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Susan Powell case: Police take DNA from missing West Valley City woman's husband
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Police have obtained DNA samples from Joshua Powell as part of their investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell.

West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan said investigators have taken DNA samples from multiple people in the search for 28-year-old Susan Powell, and the warrant served Tuesday does not imply her husband is a suspect.

"We hope to have him come in for a more extensive interview, but I don't know if a date or time has been set for that," McLachlan said Tuesday night.

Joshua Powell answered some "basic" questions at the station Tuesday, a day after he cancelled a police interview that was scheduled for Monday, McLachlan said.

Powell's attorney Scott C. Williams said Powell sought legal counsel shortly before the scheduled meeting.

"I needed time to get information so I could advise and consult," Williams said, explaining why Powell cancelled Monday's interview. Williams would not discuss details of Tuesday's exchange with police.

Also Tuesday, friends of Susan Powell filled some of the silence with information about long-simmering difficulties in their marriage and details about how the couple met.

According to court documents, Joshua Powell filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April 2007 and listed more than $200,000 in credit card, furniture, student loan and other debts.

That debt put a stress on the couple's relationship, several sources told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Even before the bankruptcy, friends had counseled Susan Powell to leave her husband, who was "very, very controlling," said Rachel Marini, who met the couple shortly after they wed in 2001.

"She had lots of people tell her to end it and get a divorce because it was not worth going through that kind of heartache," Marini said. "But Susan didn't want to give up on her marriage."

Marini's husband, Tim, met Joshua Powell in 1999 at the singles ward in Tacoma, Wash. The couples were close until Rachel Marini had a falling out with Joshua Powell during a road trip from Utah to Washington several years ago.

However, the Marinis stayed close with Susan via Facebook. Over the past year or so, Susan told the couple the relationship "was still pretty bad, but that for the first time, Susan started standing up for herself," Rachel Marini said.

While Joshua Powell went to church sporadically, Susan Powell insisted on taking the children to church each week. And during the past year, despite their financial straits, she also bought them a few Christmas presents.

"Josh didn't like it, but he was letting her do it," Rachel Marini said.

Susan Powell openly discussed the trying year the couple had in 2008 during meetings at her church, where she served as a secretary in the Relief Society.

"Church was a big part of her life. It gave her a sense of feeling needed," said Stephanie Olson, a neighbor and fellow ward member. "A lot of people really loved her and needed her there."

Charles Cox, Susan Powell's father, said the couple had worked through their problems and were doing better.

Susan and her husband are natives of Pullayup, Wash., and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They met through a church activity at an LDS ward in Tacoma, Wash., and were married in April 2001, said Kiirsi Hellewell, Susan's best friend.

The couple managed an assisted living facility in Washington for a while, Hellewell said. They moved to Utah about five years ago searching for a fresh start and to be closer to Joshua Powell's mother and two sisters, who had relocated here, Hellewell said.

The couple found a home in West Valley City and joined the Hunter 36th Ward. Larry Richman, the lay leader of the LDS Church congregation, confirmed the couple are regular members of the church.

Joshua Powell worked for Homenet Real Estate for several years while Susan cared for their sons, ages 2 and 4. Friends and neighbors all say Susan Powell would never leave her two boys.

"She absolutely loved [becoming] a mom," Hellewell said. "Her boys were her whole life."

Susan Powell, who had worked as a cosmetologist in Washington, embraced life as a homemaker, learning to garden, can, bake bread and crochet.

It was crocheting that brought Susan Powell together with fellow churchgoer JoVonna Owings. That friendship continued, and, shortly after Thanksgiving this year, Owings began baby-sitting Saturdays for the Powells.

On Dec. 6, she was at the Powells' home, helping Susan untangle yarn, and joined the family for a dinner of pancakes and scrambled eggs that Joshua Powell made.

"Susan is very energetic and enthusiastic. She's sort of like the Energizer Bunny," Owings said. "She was an excellent mother and wife. She took care of her family, house and husband, and often made meals from scratch."

Owings said she would bring her 9- and 17-year-old children along when she tended the Powell boys. Joshua Powell often spent those Saturdays working on the home's back deck, and would teach Owings' children basic woodworking skills.

Joshua Powell's hobbies include radio-controlled cars, gardening and landscaping.

He operates a home-based business called Polished Marketing that creates Web sites and logos for business. He also works as a computer programmer for a trucking and warehousing company.

Susan Powell is a stockbroker with a local financial institution. She passed her financial certification while she was pregnant with her first child, Hellewell said.

"She kept saying, 'If anyone had told me I would be a stockbroker, I would have laughed my head off,'" Hellewell said.

Friends and family say they are baffled by Susan Powell's disappearance.

"She wouldn't leave those boys," Olson, her neighbor, said. "It's our deepest wish that Susan could be found. We're hoping and praying. Her little boys need her."

On Tuesday, Shelby Gifford, who is serving at a spokesperson for the Cox family, relayed a message from the family, thanking the community for its support.

On the Facebook Web site devoted to Powell, the family states they have not given up hope in finding the missing mother.

"We each have a finite amount of energy and capacity. We are using 100 % of ours to find Susan," the posting states. "We come to this page frequently for comfort and to feel surrounded by Susan's friends and family. It's a source of strength for us, and keeps us focused on our goal -- finding Susan."

Tribune reporters Bob Mims and Jason Bergreen contributed to this report.

Time line of Susan Powell's disappearance

Afternoon, Dec. 6 » Neighbor JoVonna Owings dropped by the Powells' home Sunday afternoon to visit with Susan Powell. The family had pancakes for dinner. Susan, who was feeling ill, laid down for a nap about 5 p.m. Owings left, as did Joshua Powell, who said he was taking his two sons sledding.

8:30 p.m., Dec. 6 » A neighbor saw Joshua Powell as he returned home and pulled into his garage.

Midnight to 12:30 a.m, Dec. 7 » Joshua Powell says he left home with his two sons to go camping at Simpson Springs in the West Desert, while Susan remained at home.

9 to 10 a.m., Dec. 7 » The Powells' daycare provider became alarmed when the couple failed to drop off their sons on schedule and she could not reach either parent by phone. She contacted Joshua Powell's mother and sister, who called police after they could not locate the pair. Police broke into the Powell home but found no one there.

Evening, Dec. 7 » Joshua Powell and his two young sons returned home between 5 and 6 p.m. He was taken to the West Valley City police station for questioning.

11 a.m., Dec. 8 » Charles Cox received a telephone call from Joshua Powell, who informed him Susan was missing and that he was about to be interviewed by police again.

Dec. 9 » Police served a search warrant on the Powell residence and removed boxes, bags and a computer.

Dec. 10 » Law officers searched the Simpson Springs area where Joshua Powell said he camped with his sons but found nothing.

Dec. 14 » Joshua Powell hired defense attorney Scott C. Williams. He skipped a third interview with police.

Dec. 15 » Joshua Powell provided a DNA sample to police.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, West Valley City Police Department, Kiirsi Hellewell, Charles Cox, media reports

Probe » Friends say Joshua Powell was 'very, very controlling.'
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