Today we are continuing our dive into the case of Susan Powell. If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, go back and do that first because we’re continuing on from there. Ok, let’s just jump right back in.
So we left off with this mysterious camping trip that is sounding like maybe it didn’t happen. We do know that the camping trip happened though because Charlie (the older of the two boys) was interviewed and he was able to tell police details about it. Some of his details were a little different than his dad’s though. For one, he said that Susan had gone with them, but didn’t return. Charlie did and said some things over the next few weeks that cast even further suspicion on what had happened on this “camping trip.” He told a teacher that his mother was dead. A few weeks later, he drew a picture at daycare of a van with three people in it and said that “mommy was in the trunk.” Note: some sources say the picture was drawn by Braden, so not sure who drew it, but not good regardless.
Anywho, back to this “camping trip.” If you remember from last week’s episode, Josh said that Susan was tired and didn’t come with them on this camping trip that started in the middle of the night in the freezing winter with school the next day. There had also been a big snowstorm right before all of this and everything was still covered in snow. It honestly to me, doesn’t make sense why he would be taking them camping at all in the first place.
Let’s talk more about when they left for this camping trip. According to a timeline posted by kutv.com, Josh and the boys headed out around 12am Sunday night/Monday morning.Where they went camping was about a two hour drive from their house. Once they arrived they roasted marshmallows and did the classic camping things. This means that a 2 and 4 year old whose mother had to beg a neighbor for a hot dog to feed them not too long ago were on this impromptu camping trip being fed smores and treats at 2 in the morning. It doesn’t make any sense! (Might bring up that “camping trip for the Tionda and Diamond episode).
I also mentioned last week that police went to try and find the camping site that Josh described and couldn’t find where he claimed to have taken them. He said they went camping at Simpson Springs Campground which is in a remote area of Utah’s west desert. It also just so happens to be a site where there are lots of mines. For example, this is where Utah’s Death Canyon which is a site where loads of mining used to happen and there are still structures from this mining still standing that you can go see. According to utahoutdooractivities.com, mine shafts that are hundreds of feet straight into the earth have been discovered here. Now, I know it’s been a long time since we talked about this, but remember that comment Josh made about a mine being the best place to get rid of a body?
I could honestly go on about this camping trip for an entire episode, but we still have so much to talk about, so we’re going to move on now and I’ll just remind you that if you want more of a deep dive into these things go listen to Cold.
Something else that came up during Josh’s interview was him not answering his phone all day. So if you remember, people had been trying to call both him and Susan all day and they were getting no answer. He explained this away by saying that he didn’t have a charger with him and was trying to conserve the battery. This would make sense except for the fact that a detective noticed that his phone was plugged into a charger on the center console of his van- which they had seized as soon as they returned home. They also found Susan’s phone in the van and he couldn’t explain why it was there. And because we didn’t have enough confusion with phones already, he also had a new cell phone that had been activated about 80 miles north of Salt Lake.
Police are obviously and understandably skeptical of everything Josh is telling them, but he did get to go home after being interviewed Monday night. The next morning, he called Susan’s father, Chuck Cox, to let him know that Susan was missing and he was going to be questioned by police again. Sure enough, they did continue to interview him and this went on for hours. They have actually released the recordings of some of these interviews and Josh just doesn’t make any sense or do himself any favors. He starts out acting sad, sniffling and whatnot as he’s answering questions, but it just doesn’t feel convincing. Like it feels as though he’s putting on a show. He pretty quickly asks for an attorney which makes the detective questioning him say “so you’re telling me you don’t want to come in here and talk to me and answer my questions so we can try to figure out where potentially she could be?” And I do have to admit that while I agree that he is making himself look more suspicious and hindering progress, I am a full supporter of getting an attorney. While it may not give you the greatest look, words can be twisted or misinterpreted so easily, so you should always cover your bases and request an attorney even if you’re 100% innocent.
So he’s questioned for a while and is being very defensive, talking in circles, and basically just not making himself look good. They ask him about things like cuts on his hands, and he’s aware of how bad he looks, so he’s just staying on defense. Eventually, they tell him that his story doesn’t add up and that he is going to be detained. However, he is released later in the day and my understanding is because everything they had against him was circumstantial.
Now if you remember, when he returned home, the police seized his van. So after he was released, he rented a car. Normally I wouldn’t even bring this up because it makes sense since he doesn’t have his van, but what he does next is where we lose the normal. This is because over the course of two days he put 800 miles on this car. *I assume someone will ask how he went 800 miles in 2 days and where.* Unfortunately, the car didn’t have any GPS data stored in it so we have to idea where he was except that at some point along the way he stopped in Tremonton, Utah where he purchased and activated a cell phone. (Tremonton is near the Utah-Idaho border).
This mystery trip isn’t the only thing happening during these two days. On Wednesday, police executed a search warrant on the Powell home. They removed boxes, bags, and a computer from the house. They also found some of Susan’s blood, life insurance policies for 1.5 million dollars, and a letter from Susan fearing for her life. In addition to Susan’s blood, they also found some blood from an unidentified male.
Then on Thursday, police went to the Simpson Springs campground where Josh said he had taken the boys camping, but couldn’t find any evidence of their camping trip in the area Josh described. Obviously we know they did go camping and that’s not being debated, but I don’t believe for a second that they went camping where he said and the inability to find any evidence of camping just confirms that to me. They weren’t able to do as much searching as would have been hoped though as snow halted their search.
Interview Where Josh Doesn’t Seem Concerned at All and says the kids are doing well:
By Friday, family and friends of Susan gathered together and sang hymns, prayed, and began a 24 hour fast for her safe return. Josh was there and was seen tearing up, but he didn’t actually speak which seems off to me, but I do think we have to keep in mind that we never know how someone might react to this situation and not speaking doesn’t necessarily mean someone is guilty. He also joined a group that was handing out missing person flyers at a basketball game that evening.
By Monday the 14th, Josh had hired an attorney. Then on Tuesday, he failed to show up to a scheduled third interview with police which prompted police to announce that he was getting in the way of police efforts to find Susan. Police make it very clear that he is not looking good and on Thursday they subpoenaed local television stations for footage of interviews done with him.
Now we’ve made it to Friday, December 18. Christmas is only a week away and Josh decides to take Charlie and Braden back home to his dad’s house in Puyallup, Washington for the holidays. This is about 14 hours away from where they were living in West Valley City, Utah. Last week we talked a little bit about his relationship with his dad and why they moved away, but we know that while Susan was uncomfortable with their relationship he continued talking to him and maintaining that relationship. Being devil’s advocate here, I can understand why he would want to spend the holidays with his dad, but then you remember that his wife has been missing for less than two weeks and he is going somewhere 14 hours away?!
While Josh and the kids are at his dad’s, family and friends continue to look for Susan and hold vigils for her.
Three weeks after leaving for Puyallup, on January 6, Josh returned to his and Susan’s home. He wasn’t there to stay though. Instead, he had brought his brother Michael with him to pack up the house. Again, this is not something you would expect from someone who thinks their missing wife could come back. But of course, Josh had a reason for this handy. According to his friends, he had been fired from his job (not sure what this job was or how long he had it). Josh said that he wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the home, so the family was officially moving back to Puyallup.
So they do this and then on January 28, Josh comes back to West Valley City again to “make repairs” to the home so that he can rent it out.
Over the course of the next year, things continue on in the same way they have been going. Susan’s friends and family continue to search for her, hold vigils, and put up flyers.
On the one year anniversary of Susan’s disappearance, Josh and Steven did something that no one was expecting. They’ve made their fair share of unpopular choices, but this one was particularly cruel. They suggested that maybe Susan had run away with a man named Steven Koecher. Koecher had gone missing in Nevada in December of 2009 around the same time as Susan and he was also a member of the LDS church. They asserted that the two of them had decided to run away together to Brazil where Koecher had served a mission, to start a new life. There is no evidence to back this up and to me it seems like a hail mary to try and get suspicion off of Josh.
Time continues to go on with no progress being made, and in July of 2011 Josh and Steven announced that they were going to post parts of Susan’s teenage journals online. They’re reasoning for this is because they believe it makes it more believable that she would run off with Koecher and of course they’re trying to push a narrative that doesn’t make Josh look guilty, but it’s just cruel and unnecessary.
The following month Josh and Chuck Cox, Susan’s father, got into an altercation at Lowe’s which resulted in a restraining order. A few weeks later, on August 25, 2011, police served a search warrant on Steven’s home in Puyallup. They took computers, boxes, and bags. What they found led them to arresting Steven on child pornography and voyeurism charges on September 22.
Over the next two months, an intense custody battle took place as Josh’s ability to take care of the boys was questioned since he had them living with Steven and it is pretty much accepted that he knew about his father’s child pornography. While this was going on, Chuck and Judy Cox, Susan’s parents, were given custody of the boys. Josh was upset about this and retaliated by publishing a website that claimed Chuck and Judy abused the boys, but it was quickly disabled. Despite everything that had happened, it was sounding like Josh would be given custody of the boys back. That is until an anonymous tip prompted police to look at what was on Josh’s computer. They then found hundreds of disturbing images that included simulated child pornography, beastiality, and incest.
Understandably, this made it so that the boys remained with Chuck and Judy. The judge also ordered Josh to get a psychosexual examination by a court appointed examiner. The examiner found that Josh had narcissistic personality traits which was made clear by his inability to admit any shortcomings or weaknesses no matter how small they were. On the other hand, the examiner also found that he had adequate parenting skills, steady employment, and no criminal record. By February 1, 2012, he decided that his recommendation was that Josh should have supervised visits multiple times a week.
If you ask me, I think that was a pretty generous decision given all the history and everything that had happened over the last few years, but he took this as a failure and was not happy.
And now we have made it to February 5, 2012. The day of the infamous 911 call that we started with last week. We all know what happened from the social worker’s point of view, but what really happened? Josh didn’t just light his house on fire and leave it at that. It was later found that he had actually attacked the boys with a hatchet on their heads and necks before he set off the explosion. The official cause of death though was carbon monoxide poisoning which is hard to think about because that means they were probably in so much pain while they essentially suffocated.
Steven was in jail at the time because of the child pornography and voyeurism we talked about, and when he was told about the deaths it was said that he was unconcerned by the news. Then, two weeks later he invoked his 5th amendment right to not answer questions about Susan’s case.
If you remember, after Josh decided to move back to Puyallup, his brother Michael helped him pack up the house. There was a lot of suspicion put on him and people thought he might know where Susan was. On February 11, 2013, he jumped off a parking garage in Minneapolis to his death. We don’t have much information about him, but there was a vehicle that he had abandoned at a wrecking yard in Oregon that once it was found, was proven to have had human remains inside the trunk at some point.
This led police to search for Susan’s body at a location in Salem, Oregon, but found nothing. Over the next few years, the police still work on Susan’s case and make attempts to find her, but have no luck. In July of 2017, Steven was released from prison and a year later he died in the hospital. At this point, everyone that is thought to have known something about what happened is dead, but people have continued to search for Susan and answers.
Just a few weeks ago, bones and clothing were found in a Utah mine and everyone really thought that the Cox family was finally going to get their closure. Chuck Cox even came out saying that while there have been a lot of searches without results, something about this one felt different. Unfortunately, testing on the bones came back and showed that they were in fact animal bones and that the pants had belonged to a male. There were some other clothing items found that are still waiting on test results, but the excitement that there was a couple weeks ago has died down and it looks like we are right back where we started.
Accessed March, 2022. Interview discussed during the episode (along with other videos and photos): https://kutv.com/news/local/timeline-what-we-know-in-the-10-years-since-susan-cox-powell-went-missing?video=3e117df7865a4927ad020a077b5b9f59&jwsource=cl
Accessed March, 2022. https://abcnews.go.com/US/inside-marriage-josh-susan-powell/story?id=15552031
Accessed March, 2022. https://www.utahoutdooractivities.com/deathcanyon.html