Special Reports

Deaths lead to tips on Susan Powell

New tips in the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell have been pouring in since the deaths of her husband and their two sons, but it’s unclear whether investigators are any closer to finding her.

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives on Sunday found books and an unmarked map that Josh Powell dumped at a local landfill before he killed himself and his boys Feb. 5.

Volunteers combed through more than 10 tons of paper at the LRI recycling center after detectives received a tip that Josh Powell might have dumped papers there before the killings.

They found paperback books with his wife’s name on them and a Utah map. An item described by detectives as a “testament” with Powell’s name on it turned out to be a Mormon religious book, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Susan Powell disappeared from the family’s home in West Valley City, Utah, in December 2009. Josh Powell, long considered a suspect, said he didn’t know where she went; he had taken their boys – Charlie, then 4, and Braden, then 2 – on a midnight camping trip in freezing weather.

Powell moved his two boys to Puyallup within a few weeks after his wife vanished.

Some of the new information Utah police detectives received came from a hotel worker in Sandy, 17 miles south of Salt Lake City, who told them Josh Powell and the boys showed up for a continental breakfast the day Susan Powell was reported missing.

The worker, Robin Leanne Snyder, 53, oversaw the free breakfast for guests at the Comfort Inn there. She called a tip line set up by police after Susan Powell’s disappearance began to make news, but she never heard back, she said.

“Charlie looked right up at me and he says, ‘Do you know what happened to my mom?’ So I say, ‘No, what happened to your mom?’” Snyder told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

She never got an answer. She was called to fetch coffee for guests, and when she returned, Josh Powell – who had kept his face down as his older boy spoke up unexpectedly – had left with his boys.

“He didn’t even give the kids time to eat their sweet rolls - each had a small bite on them,” she said.

It wasn’t until two weeks ago that a West Valley detective interviewed her, she said. By then, the hotel’s security tapes for the day had been recycled.