SALT LAKE CITY — Acting on a tip, police intend to search the desolate high mountain desert near Ely, Nev., for signs of a Utah mother missing since 2009.
Authorities have new information about the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell that is credible enough to merit the search, West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell said Thursday.
He declined to provide further details, although further information was expected to be provided Friday outside the White Pine County sheriff's office.
Ely is about 237 miles southwest of the home of Susan Cox Powell in West Valley City, the last place she was seen on Dec. 6, 2009.
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The area to be searched is not a place where she or her husband Joshua Powell had any known ties, her father, Chuck Cox, told The Associated Press from his home in Puyallup.
The search and the location came as a surprise to family members who typically talk to police once a week, he said.
"I look at this frankly, as further evidence that they are still on the case and willing to do whatever it takes to solve the case," Chuck Cox said.
The family has no plans to travel to Ely to monitor the search.
"Obviously if they found her alive somewhere we certainly would be there instantly," Cox said. "We hope that she's alive, that she is returned, but we're preparing ourselves for the worst. We can't give up hope."
Susan Cox Powell was 28 and had two young children when she was reported missing Dec. 7 after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job. She had been seen by friends at church and at dinner the day before.
Her husband told police he left his wife at home about 12:30 a.m. Dec. 7 to go winter camping in freezing temperatures with their young sons — ages 4 and 2 — on the Pony Express Trail, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The 4-year-old confirmed the trip to police.
Police said Joshua Powell is a person of interest in the missing person case, although he's never been arrested or charged.
Investigators claimed Joshua Powell had failed to cooperate with their investigation, providing few details and only vague answers to questions about the camping trip. They also questioned why he put hundreds of miles on a rental car during a 24-hour period after police seized the family van.
Scott Williams, a lawyer who represented Joshua Powell at the time, said his client had answered questions from investigators and provided a DNA sample.
About a year ago, Joshua Powell, who now also lives in Puyallup, cut off most communication with relatives, and weeks ago filed a restraining order that prevents Cox from seeing his grandchildren, Cox said.
The filing followed a chance public meeting at a hardware store, where Cox said he asked Joshua Powell's permission to hug the children. Cox said Powell refused.
Friends and family have said the Powell marriage had its ups and downs, including a bankruptcy filing in 2007. Some have also said that Susan Powell had expressed some frustrations over feeling controlled by her husband. But most said the Powells were happy and the relationship appeared to improve in the year before her disappearance.
A dedicated force of family and volunteers have kept the story alive over the past 20 months by maintaining a Facebook page, posting billboards, holding events to pass out fliers and conducting independent searches of Utah's west desert.
They've also offered a $10,000 reward for information about the whereabouts of Susan Cox Powell.
Susan Cox Powell graduated from Rogers High School in Puyallup in 2000.