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Police search rural Oregon for Susan Powell's remains

Published May 15, 2013 8:29 pm

Missing woman • Her family gave West Valley City police a tip about the Oregon location.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Police have been searching rural Oregon for the remains of Susan Cox Powell.

The missing West Valley City woman's father Chuck Cox gave police a tip that her remains may be in a heavily wooded area of Oregon, near Salem, said city manager Wayne Pyle. A handful of West Valley City detectives, as well as local law enforcement and volunteers, have been searching the heavily wooded area with cadaver dogs since Tuesday, but so far nothing has turned up.

Cox said that an aunt and uncle of Susan Powell's husband Josh Powell used to live on the property — a single house on about 180 acres — at the time of the woman's disappearance.

"We were very optimistic when [police] went down there," Cox said. "This could really be the place. Then the dogs failed to find anything, so the cadaver dog search part of it is over. That's disappointing."

If they don't find anything amid the rural area's rough terrain, Pyle does not expect the search will continue for more than another two days.

"I'm feeling fairly depressed," said Kiirsi Hellewell, a close friend of Susan Powell, who had been getting updates about the search throughout the day from Cox. Every time a new search begins and ends without closure, Hellewell feels like she's on an emotional rollercoaster.

"We hope and we pray that we find her finally," Hellewell said.

WVCPD have also searched the desert near Ely, Nev., for the woman's remains, and they've told Cox that if they get a tip even 20 years from now, they're still going to follow it. "You couldn't ask more from a police department," he said.

Susan Powell was last seen Dec. 6, 2009, at her West Valley City home. Josh Powell claimed he left about midnight and went camping in the West Desert with his sons, then ages 4 and 2.

Josh Powell remained a person of interest in the disappearance until Feb. 5, 2012, when he murdered the boys, Charlie and Braden, at his rental home in Graham, Wash., and set the house on fire, killing himself.

Steve Downing, an attorney for Susan Powell's parents, has theorized Josh Powell poisoned or spiked pancakes he cooked for his wife the night she disappeared.

Though the WVCPD scaled back their search in December, Deputy Chief Mike Powell has said detectives continue to investigate aspects of the Susan Powell disappearance.

The department recently had to return federal grant money it used to investigate her disappearance.

mmcfall@sltrib.comTwitter: @mikeypanda