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Do these clues help explain what happened to Utah mom Susan Powell?
First Published Apr 28 2012 08:55 pm • Last Updated May 11 2012 11:36 am

UPDATED MAY 11, 2012

At a glance

Editor’s note: The following is part of a collection of information available at The Salt Lake Tribune’s newly created “Where is Susan?” page: www.sltrib.com/findsusan.

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Susan Powell was 28 years old when she disappeared from her home at 6254 W. Sarah Circle, West Valley City, Utah, 84128. She is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall, 130 lbs., with long, brown hair and blue eyes. If you have information related to her disappearance, contact West Valley City police at 801-840-4000. If you have information that should be considered for inclusion on the “Where is Susan?” page or a tip that might help answer what happened to her, email it to “findsusantips@sltrib.com.” If verified, information may be added to this page at the discretion of The Salt Lake Tribune.

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Nearly 2 1/2 years after Susan Powell disappeared from her West Valley City home, police have released little information about their investigation into the missing woman’s case other than to say as recently as mid-April that their work was "progressing."

Some insights into what police know came after a Washington state judge ordered the release of search warrants used to collect evidence last summer at Steve Powell’s Puyallup, Wash., home, where Josh Powell moved with his sons shortly after Susan disappeared. Other possible clues have come from people who knew or encountered Josh Powell or his sons after Susan was declared missing.

No doubt, key pieces of the puzzle are still missing.

For example, why did police take a zip-lock baggie of hair from a bedroom closet at Steve Powell’s home during an Aug. 25, 2011, search? What, if anything, does a pair of blue/green winter gloves found in a mudroom under the stairs at the home during the search have to do with the case? Perhaps in time the pieces will complete a picture. In the meantime, do these clues help answer what happened to Susan Powell?

Mine shaft comment: At a Christmas party in 2008, Josh Powell and a couple other men were discussing television crime shows. As opinions were shared about the best way to get rid of a body, Powell offered that a mine shaft was the best option. Scott Hardman, whose wife worked with Susan, recalled Powell saying that "if you knocked a little [of a shaft] loose, it would all come tumbling down and no one would really want to travel down it because they are all so unsafe." Powell also said that abandoned mine shafts were all over Utah’s West Desert.

Members of Mojave Underground, who explore historic mines, conducted three searches of every known and open mine in the Tintic mountains, West Tintics and the Dugway Range but found nothing. Only one mine left a question in the mind of Stuart Burgess, co-founder. The group publicly announced it would search the Iron Sides mine the weekend of June 25-26, 2010. When volunteers arrived, they discovered someone had poured gasoline down the 300-foot-deep shaft and also set fire to the wooden supports at the surface. It was still smoldering and they had to call off the exploration. Months later, Burgess returned and rappeled down the shaft; the bottom was unreachable, buried under 30 feet to 50 feet of debris.

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Car alarm: At approximately 11:45 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2009, a neighbor heard a car alarm sounding from inside the closed garage at Josh and Susan Powell’s home in West Valley City, Utah. The neighbor said all the lights appeared to be off inside the home.

Midnight camping trip: Josh Powell told police he left his home with his two young sons somewhere around 12:30 a.m. to go camping in Utah’s West Desert near Simpson Springs to check out a new generator. Powell never showed police where he camped and several searches, by police and volunteers, have turned up no sign of the missing woman.

Comfort Inn sighting: A woman who worked at the Comfort Inn in Sandy, Utah, said that she arrived for her shift at 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2009, and saw a man and two boys sitting at a table in the dining area. She conversed briefly with one of the boys and then left to help other guests. When she returned to the table, the group was gone. The worker later identified the man as Josh Powell and the boys as Charlie, then 4, and Braden, then 2.

Newly cleaned sofa: When police entered the Powell’s West Valley City home on Dec. 7, 2009, they found two fans positioned to blow air on a living room sofa that appeared to have been just cleaned. Josh Powell told police he had cleaned the sofa just before going camping.

Items in Powell’s minivan: Police searched Josh Powell’s light blue Chrysler Town and Country minivan on Dec. 7, 2009, after he returned home and, according to a search warrant, found the following items: a generator, blankets, a gas can, tarps and a shovel.

Susan’s cell phone: During the first search of Josh Powell’s minivan on Dec. 7, 2009, police found Susan’s cell phone in the center front console. It was turned off. Josh Powell voluntarily gave police the phone; according to a search warrant, Josh Powell could not explain why the phone was in the van. Detectives later discovered Susan’s phone was missing its digital SIM card, the smart card that digitally stores such data as calls made and received, phone numbers and messages. Police subsequently subpoenaed Josh and Susan Powell’s cell phone billing records and were able to determine that the last call made from Susan’s phone occurred at 2:29 p.m., when she called friend JoVonna Owings. The records also showed that at 3:34 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2009, Josh Powell, then already aware police were at his home and his wife was missing, called Susan’s cell phone and left a voice message stating he had returned from camping and asking if she needed a ride home from work.

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