Pierce County sheriff’s detectives on Thursday arrested the father-in-law of Susan Cox Powell after finding more than 2,000 sexual images of girls and women in his Puyallup home after a search last month in connection with the missing Utah mother’s disappearance.
Steve Powell, 61, was charged with 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct in the second degree, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said.
Investigators took him into custody Thursday night, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. He will be arraigned today in Superior Court.
Some images were of Susan Powell, the 28-year-old Puyallup native who disappeared from her West Valley City, Utah, home in December 2009, Troyer said.
Most were of other females. Those photographed ranged from 7 years old to adults. Some of the victims photographed were nude. Detectives believe many of the girls and young women photographed were unaware they were being watched.
The photos – which focused on the victims’ intimate parts – were taken in public or through windows with a telephoto lens, Troyer said. Some were taken from Steve Powell’s home, he said.
The voyeurism counts are based on separate incidents when each victim was recorded in the bathroom, Lindquist said.
The images were on videotapes and compact discs found in Steve Powell’s bedroom when Pierce County sheriff’s detectives and West Valley City police served a warrant on the home Aug. 25, Troyer said.
The Utah investigators reviewed the evidence taken from the home and, after finding the images of young girls, contacted the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Troyer said.
Sheriff’s investigators took over the investigation of the images, which had been organized and labeled, some marked “neighbors.”
They believe the voyeurism took place from June 2006 to August 2007, Troyer said.
At this point, investigators do not suspect Josh Powell – Steve Powell’s son and Susan Powell’s husband – to be involved. Josh Powell, identified as the only person of interest in his wife’s disappearance, was not taken into custody.
Josh and Susan Powell were both natives of Puyallup. He and the couple’s sons moved back to the area after Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance and have been living with his father.
Steven Powell has increasingly become a figure in the investigation. Investigators have been to his home at least four times since his daughter-in-law’s disappearance.
Last month, he claimed in television interviews that Susan Powell had interacted with him in “sexual ways.” He said they’d flirted with each other and that he enjoyed it. Her family has denied the allegations.
He also got into a shouting match with Susan Powell’s father in front of reporters outside a Puyallup store where her relatives had been waving signs to remind people about her disappearance.
After investigators spent several hours searching Steven Powell’s home last month, Steven Powell told reporters the investigators were looking for Susan Powell’s journals and they took his as well.
He had said there were “embarrassing things” in his entries.
His arrest came as West Valley City investigators continued to scour a desert area in Utah in connection with Susan Powell’s disappearance.
The search entered its 11th day Thursday. Investigators have found no signs of the missing woman but have collected clothes and other items that don’t belong in the desert environment.
Susan Powell was last seen at the family’s home Dec. 6, 2009. Josh Powell has said he took their young sons on a late-night camping trip and, when they returned, his wife was gone.
The Utah investigators have acknowledged that they’ve investigated Steven Powell’s possible connection to his daughter-in-law’s disappearance.
“We have, of course, looked at everybody we can think of that was close to Susan, and that would include Steven,” West Valley City Lt. Bill Merritt told The Salt Lake Tribune last month.
Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268 firstname.lastname@example.org