Crowds turn out for service for Charlie and Braden Powell

Staff writerFebruary 10, 2012 

Charlie Powell loved to create art and couldn’t get enough of bugs.

His little brother, Braden, liked the movie “Cars” and dressed as the Transformer Bumblebee for Halloween.

Family and friends of the little boys focused on memories such as those Saturday as they gathered to remember the two brothers.

The boys' grandfather Chuck Cox thanked people of all faiths who had prayed for them, saying "it helps us to know that there are good people in the world."

Hundreds of mourners attended the service, which was moved to the Life Center Church in Tacoma church to accommodate the crowd. There was a visible police presence, but no sign of protesters from Westboro Baptist Church, which had at one point threatened to disrupt the event.

Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, were killed Sunday in a house fire during a scheduled visit with their father, Josh Powell. After the boys went inside the Graham-area rental home, Powell hit them with a hatchet and then lit the house ablaze. All three died.

The deaths have devastated the community, garnered national media attention, and led to an outpouring of support and emotion over the past week.

Church leaders and law enforcement have been concerned about Saturday’s service after members of the Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay organization, threatened to protest outside the church. The announcement drew immediate response from groups and individuals offering to counterprotest.  

Westboro’s leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps Jr., posted on his Twitter account Friday that they would not be coming. Phelps called off the trip in exchange for airtime on a Tacoma-based syndicated radio talk show.

No Westboro protesters were visible Saturday morning as the service began, although a biker group had shown up to counterprotest.

Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Life Center has a group of officers it hires to work off-duty at large events. Those officers are on hand Saturday to provide security.

The service is open to the public. However, Fulghum said, the building can hold at most 2,500 people. Community members are encouraged to consider other ways to watch the service.

Among those not expected to attend is the boys’ paternal grandfather, Steven Powell. He’s in the Pierce County Jail on charges of voyeurism and child pornography possession.

Josh Powell and his sons moved into Steven Powell’s South Hill home shortly after Josh’s wife, Susan Cox Powell, disappeared from the family’s Utah home in 2009. Josh Powell is then only person of interest in Susan Powell’s disappearance.

Steven Powell was arrested and charged last fall. The boys were taken into state custody and eventually placed with Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox. Josh Powell had supervised visits.

Steven Powell did not request permission to attend Saturday’s service. Defendants can ask a judge to allow a visit to a family member’s funeral.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268

stacey.mulick@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/crime

Staff writer Kathleen Merryman and The Salt Lake Tribune contributed to this report.

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