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Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris are the co-writers of "If I Can't Have You," a new book about Susan Cox Powell's disappearance.
When Josh Powell met Susan: Book excerpt part I
First Published May 16 2014 01:53 pm • Last Updated May 20 2014 02:22 pm

Susan was nineteen when she met 24-year-old Joshua Powell and his buddy Tim Marini at an LDS singles event in Tacoma in 2000.

Josh no longer attended the Mormon church, but he hadn’t turned against the faith yet. Plus, it was a good place to meet single young women. Tim wanted to date Susan but, unfortunately for him, she wasn’t the least bit interested. Susan had the kind of sparkling personality and energy that drew other people to her. She was a magnet. When Josh showed interest, Tim made the introduction and Susan agreed to go out with him.

At a glance

Editor’s note

In this excerpt, the authors Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris write about the couple’s courtship and what happened on their wedding day. In a second excerpt, coming Monday, the authors write about the last day anyone saw Susan. The third part, on Tuesday, explores the aftermath of Josh killing his sons, Charlie and Braden, and then himself.

If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children”

By Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris

St. Martin’s Press

(May 20, 2014)

336 pages


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From the beginning the match was an odd one. Josh came from a troubled family. He talked so much th at the room filled with his words. He could be annoying, but he could also be endearing.

Susan laughed at Josh’s incessant ramblings, his preoccupation with everything from cameras to computers. He had big, grandiose plans for the future, a different plan every week.

Judy and Chuck had some reservations about their daughter’s new boyfriend. They had met him before, when Josh tried asking out their oldest daughter, Mary. Josh had shown up at their house the night of Mary’s prom. She had a date and was at the dance but it didn’t matter to Josh. He planted himself in a living room chair intent on staying to chat with Judy about Mary, the weather, anything at all. Judy felt like she’d been caught in a steel-jawed leg trap. There was no getting rid of the kid.

Finally, Chuck came home. In his typical no-nonsense fashion, he was direct when he told Josh that the visit was over.

"You need to go now," he said.

Josh didn’t get it. He just sat there, looking blank-eyed. And kept talking.

Chuck had never seen anything like it.

Despite his peculiar nature, Susan fell for Josh. In some ways it was inexplicable. She was stunning, vivacious. His personality swung between stiff and remote, and gregarious and overbearing.

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Mary had tried to warn her sister when things turned serious. She thought Josh was just plain weird. So did their parents.

"I have a bad feeling about him," Judy said as she and Susan sat at the massive family table that filled nearly every square inch of the dining room.

Susan didn’t want to hear a thing about it.

"You need to date lots of people," Judy said, choosing her words carefully, like she always did. "Kid, you got it made. You’re a pretty girl. You’re smart. You know what you want. You make friends easy. Just enjoy yourself. You can have so much fun."

Susan appeared to understand what her mother was saying.

"I’m going to have fun," she said. "I am making lots of friends. Josh just happens to be one of them."

Judy pondered that for a moment. "Well, that’s fine," she said, seeing that Susan was not about to abandon her interest in Josh Powell. "You can date him. But date others, too. Don’t get serious with Josh. There’re more guys out there. Take a year and really discover that."

Judy could have said more. So could Chuck. It passed through Susan’s father’s mind to be straight up about the situation. Chuck wanted to tell his daughter to head for the hills when it came to her suitor, but as the father of four girls, he knew better.

"I knew if I said ‘Stay away from him,’ that’s exactly who she would go for," Chuck said. "So you knew that wasn’t going to work."

Even so, Chuck, the FAA investigator, grilled the young man about the kind of life he would offer Susan.

With Josh sitting across from him at the table, Chuck ticked off all the boxes. Yes, the boy had a job. Yes, he had an apartment where they could live. Yes, he was going to further his education by finishing college and getting a business degree.

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