Josh Powell – in a form filled out a day after his father’s arrest and placement of his sons in foster care, and nearly two years after his wife, Susan, disappeared – stated he had no symptoms of depression, anxiety or sadness in the previous year.
In a standard “appraisal of individual needs,” Powell checked “no” in response to a list of routine questions about his mental health and well-being, saying he had not felt anxious, scared or panicked recently.
The information is among 1,699 pages of documents released Friday by the state Department of Social and Health Services.
The documents include background checks on people interacting with Powell’s sons, Charlie, 7; and Braden, 5, court records, the boys’ health records; tips the state received about the boys’ behavior; and printouts from a website set up by Powell about his missing wife.
Never miss a local story.
While Powell wasn’t feeling stress, the documents show that long before the state took custody of the boys in September 2011, his oldest son was struggling with the disappearance of his mother and stress that surrounded the family.
A day-care worker at the YMCA in Puyallup reported on Aug. 20, 2010, that Charlie, then 5, was asked why he didn’t want to play with other children, responded that, “My little brother Braden tried to kill me, so he’s in Utah now living with my grandparents” – something that wasn’t true.
On Feb. 28, 2011, officials at Carson Elementary School contacted Child Protective Services to report that Charlie had denied he had a little brother during a group activity.
The boy, then 6, told his class, “The Mormons killed my brother and my mom.” When a classmate said, “You don’t have a brother?” the boy said, “Yeah, it’s just me and my dad.”
The documents released Friday are the second set to be released by DSHS in response to media and a state lawmaker’s requests about the custody case.
That case began after Charlie and Braden Powell were placed in state custody after the arrest Sept. 22 of their paternal grandfather, Steve, on charges of voyeurism and possession of child pornography.
Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox of Puyallup, had temporary custody of their grandsons.
The state released more than 800-plus pages of documents Feb. 17. They showed the state had decided around mid-November that allegations Powell neglected or mistreated his sons were unwarranted.
The department was on track to return the boys to Powell’s custody by Jan. 19 at the latest.
That information was shared with police in West Valley City, Utah, where the Powells were living when Susan disappeared. Police informed the department in mid-November that they had uncovered images on a computer taken from Powell’s Utah home in 2009 that might have bearing on the child custody case.
Those computer-generated images, depicting incestual pornography, were shared with Washington authorities Jan. 17. They prompted a psychologist to recommend no change in the children’s custody and that Powell undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation.
During a Feb. 1 status hearing, the judge agreed.
Four days later, a caseworker brought Charlie and Braden to their father’s rented home in the Graham area for a supervised visit. Powell let the boys in but locked out the caseworker. He hit both boys in the head with a hatchet and then set fire to the home, killing himself and his sons.
Susan Powell, 28, disappeared from her West Valley City home on Dec. 7, 2009. So far, West Valley City Police have been unable to solve the mystery of what happened to the young mother.
Police were keeping an eye out for the boys long before they were taken from Josh and Steve Powell’s home. A DSHS note dated June 28, 2011, says the lead West Valley City detective in the Susan Powell case, Ellis Maxwell, went to Washington and met with child protective services.
“He is concerned about Charles and Braden,” a DSHS employee wrote in a note.
Maxwell wanted Child Protective Services to go with law enforcement to the Powell home but a DSHS representative said, “there are no current allegations” to allow the agency to get involved. The notes do not say, specifically, what concerned Maxwell.
Days after his sons were removed from his care, Powell sent an email to a DSHS caseworker stating his children were not exposed to any pornographic material his father might have had in the home, which was “why we never thought there was a problem.”
Powell also claimed that his mother Terri would provide a statement saying Steve Powell “never left pornographic materials laying around and never gave any hint at creating porn on any level during her 20-year marriage” — a claim refuted by documents filed in the couple’s 1993 divorce. In those documents Terri Powell said her husband kept a stash of pornographic material and shared it with their older sons.
The documents also include notes from the first foster parents who cared for Charlie and Braden about statements the boys were making that raised alarm.
In one, Braden brought up his mother and after the woman said she’d never met Susan, Charlie responded that, “Police officers are supposed to be good people, but sometimes that aren’t good. They are just supposed to collect the information, not make people feel bad or say things that aren’t true.”
The foster parent said the boy was agitated while talking about the police. In another handwritten note, one of the foster parents said that Charlie had talked about a graveyard and said, “Of course they are going to find bones there.”
He then added, though the context isn’t clear: “I’m talking about Susan because she’s a girl and he’s a boy.”
The boys stayed in the foster home, part of the Youth for Christ network, for five days before being moved to the Coxes home.
The documents released Friday also provide insight into how Josh Powell was trying to raise his children. In a Oct. 17, 2011, email to social worker Forest Jacobson, Josh Powell asked that Tim Atkins, a neighbor and pastor, and his family be a placement option for the boys rather than the Coxes. Powell said the Atkins’ four children were good playmates for his sons and that the Atkinses were preparing bedrooms for Charlie and Braden in the event they were given temporary custody of the boys.
Meanwhile, the Atkins agreed to supervise one of the twice weekly, three-hour visits Powell had with his sons.
Despite hateful comments the boys were observed to make about Mormons, Jews and Christians, Powell also asked that his sons be allowed to participate in a “Good News Club” after-school Bible program run by Atkins at Carson Elementary.
“We have done a lot of activities together as families including dinners, birthday parties, walking to and from school, and attending church. They are close family friends since the time we moved here and the boys love them,” Powell wrote to the caseworker overseeing his case.
Documents show that DSHS was reluctant to move the children from the Coxes’ home since they expected the boys to be returned to their father’s care, though any change was off the table after the state reviewed the images provided by Utah authorities. Also, Atkins, for unknown reasons, on Feb. 2 asked to withdraw as a visit supervisor for Powell.