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Like the Coxes, Hellewell has long believed that Josh Powell had something to do with Susan’s disappearance.
Hellewell said she was relieved last week when a Washington judge decided to leave the two boys with the Coxes at least through July. Still, she said there was fear Powell might be furious.
"We’ve all been very, very worried about their safety," Hellewell said of the two boys.
In a December court filing, Josh Powell asked the court to move the boys to a neutral caretaker and expressed frustration with the slow pace of efforts to reunite him with his sons. He claimed the Coxes were out to "destroy our loving relationships as a natural family unit."
He said the Coxes’ hatred of him "pervades their household, their social circles, and their public comments."
Josh Powell claimed the Coxes were turning his two sons against him.
"By living in the Cox house, the boys are exposed to the Coxes’ overwhelming attitude of hatred toward me, and it is seriously traumatizing my children," he said.
Supporters of Josh Powell and his family previously described them as an "all-American family," saying they saw nothing disturbing in his interaction with his sons.
"Josh is a loving, devoted, protective, caring father," wrote Alina Powell, Josh’s sister in an affidavit filed in the custody case last September.
Terrica Powell, Josh’s mother, also provided an affidavit that described her son as an "engaged" father.
According to Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, no one had any idea that Josh Powell had anything like this planned.
"We would have gone back to court had we any indication that Josh Powell was suicidal," Hill said. "It’s a terrible tragedy that these poor children especially had to suffer and die because of the actions of their father."
She said the woman who was to supervise Sunday’s visit between Josh Powell and his children was not a Child Protective Services employee but a contract worker with a private agency.
"She pulled up in the car, and the kids ran out ahead of her," Hill said. "Josh Powell closed the door and locked it. She wasn’t able to get in, and that’s when she smelled gas."
Josh Starkey, who lives in the neighboring Washington town of Puyallup, saw the black smoke billowing from the fire and drove about five miles to get to the scene. He said he arrived about the same time as fire trucks.
"The house was gone," he said. He took some photos of what he thought was just a huge fire, and his children left the area quickly as the smoke made it difficult to breathe. He later found out whose home it was.
The Powell’s oldest son attended Carson Elementary School in Puyallup, where a vigil was held Sunday night. The younger son was not yet enrolled in school.
Neighbor Jessica Lyon, 18, said she was laying on the couch in her home when the fire erupted occurred. "The whole house shook. It was like an earthquake. It was huge," Lyon told the News Tribune.
Lyon looked outside and saw the insulation from the house raining down.
More than 30 neighbors gathered around the scene before firefighters arrived and reported hearing two more explosions after that. There were at least three explosions total, neighbors told the Tacoma paper.
Denise Cox, the boys’ aunt, said Sunday she was in shock over the news and was headed to her parents’ house in Puyallup on Sunday afternoon.Next Page >
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