A new filing by attorneys for Josh Powell’s family accuses his in-laws of "gamesmanship," pointing to contradictory statements about whether Susan Powell is alive.
Her father, Chuck Cox, has publicly stated he believes Susan Powell is dead, but his attorneys have taken the position in court that, at least legally, she is still alive, according to a brief filed last week in Utah.
The brief was filed in response to criticisms lawyers for the Coxes leveled at the Powell family. Lawyers for the Coxes criticized the Powells, in a court filing and to reporters, for leaving open the possibility they will prove Susan Powell, 28, died on or near the date she disappeared, Dec. 6, 2009, and that Josh Powell had something to do with it.
Such a position would be a reversal of the steadfast support the Powells have given Josh Powell, 35, even after he killed his two children and himself in 2012.
"However, Cox ignores his own gamesmanship for the sake of money," the new Powell brief says. "In this proceeding, Cox necessarily maintains the position that Susan is currently alive — otherwise, a conservatorship would be clearly improper. However, Cox has made public statements directly contrary to this position."
Anne Bremner, an attorney for the Cox family, said Tuesday nothing is contradictory. Chuck Cox has always stated he is trying to find his daughter, but meanwhile he has to tend to his daughter’s affairs, Bremner said. She said Cox is following the Utah statute that allows him to do that.
"She’s missing," Bremner said of Susan Powell. "That fits in the definition of being incapacitated in the statute."
The Cox and Powell families are engaged in two intertwined legal proceedings that could determine who receives life insurance proceeds and how much.
In Utah, the families are in a dispute about a trust Josh and Susan Powell established to benefit their two sons or a surviving spouse. In the event all four of those people died, which now seems the case, Josh and Susan Powell’s respective families were to split the trust assets.
Chuck Cox, in January 2013, applied for and was appointed conservator over the trust on the assumption his daughter was the lone surviving beneficiary of the trust, but was missing or incapacitated. Cox later amended it to remove Josh Powell’s surviving family as beneficiaries. The Coxes stand to receive the trust’s assets when Susan Powell is declared dead. Under Utah law, that can’t happen until at least five years after the date of her disappearance.
It’s expected that all or some of proceeds from $3.5 million in life insurance policies on Josh, Susan, Charlie and Braden Powell will go to the trust.
Who receives some of that $3.5 million is the subject of a proceeding in federal court in Washington state.
That’s where the Powell attorneys left open the possibility they would show Susan Powell died earlier, which almost certainly would mean they would have to point the finger at Josh Powell.
Proving Susan Powell died in 2009 might mean Cox’s changes to the trust were too late and the trust assets would revert to an even split between the Coxes and the Powells.
But the Powells have not committed to proving that Susan Powell died earlier or Josh Powell killed her, attorney Joshua Lee reiterated Tuesday in an interview. Lee is one of the attorneys representing the Powell family in Utah.
He said his clients are "just keeping the option open as to keeping the date of death, and that may or may not include evidence about Josh."
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