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Powell timeline begins with wife’s disappearance

Susan Cox graduated in 2000 from Rogers High School in Puyallup and married Josh Powell about nine months later. The two had met at church. They later moved to Utah and had two children: Charlie and Braden.


Dec. 7: Susan Cox Powell, 28, is reported missing in West Valley City, Utah, after her children weren’t dropped off at day care and she didn’t show up for her stockbroker job. She had been seen by friends at church and at dinner the day before. Her husband, Josh Powell, 34, says the last time he saw her was around midnight, when he left the home with their two boys, ages 4 and 2, to go camping in freezing weather on the Pony Express trail west of Salt Lake City. Police say the older boy confirmed the trip.

Dec. 18-20: Josh travels to Puyallup with the children to be with family for the Christmas holiday.

Dec. 20: Susan’s family holds a candlelight vigil in Puyallup. Her father, Chuck Cox, writes on a Facebook page for friends and family that he didn’t understand why Josh was at the vigil. The remarks reveal the first public cracks between the families, though Chuck also had said Josh was a good father.

Dec. 22: Utah police say they want to interview Josh about a car rented in his name two days after his wife’s disappearance. Police say the case is a missing-persons investigation, but they already have twice searched the family home and a minivan and have labeled Josh as a person of interest in Susan’s disappearance. Police won’t say what, if anything, has been taken from the Powell home or van.


Jan. 29: Utah police impound Josh’s minivan. He says he plans to sell the Utah home. He later moves to Puyallup with the children to live with his father, Steve Powell. Susan’s father, Chuck, says Josh begins to cut off communication with Susan’s family.

May 11: Federal agents arrive at Steve Powell’s home to retrieve a GPS tracking device they had secretly placed on Josh’s minivan. They also searched his home, Steve says.

Nov. 16: Steve Powell says U.S. marshals come to his home and ask for copies of Susan’s journal.


Aug. 9: Josh files a restraining order to prevent Susan’s father, Chuck, from seeing the children. The filing followed a chance public meeting at a hardware store, where Chuck says he asked Josh’s permission to hug the children. Josh refused, Chuck says.

Aug. 17: Acting on a tip, police say they plan to search the desolate high mountain desert near Ely, Nev., for signs of Susan. Ely is about 237 miles southwest of the Powells’ home in Utah.

Aug. 18: Josh tells a Seattle TV station he is “overjoyed” by news of the Nevada search. He and his father have said they believe Susan might have run off with another man. “It’s been a hard two years. It’s been lonely,” Josh says. “I will always love her.”

Aug. 19: Using high-powered spotlights, four Utah detectives on ATVs spend the day clearing, searching, photographing and logging abandoned mine shafts in Nevada.

Aug. 20: Family tensions boil over. Josh’s father, Steve, and Susan’s father, Chuck, get into a roadside yelling match in front of TV cameras in Puyallup. Both accuse the other of telling lies and not helping to find Susan.

The argument erupted as Chuck and other family members passed out fliers reminding the public of his daughter’s disappearance. Steve arrived and accused Chuck of spreading misinformation about his son. Chuck accused Josh of being uncooperative with police and Steve of being “unbelievable.” Susan’s family also has said Josh was abusive and controlling.

Josh arrives at the scene later with the boys, and tearfully tells reporters Chuck is intentionally stirring up hatred between the families.

Aug. 21: Josh says he’ll meet with the FBI if they pay his attorney fees.

Aug. 22: Josh’s family begins releasing part of Susan’s teenage diary to media outlets, contending it indicates she had mental health problems.

Aug. 23: A court commissioner orders Josh and Chuck to stay at least 500 feet away from each other. Josh says that during the hardware store meeting, Chuck mouthed the words “You’re dead” at Josh – something Chuck adamantly denies. Chuck’s lawyer, Steve Downing, tells the court Josh’s paranoia is increasing. “Mr. Powell is becoming unhinged,” Downing says.

Aug. 25: Both families make appearances on national TV morning shows to criticize the other. Steve says he and Susan had a flirtatious relationship, and he believed they were in love. Her father says that is false. He says Susan’s discomfort with her father-in-law was part of what motivated her to move her family to Utah from Washington.

Meanwhile, about 20 investigators from Utah and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department begin searching Steve’s South Hill home. The reason for the search – and what, if anything, investigators found – was not made public. But investigators remove several computer towers.

Sept. 12: Utah police launch another search for Susan near Delta, about 135 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. In the first few days, cadaver dogs uncover human remains. It turns out the dogs were alerted to about 100 pieces of wood used to burn human remains. The search goes on for about two weeks and covers about 50 square miles.

Sept. 22: Pierce County sheriff’s detectives arrest Steve after finding more than 2,000 images of girls and women on videotapes and compact discs during the police search of his home a month before. He is charged with 14 counts of voyeurism and possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct in the second degree. Some of the images were of Susan, but Utah investigators say Steve’s arrest was unrelated to her disappearance. Josh and Susan’s children, who had been living in the home, are taken into protective custody.

Sept. 23: Steve pleads not guilty. He’s jailed and is awaiting trial. Susan’s parents petition for custody of the two boys, now ages 4 and 6. Meanwhile, a judge forbids any publication of Susan’s teenage diaries. A Cox family lawyer, for the first time, directly accuses Josh of being involved in Susan’s disappearance.

Sept. 28: A Pierce County judge awards temporary custody of the boys to Susan’s parents. Josh is granted supervised visits for three hours on Sunday mornings while the Coxes go to church.


Feb. 1: A Pierce County judge says the children must stay with the Coxes, and also orders Josh to have a psycho-sexual evaluation before she’ll consider changing the custody arrangement.

Feb. 5: At the beginning of a supervised visit, the children and Josh die in a fire at his Graham-area home.

Kathleen Cooper, staff writer

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