Special Reports

Police search Utah desert for Susan Cox Powell

West Valley City police on Tuesday searched in rugged desert terrain for signs of a Puyallup mother missing since 2009.

Investigators combed the central Utah desert near Topaz Mountain, with all-terrain vehicles and a specialized team of search dogs for clues in Susan Cox Powell's case, police spokesman Sgt. Mike Powell said. The area is about 135 miles southwest of where the mother of two was last seen at her home in West Valley City.

Mike Powell, who is not related to the missing woman, would not specifically say what investigators are searching for. But he said the search is based on information gathered during the course of the 22-month investigation.

Last month investigators similarly searched the mine shaft-dotted mountains near Ely, Nev., for clues. That search was also deemed a success, although police would not say what evidence, if any, was collected.

Investigators, who are being assisted by police from Carbon and Juab counties, are expected to continue the current search for more than one day, Mike Powell said.

"I think they are acting on information they are getting from search warrants and from people they've talked to," Chuck Cox, Susan Cox Powell's father said Tuesday in a telephone call from his home in Puyallup. "They have all the evidence and they should be the ones to know where to be looking."

Cox said police notified the family Tuesday morning that they would conduct the search.

Susan Cox Powell was 28 when she was reported missing Dec. 7 after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job. She had been seen by friends at church and at dinner the day before.

Her husband told police he left his wife at home about 12:30 a.m. Dec. 7 to go winter 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 confirmed the trip to police.

Police said Joshua Powell is a person of interest in the missing person case, although he's never been arrested or charged.

Investigators have claimed Joshua Powell had failed to cooperate, providing few details and only vague answers to questions about the camping trip.

Josh Powell's Salt Lake City attorney, Scott Williams, declined comment on West Valley City's search Tuesday. He contends Josh Powell has cooperated with police.

Susan Powell's disappearance has also sparked an emotional war between the two families. Josh Powell and Cox squared off in court last month over the son-in-law's petition for a restraining order and a court commission has ordered both men to keep 500 feet from each other.

Also last month, West Valley City police served a search warrant on the Puyallup home Josh Powell shares with his father, seizing computers and journals thought to have belonged to Susan Cox Powell.