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More Susan Powell searchers flock to Topaz Mountain
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Topaz Mountain • The search for Susan Cox Powell moved six miles down the road Monday and involved searchers from just as many counties.

But the result was the same as the previous week. Monday ended with no sign of the West Valley City wife and mother who has been missing for 21 months.

West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt acknowledged the search here in Juab County has produced no evidence indicating police are looking in the right place.

Yet other police and sheriff departments volunteering their staff have propelled the operation. Originally scheduled to last only four days last week, Monday was the eighth consecutive day of searching and Merritt said searching will continue through Wednesday.

One hundred trained searchers riding all-terrain vehicles and on foot scoured the desert Monday. The sheriff's offices in Juab, Millard, Sevier, Iron and Beaver counties all sent search and rescue teams to help the West Valley City officers.

The Salt Lake City Police Department also sent about 15 officers in plain clothes. Those officers formed a line, with about 20 yards between them, near the command post and began walking north. With their heads down, they carefully stepped over rocks and through sage brush, looking for anything out of place.

"These are people who know what they're doing," Merritt said.

Ladd Brindley, the commander of the Iron County Search and Rescue team, left Cedar City at 5:30 a.m. Monday to reach Topaz Mountain.

He said it's unusual for his team to be looking for someone who, if found by his searchers, will be dead. His team is more accustomed to looking for hikers or riders who have been lost only for hours.

Brindley said he has seen reports of Powell's disappearance on the news these 21 months and didn't think he would be looking for her.

But he added, "You never know what you'll do" in search and rescue.

An airplane from the Utah Department of Public Safety flew over the search zones Monday. One cadaver dog — trained to react to the smell of human decomposition — was present to sniff any suspicious scenes discovered by searchers, Merritt said.

While dozens of square miles have been searched in the past week, Merritt acknowledged the vast west desert still has a lot of places where someone could dispose of a body.

"Yesterday the Juab County sheriff described it as [looking for] a broken needle, needle pieces, in a haystack," Merritt said.

Last Wednesday, cadaver dogs detected what police described as human remains in a suspected shallow grave. But police unearthed only 100 or so pieces of charred wood at the site. Police believe the wood, which will be examined by experts, was used to burn human remains.

Topaz Mountain is about 30 miles away from where Josh Powell, the only person of interest police have named in his wife's disappearance, says he took his two young sons camping the night his wife disappeared from their West Valley City home.

Police have said Josh Powell liked to gem hunt — and family and friends have confirmed that Josh and Susan Powell had visited the Topaz Mountain area on previous family excursions.

West Valley City police recently conducted a search in the desert around Ely, Nev., and over the past months have conducted numerous searches in Tooele County. Police serving a search warrant also recently removed several computer towers and other evidence from the Washington home where Josh Powell now lives with his father.

Susan Powell, 28, has been missing since Dec. 6, 2009. Josh Powell has said he had taken the couple's young sons, then ages 2 and 4, on a winter camping trip to Simpson Springs in Tooele County, and returned home to find his wife gone without a trace.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Crime • Police agencies from six counties scour desert for eighth straight day.
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