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Susan Powell's marriage worse than thought, documents show (video)

Published May 25, 2013 11:21 am

Police investigation • Susan Powell apparently still believed things could get better, but problems mounted.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Josh and Susan Powell's marriage may have been even worse than most thought.

Documents released this week by West Valley City police include evidence Josh Powell was cheating on his wife and gambling. They talk about Susan Powell having a "girl's night out," and imply it was to liberate herself from Josh's control.

"They had arguments every once in awhile and they had assaulted each other in the past," reads one statement in a police report. It's attributed to Terrica Powell, Josh's mother.

But Susan Powell apparently continued to believe things would get better. In an email written just months before she disappeared, Susan Powell told a friend she hoped the marriage would get better with the help of a counselor.

West Valley City Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell said at a Monday news conference that he didn't know why Josh Powell would want to kill his wife. But Mike Powell, who is no relation to Susan or Josh, stopped short of saying Josh Powell did kill his wife, saying only that West Valley City police believe he had involvement.


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Susan Powell was last seen Dec. 6, 2009, at her West Valley City home.

The documents released by police largely tell Susan Powell's side of the story. In 2008, she wrote multiple emails to friends and coworkers talking about losing the man she fell in love with and wanting him back.

"He used to buckle me in and give me a kiss," Susan Powell wrote in July 28, 2008, "hold doors open, sincerely worry if I didn't put on a coat, buy groceries and help me cook/clean and/or cook/clean for himself. ... Not be all radical about the latest huge world problems ..."

The pages also emphasize what many had already said about Josh Powell: He was controlling.

He kept control of the finances. He refused to let his wife have a cell phone at one point, made her ride a bicycle from their West Valley City home to her downtown job for a while, told her to run only every other day to save money on showers, and dictated that Susan had to review weekly grocery ads and buy only the lowest-advertised items, according to witness interviews and other documents.

A casino employee in West Wendover, Nev., told West Valley City police Josh Powell was in the casino a few times, would lose money and get angry.

The problems appeared evident to anyone with a view inside their lives. One friend of Susan Powell's told police she was riding her bike to work one day when Josh decided she needed to be home with their sick boys, who were then ages 1 and 3. So Josh Powell left his sons alone, drove and intercepted Susan as she was almost at work.

" She was furious!" according to a transcript of the witness interview. "When they got back to the house it had been approximately 35 minutes. She went into the house and the boys were crying and screaming and they just clung to her for the day.

Josh "just couldn't see that he did the wrong thing," the witness added.

Ten days after she went missing, The Tribune reported Susan Powell left behind writings suggesting that if something happened to her, Josh Powell probably had something to do with it. That letter, found in her safe deposit box, was dated June 28, 2008. Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, told police Josh threatened to kill Susan if she ever left him.

The new documents show Susan Powell had a much-less ominous mistrust of Josh Powell. On July 29, 2008, on the advice of an attorney, she made a video documenting possessions the possessions in the home. She feared if she and Josh divorced, he would sell the valuable tools and electronics he purchased.

In a Jan. 4, 2009, journal entry, Susan Powell wrote about how she has changed. She was buying groceries, going for a "girl's night out" with friends and repaying money she owed to her parents, the entry said.

Then in the summer of 2009, there appears to have been a dispute between the couple about having a third child. Susan wrote a July 3 email saying she hoped to conceive. When police interviewed Steve Powell, he confirmed his daughter-in-law had wanted another child, but said Josh had been practicing "safe sex." (Steve Powell used this information to support his theory that Susan Powell ran away with another man, saying she may have been having an affair and gotten pregnant.)

Things started to look better in August 2009. Susan Powell wrote an email about a good weekend she and her husband had canning peaches and working on household projects with the children. She also wrote that Josh Powell had agreed to go to counseling.

She wrote in a Sept. 22, 2009 email: "My issue now is that I have been allowing myself to be the victim with my husband all these years ... my turning around point was 2 yrs ago in June my dad told me that I'm an abused wife, I just don't have bruises ...

"We are in marriage counseling for the second time (he quit the first time about 4 yrs back) and we are both approaching it differently and I think this counselor knows how to handle me and him. So I'm playing it by ear.

"... we keep making major purchases/improvements like we will stay married-I don't think he'd ever leave me (he's spoiled) and the other woman thing is practically impossible for him so I doubt I'd be motivated to actually leave him.

"But there is so much lost that I now know I need back and I'm hoping we can hammer all that out with the help of our counselor."

In late November, Susan Powell thought she was pregnant, but the test was negative, a witness told police.

Susan Powell disappeared two weeks later.

— Brooke Adams, Marissa Lang and Janelle Stecklein contributed to this report.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle