Jury selection starts today in the voyeurism trial of Steven Powell, the Pierce County man whose connection to missing Utah mother Susan Cox Powell has generated national interest in his case.
Powell, 62, is charged with 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possessing child pornography. He’s pleaded not guilty.
Detectives looking for clues into the disappearance of Susan Powell, his daughter-in-law, discovered thousands of images of naked or semi-nude girls and women on computers and other digital storage devices in Steve Powell’s Puyallup-area home last summer, court records show.
Prosecutors believe he took some of the photographs himself, including some of his daughter-in-law, who apparently wasn’t aware she was being photographed.
Other images showed two school-age girls who once lived in a house adjacent to Steve Powell. They were photographed while taking baths or using the toilet. They, too, appeared to have been unaware they were being photographed, court records show.
Steve Powell is the father of Josh Powell, who was married to Susan Powell and was considered a person of interest in her December 2009 disappearance from their Utah home.
Josh Powell, who was never arrested or charged, moved to Pierce County and moved in with his father not long after Susan Powell went missing. He moved into his own place in the Graham area after his father’s arrest.
Under increasing pressure from authorities and the media, Josh Powell killed his and Susan’s two young sons and himself in February, hacking his boys with a hatchet before setting his rental house on fire.
Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox of Puyallup, believe Josh Powell killed their daughter and that his father might have information about where her body is hidden.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper is expected strictly to limit the amount of information about Susan Powell’s disappearance allowed into her father-in-law’s trial. Still, media outlets from across the nation, including Utah news organizations and the some of the major TV networks, plan to cover the trial.
Jury selection is expected to take two days, with opening statements likely Wednesday.
Deputy prosecutor Grant Blinn, who is trying the case with colleague Bryce Nelson, told Culpepper last week he expects to call eight or nine witnesses and hopes to wrap up the state’s case in two or three days.
It is not known whether Steve Powell, represented by attorneys Mark Quigley and Travis Curry, will take the stand in his own defense.
A standard-range sentence for a conviction on a count of voyeurism of possession of child pornography usually is less than a year in jail.
But prosecutors wrote in court papers they intend to seek an exceptional sentence for Powell because of the high number of images involved and the fact he allegedly committed a brazen violation of privacy in collecting some of the images.
The statutory maximum is five years.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644