josh Powell skipped a police interview yesterday, hiring a big name defense lawyer instead.

That's the latest on the husband whose behavior doesn't match how a man would normally behave if his wife was missing for a week. According to the TV network, Josh didn't show up for a scheduled interview with West Valley City detectives yesterday. Instead, he hired prominent attorney Scott Williams, who recently represented Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Wanda Barzee.

Why a broke father of two, who filed for bankruptcy just two years ago, would need a high-priced lawyer is anyone's guess. Aside from getting people off, these guys' greatest skill is getting in your pocket. And why does an innocent man need a lawyer in the first place?

Then again, it's not unusual for big-name lawyers to take high-profile cases for free. It could be that Williams is simply in it for the advertising and ego feed.

But police are also saying that someone tried to clean up the house around the time Susan disappeared. When they first thought the entire family was missing, cops broke into the Powell home fearing carbon monoxide poisoning.

They found two fans blowing on a wet spot on the living room carpet. This could have been just a spill created by one of the kids, which wouldn't be unusual. It also could mean someone didn't want them finding something.

Meanwhile, neighbor Wendy Trujillo told ABC that forensic workers have been pulling evidence from the house all week, including bags and boxes and at least one computer.

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Susan Powell and her husband Josh at a church event not long before she disappeared
UPDATE IV: Josh Powell's lack of cooperation isn't making police very happy.

West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan says Josh didn't show up for an interview with detectives yesterday on the advice of his lawyer. That seems more like the action of a guy trying to protect himself rather than find his missing wife.

"We are very disappointed in that because he is not a suspect and this delays the investigation -- it slows things down," McLachlan told the Associated Press. "His stated purpose is he wants to find Susan and that is also our stated purpose on this missing persons case and this complicates the issue."

UPDATE V: Josh Powell has officially been declared a person of interest for his lack of cooperation.


Yes, most of these kinds of labels are meaningless, but it shows police frustration.Thus far they seemed to be treating him with kid gloves, at least in the press, despite his goofy camping story. But it's never a good sign when you're wife's gone missing and you show little interest in helping police find her.

As Assistant Chief Craig Black told Fox News, "We've been interested in what Josh has had to say all along... I wouldn't characterize him (Joshua) as being cooperative."

UPDATE VI: Josh Powell refuses to answer questions about where he went camping the night his wife disappeared.

The P
ony Express Trail, where Josh supposedly took his kids camping, is 2,000 miles long, making it nearly impossible for police to search, especially since it's been covered with new snow since the trip. But police say Josh won't say exactly where they camped, and won't accompany cops there to show them.

"It could take years, if ever, to identify this campsite," Assistant Chief Craig Black told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We would really like to go on a two-hour road trip with Josh." 

But apparently Josh has become less cooperative as the search wears on. On Tuesday, he would only answer basic, general questions about his wife -- like the kind of scars Susan may have -- refusing to get into anything specific. Police have gotten a court order to get samples of his DNA.

"He answered questions that would help us if we found Susan," Black said. "He did not answer any questions that would help us find Susan."

"We'd appreciate some more detailed cooperation from him," Black told the Deseret News. "There's a lot of questions concerning his camping trip, what Susan's state of mind was on Sunday, has she ever talked to him privately about leaving. Those are areas Josh could help with. We're not marriage counselors. If she wants to be away, that's her business. We just would like to have information that helps us find her."

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Police say Josh Powell is no longer even pretending to be helpful in the search to find his missing wife
UPDATE VII: You can tell they're a nice church-going family reluctant to cast aspersions. But Susan Powell's family is beginning to see that husband Josh is the likely suspect.

At a news conference yesterday, family spokeswoman Shelby Gifford says they aren't surprised Josh has been named a person of interest, "given the events and his reactions to them in the past week."

Friends and family say she's not the kind of woman who would ever leave without her kids. Her cellphone, credit cards and car keys were all left behind, and there was no sign of forced entry at her home.

Gifford also says Susan would never let her kids go camping in sub-freezing temperatures: "We know that Susan is an excellent mother and would not have tolerated her children being taken out of the home after midnight to go camping in dangerously cold conditions."

And in an interview on NBC this morning, Susan's father Chuck Cox expressed similar doubts: "We have been trying to be supportive of Josh. We want Josh to come forward, please, and tell us the rest of the story. Tell us a credible story, please."

Meanwhile, police continue to say that Josh is avoiding all efforts to help find his wife. "He is not allowing us the opportunity to interview him at length in order to verify his statements and also to get more specifics," says Captain Tom McLachlan. "His statements are absolutely vague."

UPDATE VIII: In the middle of a search for his missing wife, Josh Powell bolts for Washington without telling police.

Say your wife is missing and you desperately want to find her. She's the mother of your children, after all. So would you A) stay in Utah to do anything you can to help police find her, or B) take off for Washington without bothering to tell the cops?

Most people would answer A. But if you answered B, you're Josh Powell.

Police say they learned from neighbors that he left for his father's home in Washington over the weekend without bothering to tell them. Reporters caught up with him at his dad's house in a gated community in Puyallup.

"The whole thing has just turned into a vilification of Josh and it will turn into a vilification of me, my ex-wife and my other kids," father Steven Powell told the Salt Lake Tribune, before asking reporters to leave.


A friend says Josh wanted to escape the scrutiny he's been under in suburban Salt Lake City, which is understandable. Then again, if you really want to find your wife, wouldn't you man up enough to withstand it?

Friends also say he's been fired from his job as a computer programmer for a trucking company. Either his supervisors are huge dicks, or they simply don't want a guy who kills his wife being around their other employees.

Since the Powells have had financial troubles since a 2007 bankruptcy, friends say he'll likely lose his house.

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Rachel Marini says there was "a lot of fighting and belittling on his part."
UPDATE IX: A friend says Susan Powell talked about divorce in the past few years to escape her controlling husband.

In an interview with NBC, friend Rachel Marini said Susan complained that her husband Josh had become more controlling in the past several years after the family moved from Washington to Utah and away from her relatives.

"Josh became more and more controlling, and it was harder for her to remain herself, or remain the happy person that she was," Marini told NBC. "Josh was very controlling. He controlled everything in their marriage, from the money that Susan spent to what groceries she could buy to what she could eat. There was a lot of fighting and belittling on his part. It just reduced her to a very unhappy and different person than she was when he first met her."

Susan told Marini she was unhappy and talked about divorce. But like almost everyone who knows her, she says Susan would never leave without her children. Marini also says there's no way Susan would have let Josh take her kids camping on a freezing Sunday night.

"I do know that if he had told Susan, 'Hey, I'm going to take the boys out camping, and it's 10 degrees out, it's a blizzard, and we have school the next day,' she would have said, 'No way,' and she wouldn't have let him."

UPDATE X: Josh Powell rented a car two days after Susan went missing, driving hundreds of miles in a 24 hour period.

It's once again very strange behavior for a man who would presumably be in the midst of a desperate search to find his wife. What? Did he suddenly have a series of long-distance errands that just had to be knocked off?

But since Josh isn't talking, and the car didn't have a GPS, police are at a loss about where he traveled that day.

UPDATE XI: As far back as the summer of 2008, Susan Powell was expressing fear of her husband in emails to friends.

Friends have turned over the emails she sent that summer, when her marriage was at its worst and Susan appeared to fear her husband. In one, she worried that Josh might kidnap her children, file for divorce, or worse.

She also said she'd set up her own bank account in case Josh tried to take all her money, and was preparing for a place to stay with her kids if she left. She further decided to write an informal will.

More chilling was a note a coworker found on Susan's desk: "She had mentioned about writing something so that no one would ever think she committed suicide," the friend told the Deseret News. "She said it would be so her boys would know that she would never kill herself, because she would never leave her boys alone."

Friends also say police have confiscated a notebook she kept at Wells Fargo chronicling the threats against her.


Tags: Utah

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