Quirky, extraordinary stories highlight 2011

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

Several LDS Church services in Bountiful and Centerville were canceled Dec. 4 so their congregations could assist with the cleanup.

Year in crime

For Elizabeth Smart, 2011 marked "the ending of a very long chapter and the beginning of a very beautiful chapter," she said.

On May 25, Smart smiled as she talked to reporters outside the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse, where Brian David Mitchell, the man convicted of kidnapping her at knifepoint nearly nine years earlier, was sentenced to life in federal prison.

"I am so thrilled with the results that came out today, the life sentence. I couldn't be happier," Smart said.

Before the sentence was handed down, Smart was able to address Mitchell in the courtroom.

"I don't have very much say to you. I know exactly what you did, and I know that you know what you did was wrong, and you did it with a full knowledge of that," she said.

"I want you to know that I have a wonderful life now. No matter what you do, you will never affect me again. You took away nine months of my life that can never be returned. But I know that in this life or the next, you will be held responsible for what you have done, and I hope you're ready for that when it comes."

For family and friends of Susan Powell, 2011 brought no such closure. Dec. 6 marked the second anniversary of the West Valley City mother's disappearance.

In September, West Valley City police announced a break in the case that led them to the Topaz Mountain area near Delta. Police first said human remains had been found, though it turned out to be charred pieces of wood.

As that search came to a close, it was announced that Steven Powell, the father-in-law of the missing woman, was arrested in Washington state following the discovery of "thousands of images of females being videotaped without their knowledge" in the man's home — including some images of Susan Cox Powell.

Steven Powell also was charged with child pornography for images police say he took of young neighbor girls in the bathtub and on the toilet.

"This case has been and continues to be a top priority for the West Valley City Police Department and the team of detectives assigned to it full time," the department said in a statement released earlier this month. "The investigation continues to progress with information developed from leads and other relevant evidence."

Susan's husband, Josh Powell, has been named as a person of interest in the case. Josh Powell told police he took his two young sons on a late-night camping trip on a cold night Dec. 6, 2009, in Tooele County. When he returned the next day, his wife was gone.

Another longtime legal battle came to a close on Aug. 4, when polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs was convicted by a Texas jury of assaulting two girls he took in "spiritual marriages" when they were 12 and 14 years old.

The verdict came following a dramatic trial in which the 55-year-old leader of the Utah-based Fundamentalist LDS Church fired his attorneys and chose to represent himself.

On Aug. 9, Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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