Wednesday was a brutal day in court for Josh Powell.
First, he listened as an assistant state attorney general disparaged him and his family in front of a bank of television cameras and a courtroom full of spectators.
Then, a Pierce County judge ruled Powell’s home wasn’t a fit place to raise his two young sons, at least not right now.
Finally Superior Court Judge Kathryn Nelson awarded temporary custody of the boys to the parents of Powell’s missing wife, Susan Cox Powell.
Josh Powell has feuded openly with Charles and Judith Cox since his wife disappeared in December 2009, and he strenuously objected to his boys, 4 and 6, being placed with them. The Coxes blame Powell for their daughter’s disappearance.
Both parties left court after a daylong hearing without speaking to reporters, but it was clear the ruling devastated Powell.
“I was expecting to take my sons home with me today,” he told Nelson at one point.
The judge, after hearing arguments from Powell and Assistant Attorney General John Long, decided that wasn’t in the children’s best interest.
She set a new hearing for Nov. 15 to revisit the matter.
Child Protective Services petitioned to have the boys removed from Powell’s home after sheriff’s deputies took his sons into protective custody last week. The action came after detectives arrested the boys’ paternal grandfather, Steve Powell, on suspicion of voyeurism and possession of child pornography.
Steve Powell, who shared a Puyallup-area home with his son and grandsons, pleaded not guilty Friday to 15 felonies and is jailed in lieu of $200,000 bail.
The boys were in a foster home until earlier this week, when state social workers transferred them to Charles and Judith Cox. Long argued Wednesday the boys’ stay there should be extended.
He pointed out their grandfather’s arrest and what he called bizarre artwork and other questionable items found inside their home. He said one of Josh Powell’s brothers recently displayed what could be construed as questionable behavior – coming to the door naked when deputies paid a visit.
Long then fired his crushing salvo, telling Nelson he believes Josh Powell is directly involved in Puyallup native Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance. Police have said they consider him a person of interest.
“The story that Mr. Powell went on a midnight camping trip in a snowstorm, along with the lack of cooperation with law enforcement and other parts of this investigation, certainly should lead you to believe, and leads the state to believe, that he is responsible for the disappearance,” Long said.
Powell told authorities he went camping with his sons one night and returned to their West Valley City, Utah, home to find his wife gone. The couple had been experiencing marital troubles.
“If it’s true that he is responsible for the disappearance, I think taking a mother away from her children is probably the very worst type of abuse that you could perpetrate on children,” Long concluded. “Those children have been through hell, frankly.”
Powell, who represented himself in the dependency case, then got his turn.
He argued he didn’t know about his father’s alleged transgressions and would have turned him in had he known. The “bizarre artwork” was not hanging in a place where the boys could see it, he said. Deputies saw his brother naked because he was in the shower when they barged into his home to serve a search warrant, he said.
Powell said he’d move out of his father’s home if Nelson was concerned about the environment there. Finally, he pointed out he’s not been arrested or charged in his wife’s disappearance and that he wishes she’d be found alive.
“I did not kill my wife as has been alleged by certain individuals,” Powell said. “I love my wife. I know my wife loves my children. I want my wife back as much as anyone else could possibly want her back.”
The best thing, he said, would be to return his sons to him.
“I should be raising them,” Powell said.
If that wasn’t possible, he told Nelson, the boys should remain in foster care. Charles and Judith Cox might poison his sons against him, he argued.
Nelson said she didn’t have much choice now other than to leave the boys in the care of their maternal grandparents, and she admonished the Coxes not to disparage Powell in front of his children.
The judge said she’d take another look at placement in November after both the children and Powell get counseling.
In the meantime, Powell will get to visit his sons, with state-approved supervision, for three hours on Sunday mornings while the Coxes go to church.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644