A Utah judge on Friday denied an emergency motion seeking to prevent the parents of Susan Powell from spending $1.15 million in life insurance proceeds sought by Powell's mother-in-law.
The hearing, scheduled on less than 24 hours notice, was the latest wrangling over the estate of the missing West Valley City mother and her late husband, Josh Powell.
Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, control $2.3 million in life insurance proceeds in a family trust and a related conservatorship. A lawyer for Josh Powell's mother, Terrica Powell, on Thursday filed a request for a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the Coxes from spending half that amount.
But 3rd District Judge Mark Kouris denied the motion.
Evan Bariault, a Seattle attorney for the Coxes who attended the hearing by telephone, said afterward that Kouris denied the Powell motion, in part, because he did not believe there was a substantial likelihood the Powells will prevail on their underlying claim.
That claim contends Susan Powell died prior to May 10, 2013. That's the date Chuck Cox changed the terms of Susan and Josh Powell's trust to exclude the Powell family as trustees.
Bariault said Kouris expressed skepticism that the Powells could prove Susan was dead and when she died given that West Valley City police, who investigated her disappearance for 3½ years, could not definitively reach those conclusions.
"He asked them a number of times," Bariualt said, " 'Show me what you're going to present to establish the date of death.' ... They weren't able to answer that question."
Neither a transcript nor detailed minutes of the hearing were immediately available. The Powell's attorney did not return a message Friday afternoon.
The Powells might have sought an expedited hearing because the fifth anniversary of 28-year-old Susan Powell's disappearance is Saturday. Utah law allows for someone to be declared dead after five years of absence.
An attorney for the Coxes this week, however, said the family has no plans to seek such a declaration from a judge because they still have some hope she may be found alive. Also, a federal judge in Washington and a state court judge in Utah have already approved the distribution of Susan Powell's life insurance and other assets.
Kouris' ruling does not dismiss the Powells' underlying claim regarding the date of death.
Josh Powell, 36, was the only person of interest in his wife's disappearance when he killed himself and the couple's two sons Feb. 5, 2012, in a rented home in Graham, Wash. Josh Powell hit the boys with a hatchet then set the house on fire.