Special Reports

Family tensions rise as search stalls for Susan Powell

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah police ended a search Saturday in the eastern Nevada mountains for a Utah mother missing since 2009, as her father argued with her husband and her father-in-law over the case at a busy intersection in Puyallup.

Susan Cox Powell, 28, was last seen at her home Dec. 6, 2009. She was reported missing the next day when she failed to show up for her stockbroker job in West Valley City.

Police have called her husband, Joshua Powell, a person of interest in the missing person case, although he’s never been arrested or charged. Investigators have said he has not cooperated with their investigation, although his Salt Lake City attorney, Scott Williams, disputed that characterization.

His father, Steve Powell, got into a roadside yelling match with Susan Powell’s father, Chuck Cox, before a group of TV reporters Saturday in Puyallup. Both accused the other of telling lies and not helping to find her, KOMO-TV of Seattle and The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The argument erupted as Cox and other family members passed out fliers reminding the public of his daughter’s disappearance. Steve Powell showed up and accused Cox of spreading misinformation about his son.

Both Susan and Joshua Powell are natives of Puyallup, where he moved with their sons after she vanished.

“Their group has accused me of murdering my daughter-in-law,” Steve Powell said, adding that he believes Susan Powell ran off with another man and that his son has nothing to do with her disappearance.

Chuck Cox accused Joshua Powell of being uncooperative with police and Steve Powell of being “unbelievable.” Susan Powell’s family also has said Joshua Powell was abusive and controlling.

Joshua Powell showed up later with his two sons and tearfully told reporters that Chuck Cox was intentionally stirring up hatred between the families. “He is using my sons as nothing but pawns in the media to elicit hate in our family. It’s had an impact,” he said.

“They’re trying to push an agenda I don’t know what happened to her. There are 1,000 different theories that people need to consider in strong and serious ways,” he added.

Joshua Powell has told police he left his wife at home about 12:30 a.m. on the day she disappeared to go camping in freezing temperatures with their young sons – then ages 4 and 2 – on the Pony Express Trail about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The 4-year-old, Charlie, confirmed the trip to police.

Authorities have recently concentrated on several mine shafts near Ely, Nev., about 235 miles southwest of Susan Powell’s home in West Valley City, the Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported. Officers based the search of the Ely area on new information gleaned from evidence obtained through search warrants.

They searched abandoned mine shafts on public lands on opposite sides of Ely on Saturday and Friday, but no body parts were found, according to West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell, who is not related to Susan Powell.

Investigators haven’t said what they were looking for, but dubbed the efforts as “successful.”

While Susan Powell’s disappearance has strained relations between her husband and her family, representatives for both have said they support police efforts to continue to resolve the case.

“Wherever they have a valid lead, they should pursue it,” Joshua Powell’s sister, Alina Powell, told The Associated Press.

Joshua Powell and Chuck Cox were set to square off in Tacoma’s Pierce County Superior Court on Tuesday over a petition for restraining order filed by Joshua Powell on Aug. 9. Powell claims Cox has used the news media to “inflict me and my children with emotional insecurity and fear” and states that Joshua Powell believes Cox’s behavior is tied to his belief that his son-in-law is responsible for Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance.

The filing followed a chance public meeting at a hardware store, where Cox said he asked Joshua Powell’s permission to hug the children. Powell refused his request.