Police say images on Josh Powell's computer depicted incest
Puyallup, Wash. • The quest to determine how and why Josh Powell murdered his children on Thursday went to a landfill and a state Capitol.
Police here are searching the recycling center at a landfill after receiving a tip that Powell may have taken papers there shortly before he ignited a fire at his home to kill himself and his two young sons.
Investigators from the Pierce County Sheriff's Office visited the recycling center Wednesday, conducting a brief search of the area where the papers might be. The effort failed to yield anything relevant, and efforts will resume there on Sunday, said office spokesman Ed Troyer.
Investigators had received a tip that Powell may have taken office paper to the recycling center on Saturday, according to Don Taylor, assistant district manager for LRI Hidden Valley, which operates the landfill.
Taylor said there are no security cameras on site, and Saturday was one of the site's busiest days on record as people disposed of debris from a recent storm. The landfill is a 3-mile drive from Powell's Graham rental home.
As investigators try to complete a timeline of Powell's activities leading up to the blaze or solve the case of his wife's 2009 disappearance, one lawmaker called for a review of the custody case involving the Powell children.
Sen. Pam Roach said it was "outrageous" for a judge to grant Powell visitation with his sons. She also wants to see what West Valley City police shared with the Washington agency in charge of child welfare.
"This material should be made public," said Roach, a Republican whose district includes part of the county where Powell murdered his children.
Roach this week sent a public records request to the Department of Social and Health Services asking for the materials West Valley City police sent the agency before the fire. A social worker told dispatchers Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, were a single step ahead of her on Sunday when they entered Powell's home for a supervised visit and Powell locked her out.
West Valley City police, who continue to investigate the disappearance of Susan Powell, last week confirmed they sent information related to the welfare of the Powell children to Washington authorities. A department spokesman declined to elaborate on what that information was, but on Thursday, Troyer told The Associated Press that the images collected by investigators in 2009 from Powell's home computer in Utah were realistic computer-generated depictions of "incestuous" parent-child relations.
Troyer said the images couldn't be legally defined as pornography because they don't involve real people.
DSHS spokesman Sherry Hill said Thursday a child welfare worker was allowed to review the images, and Pierce County also shared them with a psychologist who then recommended Powell undergo a psychosexual examination and polygraph test. A judge overseeing the custody case ordered the examinations following a Feb. 1 custody hearing.
Without the psychologist's recommendation, the department "likely" would have started on a plan to transition the children home to Powell, Hill said. Thomas Shapley, another department spokesman, added that the images were the only materials West Valley City police shared from the Powell home they thought were concerning.
"At no time did our department get any bulletins, briefings, red flags, warnings anything like that warning of the boys' safety," he said.
The agency is already planning its own internal review of how the deaths occurred.
While she waits for the agency to process her request, Roach is convinced mistakes were made in Washington. DSHS and the judge overseeing the custody case were working toward returning the children to Powell, Roach said, despite concerns the boys had been exposed to pornography.
The children were removed from Powell's custody and placed in the care of their maternal grandparents after Powell's father, Steve, was arrested in September on charges of voyeurism and child pornography. Prosecutors allege Steve Powell photographed two girls who were his neighbors at the time through the windows of their homes. Powell and his sons had been living in his father's home before the arrest, but Powell had denied knowing anything about his father's alleged activities.
Roach doesn't believe the denial.
"Just the judgment of Josh Powell allowing his children to be in a home where he knew his father was engaged in pornographic behavior was enough" to deny visitation, Roach said Thursday.
The suspicions that Powell murdered his wife, or at least the judgment he showed with his claim that he took his then-4- and 2-year-old sons camping in a snowstorm the night she disappeared, should have been factors for denying visits, too, Roach said.
While DSHS is obligated to process her records request, it's unclear how much weight Roach's criticisms will carry in Washington. Her colleagues in the state Legislature have censured her twice.
The social worker who delivered the boys to Powell and was to supervise the visit, Elizabeth Griffin-Hall, said in an interview to air on ABC's "20/20" Friday that she banged on the door to try to get inside and heardÂ PowellÂ tell Charlie: "I've got a big surprise for you." She also heard 5-year-old Braden crying.
Griffin-Hall said Charlie and Braden loved being with their father.
"One of them said what he wanted to do was go home and live with his daddy," she told ABC, adding that the boys would "light up" during visits with Powell.
Griffin-Hall also told the show she didn't think she could have saved the boys and that she "did everything right."
"I wanted to get to the kids," she told "20/20." "I wanted to get to the kids. I would have broken in if I could."
Washington authorities have already pledged to examine the role of emergency dispatchers who handled Griffin-Hall's 911 call following widespread criticism. Recordings of 911 calls and logs obtained by the Associated Press show it took 22 minutes from when the call was made to when sheriff's deputies arrived at Powell's home.
The Pierce County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant on a storage shed owned by Powell earlier this week, but the results of that search have not yet been made public.
Both of Powell's children suffered chop injuries believed to have been caused by a hatchet before they died in the fire set by their father. Powell sent goodbye emails and voice mails to family members prior to the murders, but not in enough time to stop them, police have said.
Powell's sister, Alina Powell, has said she believes her brother was the victim of harassment and abuse following the disappearance. In a story aired on "Good Morning America" Thursday, Alina Powell said she still believes her brother is innocent in his wife's disappearance.
Alina Powell told the network she felt "this was the act of somebody who had been so damaged by the lack of due process, so harassed and abused and lied about" that he felt there was no other way to spare himself and his children emotional and physical pain.
Brooke Adams and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Charles and Braden Powell • A funeral service for Josh Powell's two sons will be held on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 11 a.m. at Life Center Church, 1717 S. Union Ave. Tacoma, Wash. A private family interment will follow at Woodbine Cemetery, Puyallup, on Monday. Memorial contributions may be made to any Wells Fargo Bank to the Charles and Braden Powell Memorial Fund. Arrangements by Curnow Funeral Home & Cremation Service, 1504 Main St. Sumner, Wash., 253-863-2800.
Josh Powell • A statement from the Powell family says they have decided to delay memorial services for Josh Powell to allow the children to be memorialized and "give everyone a chance to deal with this devastating situation one step at a time."