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West Valley police won't give files to attorney for Susan Powell's parents

Published May 15, 2012 3:12 pm

Records • Attorney Anne Bremner had cited Utah and Washington victim's rights laws in making her request.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Tacoma, Wash. • West Valley City Police have denied a request from an attorney representing the parents of Susan Powell to review all investigative files related to the missing woman's case.

Anne Bremner, a Seattle attorney who represents Chuck and Judy Cox, filed formal requests last month under Utah's Government Records Access and Management Act and Washington's Public Records Act for "complete copies of any and all investigative files concerning the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell.

She filed the requests with West Valley police and the Pierce County Sheriff. Both agencies have assisted in the investigation into Susan Powell's missing persons case.

Bremner said Tuesday that West Valley denied her request, without responding to a victim's law she cited as a reason for why she should be able to receive the files on behalf of the Coxes. Pierce County has agreed to give her all the documents Bremner has requested following the voyeurism trial for Steve Powell, Susan's father-in-law. The jury began deliberations in that case on Tuesday morning.

Bremner expects to receive the files from Pierce County as soon as late Tuesday or Wednesday. And she plans to share information in the files with the public. In her request, Bremner stated she was seeking the documents on behalf of the Cox family for "potential litigation in which they may seek civil redress in connection with Susan's disappearance on Dec. 6, 2009."

Although Bremner has said West Valley City Police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen told the Coxes in February that they could review files related to their daughter's case, the family has not yet received any documents that give them insight into how West Valley City has handled the investigation.

Nielsen visited the Coxes in Puyallup, Wash., in February after the Coxes' son-in-law, Josh Powell, killed himself along with his two young sons in a gasoline-fueled fire at his Graham, Wash., home. Josh Powell was the only person of interest named in the December 2009 disappearance of his wife from their West Valley City home.

In her request,Bremner also referenced laws that entitle crime victims, survivors and witnesses access to investigative files in some cases." Although public-disclosure laws exempt some police investigative files from disclosure, the exemption applies only where disclosure would compromise the investigation or violate an individual's right to privacy," Bremner wrote in her request.

"Neither factor is at issue here. The investigation into the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell has been a joint agency investigation between West Valley City Police and the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. We believe Washington law applies to our request as well."

Bremner wrote that the Cox family seeks the investigative files to "further our representation."

"Release of the information we are seeking would further the interests of justice because it would allow us to better represent our client, the victim in this case," Bremner wrote.

West Valley City has denied a similar request from The Salt Lake Tribune, which asked the city to release all documents related to the investigation of Josh Powell. West Valley City officials wrote in their denial that Utah law allows the city to classify records as protected if the records "reasonably could be expected to interfere with investigations undertaken for enforcement, discipline, licensing, certification or registration purposes."

The city also stated that releasing the documents may "create a danger of depriving a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial hearing," among other reasons cited.

mrogers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mrogers_trib