Hopes for an end to the mystery of Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance were cut short Saturday when police found what cadaver dogs here had been alerting their handlers to: charred wood apparently used to burn human remains.
About 100 pieces of wood ranging in size from a dime to a golf ball were dug out of the area, said West Valley City Lt. Bill Merritt. It is believed the wood would have been used to destroy human remains, he said.
“There’s a very good possibility that this at one point or another was a crime scene,” said Merritt. “Whether it’s linked to ours, we don’t know.”
But detectives are confident enough they won’t find anything else at the dig site and are stopping excavation, Merritt said. The hole by Saturday was just over 2 feet deep, 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, he said. A forensic specialist will now examine the wood.
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“We are very disappointed; we are frustrated,” Merritt said of Saturday’s outcome after days of effort at the dig site. “We were hoping that this would be the answer everyone was looking for.”
Cadaver dogs have not given any indication that dirt already removed from the site – painstakingly sifted by a forensic supervisor, two forensic technicians, a police officer and a firefighter – contains any remains, Merritt said.
Hopes had run high for some that the Puyallup woman’s resting place might have been found. This remote area is about 30 miles from where Josh Powell, the only person of interest police have named in his wife’s disappearance, says he took his two young sons camping the night his wife disappeared from their West Valley City home.
Police have said Josh Powell liked to gem-hunt — and family and friends have confirmed that Josh and Susan Powell had visited the area on previous family excursions.
A grid search of the area by police and horseback riders, who joined search efforts Saturday, will continue Sunday. A determination will be made today about whether the search will continue, according to Merritt.
Searchers on horseback were checking for any evidence in higher areas as others driving all-terrain vehicles focused on spots closer to roads. The dig site was just about 50 yards off of a road, according to an Associated Press reporter allowed to visit the scene.
West Valley City police recently conducted a search in the desert around Ely, Nev., and over the past months have conducted numerous searches in Tooele County.
Powell, 28, has been missing since Dec. 6, 2009, when her husband reported her missing from their West Valley City home. Josh Powell has said he had taken the couple’s young sons, then ages 2 and 4, on a winter camping trip to Simpson Springs in Tooele County and returned home to find his wife gone without a trace.