Special Reports

Missing woman’s husband, father told to stay apart

A court commissioner Tuesday ordered that the husband and the father of a Utah woman missing for nearly two years keep at least 500 feet away from each other.

Josh Powell, the husband of Susan Cox Powell, had alleged in a petition for a restraining order that his father-in-law, Chuck Cox of Puyallup had threatened him and stalked him and his sons.

The most serious claim was that Cox showed up at a home-improvement store where Powell and the boys were attending a workshop last month and mouthed the words “You’re dead” at Powell – something Cox adamantly denied.

“He knew we would be there,” Powell told the commissioner. “He has been stalking us to come into the places we would be to inject himself into our lives.”

Susan Cox Powell was last seen at her West Valley City, Utah, home on Dec. 6, 2009. Police identified her husband as a person of interest after he claimed to have taken their two boys, then ages 2 and 4, on a midnight camping trip in sub-freezing temperatures.

Tacoma Superior Court Commissioner Wendy Zicht said that nothing in Powell’s petition rose to the level of domestic violence, but said she was issuing mutual anti-harassment orders “to keep the peace.”

The orders bar the men from stalking or harassing each other, and keep Cox from going within 500 feet of the school attended by his grandchildren, whom he’s been allowed to see only four times in the past year and a half, said his attorney, Steve Downing.

In court Tuesday, Downing said his client had never threatened Powell and had wanted only to hug his grandchildren.

Powell moved to the Puyallup area, where both his father and Susan Powell’s parents live. The families squared off in front of reporters in a shouting match outside a grocery store near their homes last weekend.

The dispute came as authorities were searching a network of abandoned mines outside Ely, Nev. They found no new evidence.

“There’s a paranoia that has surfaced, the source of which is unknown,” Downing said. “Mr. Powell is becoming unhinged.”