Few answers in death of sons of missing Utah mom

By Mike Baker

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 6 2012 1:35 p.m. MST

CORRECTS TO READ THAT ONLY THE OLDER OF THE TWO BOYS WENT TO THE SCHOOL - Denise Cox, right, the sister of missing Utah mom Susan Cox Powell, is comforted by her fiance, Andrew Olsen, as she kneels at a makeshift memorial for Powell's sons, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, at Carson Elementary School in Puyallup, Wash., where the older of the two boys attended school. Police said that the two boys and their father, Josh Powell, were killed when Powell apparently blew up a house with all three of them inside Sunday afternoon. Powell's wife Susan went mysteriously missing from their West Valley City, Utah, home in December 2009.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

GRAHAM, Wash. — Josh Powell's note was simple and short, a farewell to the world after two years of being scrutinized in the media, hammered by police and questioned by judges, prosecutors and social workers, living his life under a microscope since the day his wife vanished.

"I'm sorry, goodbye," Powell wrote in an email to his attorney just minutes before authorities say he set fire to his home, killing himself and his two young sons days after he was denied custody and ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation.

The Sunday blaze at Powell's home brought yet another twist in the very public scandal that began when Susan Powell vanished in 2009. The case had since spiraled into a salacious saga of finger-pointing and accusations of sex and lies — and now the unthinkable loss of two young lives caught in the middle.

A social worker brought the two boys to Josh Powell's home Sunday for what was to be a supervised visit. They rushed toward the home, leaving the social worker behind. By the time she got to the door, Powell had let his sons in but locked her out, Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Franz told The Associated Press.

Pierce County sheriff's Sgt. Ed Troyer said emails Powell sent just prior to the blaze seemed to confirm that Powell planned the deadly fire. He didn't elaborate on the content of the emails.

Jeffrey Bassett, who represented Powell in the custody case, said he received an ominous email from his client just minutes before the fire.

"I'm sorry, goodbye," it read.

Investigators tried to fill in holes Monday in the case with an arson investigation at the home and autopsies on Josh Powell and his sons, said Troyer. Local detectives also are meeting with police from West Valley City, Utah, who have been looking for Susan Powell.

Steve Richards, assistant chief of Graham Fire and Rescue, said crews were assessing the remnants of the home to determine how the fire began and what types of accelerants might have been used. He said responders arrived on scene about three minutes after getting the call and found flames already through the roof.

"It was just devastation," he said.

Fire investigators were slowly moving around the home Monday morning, measuring areas both inside and out. All the bodies were found Sunday in one room in the middle of the home, Troyer said.

A candle light vigil was held Sunday night for the boys outside the 7-year-old's school in Puyallup.

The investigation will include a closer looks at Josh Powell's last movements and messages.

Chaplains have been working with the family of Susan Powell.

Josh Powell's father also was informed of the death in the jail in Tacoma where he's being held for investigation of voyeurism. He's on suicide watch, Troyer said.

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services said the social worker who brought the boys to Josh Powell's home for what was to be a supervised visit is "suffering from grave emotional trauma as a result of the horrific event." The department will conduct a formal child fatality review.

She did all she could, Troyer said.

The social worker called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas. Moments later, the home burst into flames, igniting an inferno that neighbors said rattled their houses. Some sort of accelerant was used to make the house burn faster, Troyer said.

Susan Powell, a 28-year-old mother of two, was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job in Utah.

Authorities in the couple's hometown of West Valley City, about 10 miles outside Salt Lake City, quickly turned their attention to Josh Powell. He's been the only "person of interest" in the case, but had repeatedly denied any involvement in her disappearance.

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