Special Reports

Parents of missing mother seek custody of sons

The parents of a missing Utah mother have filed for custody of her two sons after the boys’ paternal grandfather was arrested on criminal charges.

The boys, ages 4 and 6, were taken into protective custody Thursday night, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. They’ve since been placed in state care and were put – for now – in a foster home.

“We are working with law enforcement to ensure the appropriate placement,” Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for Children’s Administration, said Friday.

The boys had been living with their father, Josh Powell, at Powell’s father’s house in South Hill since shortly after their mother, Susan Cox Powell, disappeared from the family’s home in Utah in December 2009.

A court commissioner said Friday that he will not decide on the custody of the boys until after the state’s child welfare agency finishes its investigation. Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

“We’re very concerned for the welfare of our grandchildren,” said Chuck Cox, Susan Powell’s father, after the custody hearing. “We’re doing everything we can.”

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives arrested Susan Powell’s father-in-law, 61-year-old Steve Powell, late Thursday after uncovering more than 2,000 sexually-explicit images of young girls and women on videotapes and CDs in his room. Investigators believe the photos and videos were taken without the permission of the subjects, which included Susan Powell.

Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, filed for custody of their grandsons Friday morning. In the petition, they wrote that they prepared the document in anticipation of Josh Powell’s arrest in connection with their daughter’s disappearance. He’s been identified as the only person of interest in the case.

“Father is not a suitable custodian for the children,” the petition states.

The petition outlines details of the marriage between Susan and Josh Powell and the trouble that had been brewing in the years before her disappearance. The couple, both Puyallup natives, married in April 2001. They moved to Utah in 2003, found jobs and had sons.

Chuck and Judy Cox wrote that they have had limited contact with their grandsons since their daughter’s disappearance. They also said they were prepared to provide counseling for the boys. They request that Steven Powell not be allowed any visitation with the boys and that Josh Powell have visits only under strict supervision.

Hill said Friday that the custody petition is a separate court process from the system state social workers operate in after taking children into protective custody.

“We will continue with our process,” she said.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268 stacey.mulick@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime

The Associated Press contributed to this report.