On the fifth anniversary of their daughter Susan Powell’s disappearance, Chuck and Judy Cox stood at the Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup remembering not only their missing daughter and grandsons Charlie and Braden, but also countless other Pierce County children who died too soon.
Illuminated by candlelight, the Puyallup couple stood next to the cemetery’s Angel of Hope encircled by more than 100 people. A list with the names of 67 children hung from the front of the statue.
That’s the number of Pierce County children who have died in the last seven years from things like homicide, abuse or fire.
“If we had done the last 10 years the list would have 150 (names),” Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ed Troyer said.
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The names will be engraved on a row of bricks in front of the statue when the weather improves, Troyer said. Aware there are likely children whose names aren’t on the list, Troyer said they want to make sure any child not listed is added by the time of the engraving.
Names will continue to be added to the memorial site in the years to come.
“We don’t want to add more bricks, but unfortunately we know we’ll have to,” Troyer said.
Saturday marked the third time the Coxes have gathered on Dec. 6 at the cemetery. The date is the anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance, but it is also the date that coincides with a national movement to remember abused children at Christmas Box Angel of Hope memorial statues.
There are more than 100 statues across the country — including the one in Puyallup — and in Japan and Canada. The statues were born from the book “The Christmas Box,” which details a fictional story of the death of a child. The child died Dec. 6, which is why the memorial is held that day.
The Coxes helped see the memorial built after grandsons Charlie and Braden were killed by their father, Josh Powell, in February 2012. Powell, whom police were investigating as a person of interest in his wife’s Dec. 6, 2009, disappearance, also killed himself in a rental house near Graham. He was never arrested or charged.
“When our daughter went missing, it was a blow,” Chuck Cox told the crowd. “When our grandsons were taken from us, it was almost unbearable.”
After the brief ceremony Saturday, Chuck Cox said the only significance the five-year anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance holds is that it is another year that she has been gone.
Legally there’s been more attention surrounding the date because that’s when Utah law would allow her to be declared dead. But a legal fight between the Coxes and Josh Powell’s family has a judge reviewing whether to declare Susan Powell’s death before May 10, 2013.
The Coxes aren’t asking for the declaration, holding out hope she might still be alive.
Utah police believe Susan Powell was kidnapped and killed by her husband Dec. 6, 2009 — the day the 28-year-old woman was last seen alive.
Standing next to her grandfather Chuck Cox on Saturday evening, 16-year-old Clarissa Fowler spoke about what it meant to see so many people at the memorial.
“It’s nice to know there’s other people out there and they are going through the same thing,” the Spanaway teenager said. “It’s a good way to show our support for each other.”