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Powell family video: Happy moments weeks before killings

Published February 15, 2012 11:31 am

Aunt • Says she wants the public to remember the boys' personalities shown in videos.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Puyallup, Wash. • The videos capture the boys in their element.

Braden Powell, 5, is filmed mischievously running around his grandparents' home, chasing cousins and giggling.

Big brother Charlie Powell, 7, known as "the little scientist" to his first-grade classmates, is shown thoroughly explaining his plans to carve a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern.

"Charlie explains to you what he is cutting and why," the boys' aunt Denise Cox, said with a laugh in an interview this week. "It's the cutest video."

After a weekend of mourning her nephews at two funeral services and a Monday burial in Puyallup, Wash., Cox released videos of her nephews to The Salt Lake Tribune — images she wants to share, she said, to bring focus to the boys' energetic personalities instead of to their horrific final moments before their deaths.

"They've got the sweetest little smiles. You see Braden's activeness and you see how smart Charlie was," Cox said of the videos.

Cox said she and family members have watched the film clips repeatedly in recent days.

Those memories, along with her last encounters with her nephews provide some solace. The Wednesday before the children were killed by their father, Josh Powell, Braden visited Cox and played at her home.

Before the boy left, he approached his aunt and asked "Can I play with this truck again?"

Bewildered, and not seeing a truck in sight, Cox asked Braden about what toy he was referring to. The boy then led her to his cousin's room, where he had carefully hidden a Hot Wheels car in the cousin's bedsheets.

Cox burst out laughing when she saw Braden had wrapped the car in a hiding spot, certain the toy would be safe there until he next returned.

"I said, you know what? You can have that," Cox said, handing the boy the truck. "He said 'Gee thanks!' " Then he said, 'Can Charlie have something too?' "

Cox promised Braden that his brother could visit soon and pick out a toy of his own. The visit never happened.

Now, Cox is reconciling how her brother-in-law could kill himself and his boys in a blaze set at his Graham-area rental home.

Cox, who believes Josh Powell is responsible for killing her missing sister, Susan Powell, said she feels Powell cheated her out a budding relationship with her nephews.

"I was all set to spoil those boys. I wanted to do it for Susan," Cox said. "They deserved it. They'd been through a lot."

"He took away my ability to spoil them," Cox said. "My way of staying connected to my sister through them."

As Cox and her family continue to grieve, others who attended memorial services in Washington found it comforting to connect to others interested in the case of Susan Powell, who disappeared from her West Valley City home in 2009.

People who started out as strangers became friends through the "Friends and Family of Susan Powell" Facebook page. Some who only knew each other from online posts, traveled to the Powell boys' funeral where they met in-person for the first time.

Outside the charred remains of Josh Powell's home, Kiirsi Hellewell of West Valley City, a close friend of Susan Powell's, connected over the weekend with Washington residents who had rallied to bring attention to the missing woman's case.

"I've made so many wonderful friends the past two years online and really wanted to meet them in person," Hellewell said in an essay she wrote on the funeral experience for ABC News.

She said reading note cards of love and support for Charlie and Braden that were tied to a fence surrounding the home where they lost their lives was therapeutic.

One of the notes, Hellewell wrote, stated "RIP you beautiful angels. You are now with your mommy again and forever."

Another, in the scribbled handwriting of a child, simply stated: "I am sorry Braden and Charlie."

"That's the image I want to take away with me when I leave this place, not remembering the boys in fear and sorrow, but remembering their sweet, beautiful smiles and their excitement and love for life. I believe Susan was waiting for them with her arms held wide. And for her, that reunion was the most joyous day," Hellewell wrote.

Others close to the boys are holding on to personal memories, many which include Susan Powell.

Darleen Barker Allen, a lifelong friend of Susan Powell , whose family lives a few houses away from the Coxes in Puyallup, said her friend seemed complete after bringing Charlie and Braden into the world.

When Allen thinks of Charlie and Braden, she thinks of Susan Powell carrying the boys on her hips as babies. When the boys' maternal grandparents gained custody of them in recent months, the children would visit Allen's house for play dates.

Two weeks ago the boys came over, Allen recalled, and began banging on a drum set while they played with her four kids, ages 5 to 13.

Nervous about the noise, the Powell boys' grandmother, Judy Cox, asked Allen whether she should stop the "music."

"They need to have fun," Allen replied. " They were probably envisioning themselves as rockstars or something," she recalled.

Now that the boy are gone, Allen clings to memories of her friend and the joy she found in motherhood.

"She was so excited to be a mother. Even though she wanted to do a great many things ... it was like she was complete when she was with those children," Allen said of Susan Powell.

"That kind love — it just came out of her."

mrogers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mrogers_trib