West Valley City • Against a sunny and hopeful October sky, a cluster of more than 250 purple balloons lifted into the breeze in memory of Susan Cox Powell, the mother who mysteriously disappeared into the night nearly two years ago.
On Saturday, West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder along with a group of at least 30 people gathered at West View Park 4100 S. 6000 W. to remember Powell for a birthday celebration she would have been 30 years old on Sunday.
Even though much of the recent attention has been on Susan's father-in-law Steve Powell, who is in jail on pornography and voyeurism charges, her husband Josh Powell and a family custody battle over the children, one thing hasn't changed the focus has always been on finding Susan, says event organizer Kiirsi Hellewell.
Hellewell, Susan's best friend, said the purpose of remembering her birthday is to bring the attention back to remembering the missing woman.
In the past, organizers held three candlelight vigils for Susan; this time, they wanted to do something more uplifting.
"Letting balloons go in her favorite color seemed like the best way to do that," Hellewell said while wearing a "Susan is missing" T-shirt.
Purple-covered tables at the park were adorned with treats, fliers and buttons labeled with, "Hope Pray Help Believe."
Winder offered a message of hope, indicating West Valley City Police have momentum in their investigation and are in the final stretch of wrapping up the mystery of the woman's disappearance.
"We will not give up until we find out what happened to Susan Cox Powell," Winder said.
Hellewell said the recent searches for her friend have become an emotional roller coaster.
"It is extremely hard," Hellewell said, adding that she has been sick with stress for the past three months as she hung on every development of the searches.
Hellewell said if Josh Powell is innocent, "he should work with [police] to clear his name" and get their focus off him.
But she is slowly gaining peace as the investigation has continued.
After police released some of the results of their searches in Nevada, Utah and Washington, Hellewell said seeing the accumulation of potential physical evidence "has been so nice."
Jennifer Graves, Susan's sister-in-law, said the mystery surrounding the disappearance has become "the biggest focus of my life" and has consumed her thoughts.
For now, she is happy Susan's boys are safe in the custody of Susan's parents. "[I am] infinitely grateful for that," she said.
Graves said when police recently stated publicly that "they are in the fourth quarter" with their investigation, she feels hopeful for resolution. Graves also is optimistic the family will either be bringing Susan home or finding out what happened to her soon.
"I think we might be surprised about what is realized and there might be some twists," she added.
Neighbors said they still can't drive past the home where Susan lived without thinking about what happened that night in December 2009. The home is now being rented.
"I still have that feeling of not knowing if there is someone still out there or is the neighborhood safe," said neighbor Kathy Warren.
If anyone has any information regarding the case of Susan Cox Powell they are asked to call West Valley City Police at 801-840-4000.
Twitter: @CimCity Remembering Susan in Washington
A balloon launch will also be held in Puyallup, Wash., on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Bradley Lake Park.