The City Council in West Valley City, Utah, will review police investigative records in the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell in a closed session before deciding whether to release the documents to an attorney for the missing woman’s parents.
The council came to no other conclusions Tuesday in a brief executive session that followed a sometimes testy public hearing on the request for the documents, said Councilman Corey Rushton, acting mayor.
The council has five business days to issue a decision on the request for the records from Seattle attorney Anne Bremner.
“We’re as anxious as anyone to get to the bottom of this,” Rushton said before joining the council in the private session.
Bremner argued that Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox of Puyallup, are entitled to police records detailing the investigation into her 2009 disappearance because they also are victims. She said the piecemeal release of information in the case has been like a “knife to the heart” to her clients.
“Chuck and Judy would like to just see it all now,” Bremner told council members, arguing they have the right to make a conditional release of the documents under Utah’s Victims’ Rights Act. She also said the Coxes believe reviewing the records will help them find their missing daughter.
But Clint Gilmore, legal adviser to West Valley City police, said release of the records could jeopardize its ongoing investigation.
“We want to solve this case,” Gilmore said. “That is our purpose.”
City Attorney Eric Bunderson told council members they could put restrictions on dissemination of the records if they decide to release them to Bremner.
Powell was last seen at her West Valley City home Dec. 6, 2009. Her husband, Josh Powell, told police she was in bed when he left their home about 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 with their two young sons to camp in the desert. Susan Powell remains missing. Josh Powell killed his two sons and himself Feb. 5 in a fire set at his Graham-area home.
Bremner first requested the documents from police in April. She filed a similar request with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department at the same time.
Bremner asked for investigative reports, forensic and evidence reports, witness and suspect statements; audio, video and surveillance recordings; photographs; and reports and communication from other law enforcement agencies.
Bremner said she wants to review the documents for a potential civil lawsuit and has pledged to not release them publicly. She maintains no privacy or investigative concerns warrant keeping the files from the Coxes.
Bremner filed an appeal with the council in July after the Police Department and the city’s manager rejected requests for “any and all” investigative files related to the case, citing Utah’s public records law.
Councilman Steve Buhler, an attorney, had pointed questions for Bremner about whom she represents and whether there can be a victims’ rights claim since no court has declared Susan Powell dead. He noted Bremner said in some records requests and subsequent appeals that she represents Susan Powell’s estate.
Bremner responded sharply, saying she didn’t want to argue with Buhler, but later apologized for her tone.
Afterward, Bremner said she was “100 percent sure” the fight for the records will end up in court.