Special Reports

Steve Powell called in sick day after daughter-in-law vanished

Steve Powell called in sick to work a day after his daughter-in-law, Susan Cox Powell, disappeared from her home in West Valley City, Utah, more than two years ago, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned.

Powell, an account executive with Washington State Correctional Industries, sent an email that requested sick leave for Dec. 8-9, 2009, his former employer reported Tuesday.

The days coincide with the period that his son Josh Powell, Susan’s husband, rented a Ford Focus from Salt Lake International Airport, putting more than 800 miles on the vehicle before returning it about 7 p.m. Dec. 10, 2009.

West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell, who is not related, declined to comment Tuesday on what investigators know about Steve Powell’s work absence, saying he “wouldn’t be addressing that question at all” because Susan Powell’s case is “an active investigation that is progressing.”

The sergeant said investigators want to speak with Steve Powell, who’s in the Pierce County Jail on voyeurism and child-pornography charges, but he “has been uncooperative from the onset” and police haven’t attempted to speak with him for some time.

“It’s useless at this point,” Sgt. Powell said. “He’s made it very clear that he doesn’t want to speak to law enforcement.”

West Valley City Police Chief Thayle “Buzz” Nielsen has said that Steve Powell might be an accomplice in Susan Powell’s disappearance and presumed death.

Susan Cox Powell was last seen Dec. 6, 2009, at the home she shared with her husband and their two young sons, Charlie and Braden.

Josh Powell, long considered a “person of interest” in his wife’s mysterious disappearance, killed himself and their boys in a fiery blast Feb. 5 that engulfed his Graham-area rental home.

Last week, a Pierce County Superior Court judge authorized the unsealing of a search warrant that spelled out the West Valley City police investigation into Susan Powell’s disappearance and the evidence against her husband. The police agency has come under scrutiny in the days since.

Nielsen said this week that the decision not to arrest Josh Powell in his wife’s disappearance was the right one given the evidence his department had.

Nielsen said there was probable cause to arrest but not enough evidence to win a case. Without a body, Nielsen said, Powell could have escaped conviction at trial or pleaded to a lesser charge.

“If we could have arrested him we would have,” Nielsen said. “… We had a pretty good circumstantial case.”