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Testimony concludes in Steve Powell voyeurism trial

Published May 15, 2012 7:32 am

Jury will begin deliberations Tuesday morning, may hear a defense theory for first time.
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Tacoma, Wash. • When closing arguments begin Tuesday morning in the voyeurism trial for the father-in-law of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, jurors may for the first time hear a defense theory in the case.

Defense attorneys representing Steven Craig Powell on Monday rested without calling any witnesses. But on cross-examination, attorney Travis Currie centered many of his questions on the other people living in Powell's home at the time the images at issue were taken.

Steve Powell, 62, is accused of filming two young neighbor girls while they were using the bathroom and in various stages of undress. The girls were ages 9 and 8 when the photos were taken in 2006; they are 15 and 13 now.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Culpepper on Monday afternoon declined a request to dismiss 12 of the 14 counts filed against Powell. The defense had argued the counts were duplicative as they involved the same criminal conduct.

Powell's estranged daughter, Jennifer Graves, testified Monday that in 2006, her brothers Michael and John were both living at Steve Powell's home, as well as her sister, Alina. During cross-examination of Graves, the defense seemed to be alluding that John , who has a history of mental illness, could have been the one who took the photos.

Two West Valley City police officers also took the stand Monday during the second week of the trial.

Detective Ellis Maxwell and Sgt. Todd Gray described how they assisted investigators from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department in serving a search warrant on the home of Steve Powell last August.

West Valley City Police were investigating Powell's son, Josh Powell, in connection with the December 2009 disappearance of his wife, Susan. But while detectives searched for journal entries belonging to Susan Powell, they came across the digital files that led to the charges against her father-in-law.

Maxwell told jurors about recovering a Sony camcorder in the Powell home in Puyallup, Wash. He explained how the camera's model number linked to images found on a disc in Steve's bedroom. Since the numbers matched, it's fair to infer that Steve Powell took the photos of his neighbors, said Maxwell, the lead detective on Susan Powell's missing person case.

Gray, who oversees special investigations for West Valley City, testified he grew concerned when he saw how the digital files were labeled: "taking bath 1" and "taking bath 2" on disc 12, which was taken from Steve Powell's bedroom.

"They gave me cause for concern because they appeared to be juveniles," Gray said of the files.

Gray also reviewed journal entries taken from Steve Powell's home, including a passage from 2004 where Steve Powell wrote that he enjoyed filming "pretty" girls in skirts and shorts. Steve Powell wrote that he sometimes used those images for "self-stimulation."

On cross-examination, Currie pointed out that several people resided at Steve Powell's home, including his son, Josh Powell; his grandsons, Charlie and Braden Powell; daughter, Alina Powell; and son, John Powell. Currie didn't say outright that another member of the Powell household took the photos, but did ask Maxwell how many others were at the home the day the warrant was served.

"When you served the warrant in the house, there were present a number of people, right?" Currie asked.

Maxwell confirmed others were at the home the day the warrant was served.

Graves — who lives in West Jordan and has publicly spoken out against her father's pornography interests — was the last witness to be called Monday.

Following her testimony, Graves spoke to the media about the experience. She said she briefly locked eyes with her father when she was on the witness stand, but tried to focus elsewhere in the courtroom. Graves could also see her sister Alina in the audience as she testified. The two don't speak anymore.

"There is not much point. We are on two sides of the coin here," Graves said.

She said she believes her father is guilty of the charges, and that spying on his neighbors was a progression in problematic behavior on her father's part over the years.

"He's had pornography as long as I can remember," Graves said. "With pornography you don't sit on the fence. You either get worse or get better. It's not a surprise to me that he ended up right where he is now."

Graves also reiterated her belief that her father somehow participated in Susan Powell's disappearance.

"Whether or not he did the dirty deed, or helped him [Josh Powell] plan it… I don't know how far his involvement goes, but I know he knows," Graves said.

Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, also voiced frustration to reporters after Monday's hearing, saying he wishes his daughter would have been added as a victim to Steve Powell's voyeurism charges.

According to court documents, Steve Powell filmed his daughter-in-law while she and her husband Josh were living in Steve Powell's home.

"We believe she is a big part of the case and she was certainly a victim," Cox said. "I think they're being way too cautious about…not wanting to prejudice the jury in any way. Without the investigation of my daughter's disappearance, they wouldn't have any evidence."

Cox said he's optimistic that new charges may be brought against Steve Powell in connection with voyeurism related to his daughter. He also still hopes Steve Powell will reveal information about his daughter before the sentencing phase of the case.

But overall, Cox called his attendance at the trial "a colossal waste of my time." He said Steve and Josh Powell enjoyed withholding information about Susan Powell's case over the last two years and he's not surprised Steve Powell continues to play that game now.

Cox shook hands with Ellis Maxwell, the lead West Valley City investigator assigned to Susan Powell's case, but the two didn't discuss details on Monday, Cox said.

"They are still working the case," he said of West Valley City police.

The two girls Powell is accused of secretly filming took the witness stand along with their mother last week. The mother testified the home had no air conditioning and that she would often keep windows open for cross-ventilation. The girls testified that they didn't know Powell was filming them as they used the bathroom at their home.

Susan Powell, 28, disappeared from her West Valley City home in December 2009. Police named her 36-year-old husband, who claimed he took the couple's young sons on a midnight camping trip on the night of her disappearance, as a person of interest.

Josh Powell killed himself and his sons, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden, in February at his Graham-area rental home. Police say he used a hatchet on the boys before lighting the home on fire in a gasoline-fueled blaze.

mrogers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mrogers_trib

mrogers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mrogers_trib —

Potential prison time

Steve Craig Powell faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each of 14 voyeurism counts against him.

If Powell is convicted on all counts, the judge could order him to serve consecutive sentences for a total of 70 years in prison.