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Steve Powell: Feds may be to blame for son's suicide

Published May 24, 2013 8:37 am

Documents • He says agents threatened him, pressured him about daughter-in-law.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

A day after learning his son Michael had committed suicide, Steve Powell wrote a lengthy letter to a daughter reiterating his belief that federal agents planned assaults on the family that may have included slipping Michael psychotropic drugs.

"As with some of the other threats, it appears that they made good on this one," Powell wrote in the Feb. 12 letter to his daughter Alina. "I am quite sure that [name redacted] had no intention to kill Michael, but Michael's suicide, evidently in reaction to a psychotropic drug, makes [name redacted] a person of interest in Michael's unusual and unexpected death."

The letter is among tens of thousands of documents released earlier this week by West Valley City police in connection with Susan Cox Powell's disappearance from her West Valley City home on Dec. 6, 2009.

Michael Powell, 30, died Feb. 11 after jumping from the seventh level of a parking structure near his apartment in Minneapolis. At the time of his death, Powell was a doctoral candidate studying cognitive sciences at the University of Minnesota. He had been an ardent defender of his brother Josh, who was a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife Susan Powell.

Steve Powell, 63, currently incarcerated at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington on a voyeurism conviction, had written letters to both Michael and Alina over the previous seven months detailing how two agents — a woman from the FBI and a man the Department of Defense — had met with him for three hours at the prison on July 31, 2012. The agents told Powell they were seeking clues from him about where to find the body of Susan Powell.

Powell said he had refused to talk about Josh or Susan during the interview and the defense department agent had made "numerous veiled threats" that included charging him with having child pornography or besmirching Michael's reputation so he'd lose federal research funding.

"God only knows what these people are capable of doing," Powell wrote in an Aug. 1, 2012, letter to Alina, adding that it sounded like "this cowboy ... was connected to the CIA."

In an Aug. 5, 2012, letter, Powell asked Alina to give copies of the notes to Michael since "they were particularly making threats against him, and he needs to be aware of what they said."

Powell said one agent brought up the July 20, 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colo., pointed out that the shooter was a dropout "cog sci PhD student," too, and said he thought "Michael would go off the deep end and do something similarly crazy."

"What occurs to me this morning is that if these government agents want, they can make me or you or Michael do something crazy by slipping us some psychotropic drugs at their disposal," Powell wrote. "Our government is liable to do anything. ... Anyway, be on your guard. These morons have money to burn and are not going away."

Powell included copies of notes he had taken immediately after the interview, detailing questions asked and comments made by the agents. One agent told Powell he believed Michael had information about Susan's disappearance but was refusing to disclose it. That agent described Alina as a "crackpot," Powell said.

Powell said they asked over and over, "Tell us what Josh told you about that night Susan disappeared."

" 'Do the right thing and talk' he said over and over," Powell wrote, adding that the agent said he could "get me out of here [solitary confinement] by Monday if I would cooperate." The agent also said Powell could be brought before a grand jury and that refusing to answer questions there would land him in prison for 60 months.

"They harped on this so much, thinking to scare me into opening up and talking to them, that I said, 'Go ahead and call a grand jury,' " he wrote.

Powell also wrote that he had already spent hours talking to federal agents and now hopes to "sue all of these agencies, and don't need to give them any more."

Powell said one agent insulted him with "a lot of psychobabble" and claimed his infatuation with Susan drove Josh to kill her and their sons. The FBI agent provided a graphic description of what happens to bodies left out in the open, Powell said.

Such talk only strengthened his resolve to remain "clammed up," Powell wrote.

"If they think that making my life miserable will open me up, they're as thick-headed as the ones (probably these two were involved) who did it to Josh," Powell wrote.

Powell said he snapped at one point and told the agents to quit harassing his family. In the August letter, he worried that they would do just that "since I unfortunately allowed them to see that as my hot button."

West Valley City police said Monday they were closing their investigation in Susan Cox Powell's disappearance and that they found Steve Powell "most likely" had no involvement in her disappearance. Seattle attorney Anne Bremner said on Tuesday that an unspecified federal agency in Utah is still looking at what Steve Powell may know about it. But federal authorities in Utah say there is no ongoing investigation.

brooke@sltrib.com

Twitter: Brooke4Trib