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Jury finds Steve Powell guilty on all 14 counts of voyeurism

Published May 17, 2012 8:38 am

Court • Susan Powell's sister calls guilty verdict "sweet justice."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tacoma, Wash. • As Steve Powell awaits a June sentencing on 14 counts of voyeurism, prosecutors say they aren't planning to offer any deals in exchange for information he may have about his missing daughter-in-law.

Twelve jurors deliberated for about 6.5 hours over two days before reaching their verdict at 11:55 a.m. MST Wednesday.

Prosecutor Grant Blinn said following the verdict he would not offer Powell, father-in-law of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, a lower sentence recommendation in exchange for any information Powell might provide about Susan.

Her parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, maintain Powell participated in or knows information about their daughter's 2009 disappearance from her West Valley City home. The couple attended Powell's trial and said afterward they were thankful he is off the streets. Susan's sister, Denise Cox, called the verdict "sweet justice" and said she will continue the search for her sibling.

Steve Powell's daughter, Alina, also attended the trial and following Wednesday's verdict spent time by herself crying in the courtroom. She gave a brief statement to reporters when she came out.

"My family was automatically convicted two and a half years ago and ever since then I've lost a sister-in-law, a sister, a brother, two darling nephews and a great father to an unimaginably complicated, difficult situation that even I have a hard time understanding sometimes," Alina Powell said.

She declined to comment on whether she felt her father got a fair trail.

At trial, Blinn focused on the harm Powell caused his two victims when he filmed them through an open window as they used the toilet and took a bath in their home. The two girls were ages 9 and 8 when the images were taken in 2006; they are now 15 and 13 and briefly took the witness stand at trial.

Jury foreman Dodd Tremaine, a Tacoma truck driver with daughters of his own, said it was difficult to see the evidence in the case. Jurors listened to each side carefully and ultimately thought the prosecution had the stronger case, he said.

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said following the verdict his department has no plans to question Powell about his daughter-in-law's disappearance now that the trial is over and thanked West Valley City police.

"Our relationship with West Valley City police is good," Troyer said. "We couldn't have done this without them."

Although police have said Powell filmed voyeuristic images of Susan while she and her husband, Josh, were living in his home, Blinn said prosecutors could not file a criminal case for those images. Susan Powell is not present, and time limits for filing any charges in connection with her images have passed, Blinn said.

Defense attorney Travis Currie at trial argued the state hadn't proven Powell took the photos for sexual gratification. Currie also tried to cast doubt that Powell himself took the images, pointing out Powell shared his Puyallup home with several other relatives including a son with a mental illness.

Police were looking for journals kept by Susan as part of their investigation into her disappearance when they discovered the images of the girls at issue.

The 28-year-old mother disappeared in December 2009. Police named her husband, 36-year-old Josh Powell, as a person of interest in the case. Josh Powell claimed he took the couple's young sons on a midnight camping trip on the night of her disappearance.

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.

Steve Powell's voyeurism trial produced new revelations about the extent of his sexual interest in his daughter-in-law.

Steve Powell filmed Susan many times without her knowledge, focusing in on her private parts, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. One 8 mm tape he called "Secret Susan" shows Steve Powell speaking on tape as he touches Susan's LDS undergarments and makes a statement about how they turn him on sexually.

In other recorded segments, he professes his love for Susan, recounts a time that he gave her a massage and became sexually aroused, and masturbates to her image. Steve Powell also filmed footage of himself smelling Susan's underwear and discussing her body.

Investigators also found audiotape recorded by Steve Powell as he and Susan were in a car together. The report called the conversation "Steve's clumsy attempt to find out what is on Susan's mind, if she loves him." Susan told Steve she was married to his son.

Chuck Cox told reporters following the verdict he is pleased Powell will be off the streets.

He remains frustrated, however, that he is no closer to finding answers in his missing daughter's case.

"The main question still is, where is Susan?" Cox said.

mrogers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mrogers_trib —

What's Next?

Pierce County Court Judge Ronald E. Culpepper will sentence Steven Craig Powell on June 15.

Powell faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison on each of 14 counts of voyeurism, but Washington sentencing guidelines recommend Powell receive between 43 and 47 months in prison.

Prosecutor Grant Blinn on Wednesday said he planned to ask Culpepper for an "exceptional" sentence above that range.