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Joshua Powell's dad: Son is being 'vilified'

Published December 20, 2009 9:00 pm

Missing woman » Police say husband went to Washington state.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Joshua Powell's father said Sunday he believes his son is being "vilified" as questions swirl around the disappearance of his daughter-in-law, Susan Powell, who has now been missing for two weeks.

"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," said Steven Powell, who spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune briefly through the partially open front door of his home Sunday.

"I'm not making any statement because it doesn't matter how benign it is or how supportive it is. Somebody will twist it around."

Joshua Powell, 34, and his two children, Charlie, 4, and Braden, 2, are staying with Powell's father, said John Hellewell, a friend of the Powells. He said Joshua told him Saturday he was fired from his job. He worked as a computer programmer for a trucking and warehousing company.

Powell likely won't be able to make payments on the couple's West Valley City home and will lose it, Hellewell said. He said he spoke with Powell about 8 p.m. Sunday.

"He just told me he needed to get away from the press and publicity and keep his kids away from it," Hellewell said.

West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan said Powell left Utah on Friday or Saturday. Powell's attorney, Scott C. Williams, confirmed that Joshua took the couple's two children with him on the trip. Williams declined to answer further questions Sunday.

Steven Powell's home is in a gated community called Country Hollow in South Hill, a community just outside of Puyallup, Wash. Joshua and Susan Powell, 28, both attended high school at nearby Rogers High school. Susan's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, also live in Puyallup.

On Friday, the Coxes told The Salt Lake Tribune that Steven Powell isn't actively helping in the search for their daughter. The Coxes said they've had "issues" with Steven Powell in the past and aren't comfortable being around him.

Little other information about Joshua and his family has been available so far. His mother and sister who live in Utah have declined comment on the case. Kirk Graves, who is married to Joshua Powell's sister, Jennifer, has said in previous media interviews he wouldn't be surprised if Joshua Powell is arrested in connection with the case.

In Washington, many in the Puyallup area are familiar with Joshua's brother, Michael Powell, an Army veteran elected to be a national delegate for President Barack Obama. Powell ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Washington State House of Representatives this fall and lost.

According to Michael Powell's campaign Web site, michaelcpowell.org, Joshua Powell served as a "technical coordinator" during his brother's campaign.

Steven Powell asked The Salt Lake Tribune to not publish his comments after he spoke to reporters. Powell said his house and the subdivision around it are private property and said he worries if media discover where he lives, they will "camp out" near his house.

He told Tribune reporters to "please just go and please do not come back." Asked whether he wants a chance to speak on behalf of Joshua Powell and explain the reasons why he thinks his son has been unfairly vilified, Steven Powell said, "I don't need to explain anything. There is nothing to explain."

The Pierce County Sheriff Department -- the agency in charge of the areas where Steven Powell as well as Judy and Chuck Cox live -- is assisting West Valley City police with the case to find Susan Powell, spokesman Ed Troyer has said. Troyer declined to say who authorities have interviewed in Washington, but said they've been contacted by West Valley City police and are helping to gather any relevant information in the search for Susan Powell.

McLachlan said police learned of Joshua Powell's travels from Powell's West Valley City neighbors.

"We hope to still try to maintain contact with him so we can have an interview with him at some future time," McLachlan said.

"He's free to come and go as he wishes," he said.

Tribune reporter contributed to this report.

mrogers@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">mrogers@sltrib.com ncarlisle@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">ncarlisle@sltrib.com

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, lay 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' day-care 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.

Dec. 17 » West Valley City police subpoena Salt Lake City television stations for footage of interviews with Joshua Powell taken days after his wife's disappearance.

Dec.17 » Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer confirms that authorities in the Powells' hometown of Puyallup, Wash., are assisting Utah investigators with the case. Troyer declined to say who Washington sheriff's deputies have interviewed.

Dec. 20 » Police say Joshua Powell and his two young sons left Utah to spend the holidays in his home state of Washington.

Evening Dec. 20 » Friends and family of Susan Powell hold vigils in Utah and Puyallup, Wash. to keep attention focused on finding her.