Susan Powell mulled divorce, plan to escape husband, friends say
A year before she disappeared, Susan Powell told a wide circle of friends she was preparing for the worst if she sought a divorce: that her husband might try to kidnap their sons and break her financially.
She said she had set up a separate bank account, arranged a place to stay if she decided to leave, and had informally written a will, according to friends who requested anonymity because they are not authorized by police to speak about the investigation. And Susan Powell made sure many knew of her preparations.
Susan Powell ultimately decided to stay and work on the relationship after fasting and praying.
While friends and family say the marriage had improved during the past year, the trail Susan Powell, 28, left behind explains why Joshua Powell has become the focus of efforts to find his wife. Joshua Powell also was the last person to see Susan Powell alive on Dec. 7, when he told police he left her at home and took their four- and two-year-old sons on a late-night camping trip in Utah's snowy west desert.
On Monday, there was no sign of an imminent break in what is still being called a missing persons case. Police said they were waiting for results from the state crime lab, which is testing DNA evidence taken from the couple's home five days ago.
"We're their top priority," said West Valley City Police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen.
Police say Joshua Powell, who traveled to Washington state on Saturday with the couple's two young sons, has not provided enough direction for detectives looking for his missing wife.
"We have an open, standing request, or if you want to call it an invitation, for him to come speak to us," said Capt. Tom McLachlan.
Yet McLachlan said the investigation is "far from a standstill. We have a lot of stuff we're looking at."
Friends said they told her the relationship wasn't healthy and confirm that they encouraged Susan Powell to leave her husband, whom they have described as controlling and emotionally abusive. A friend has said Susan Powell was at one point poised to return to Washington with the aid of her parents.
Joshua Powell, 33, was upset his wife was depositing money into an account he didn't have access to, said friends who added that they encouraged Susan to stand up to him. Family members have said the couple got marital counseling at Susan Powell's urging.
McLachlan said he did not know of any financial motive, such as a life insurance policy, that could give anyone an incentive to harm her.
Also on Monday, Chuck Cox, Susan's father, said he didn't understand why Joshua Powell, accompanied by his oldest son, attended a candlelight vigil Sunday in Washington state arranged by her friends and family.
"I heard that Joshua (the husband) had arrived," he wrote on the "Friends and Family of Susan Powell" Facebook Web page. "I couldn't really understand why Josh was there."
Cox said Joshua Powell stood under an umbrella in the rain surrounded by family members who shielded him from the media.
"I just hope being here [at the vigil] will encourage Josh to help with the search," Cox wrote in his message.
Terrica Powell, Joshua's mother and a Utah resident, could not be reached for comment Monday. A sign on her front door asked media not to knock or ring the door bell and provided an e-mail address for questions.
Scott C. Williams, Joshua's attorney, could not be reached immediately for comment.
Tribune reporters Nate Carlisle, Jason Bergreen, Sheena McFarland, Erin Alberty contributed to this story.
A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered by an anonymous donor for "original information" leading to Susan Powell. In the event her disappearance is a crime, the reward may be given for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information can call the West Valley Police Department at 801-840-4000.
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