WEST VALLEY CITY — E-mails sent last year by Susan Powell to friends told of marriage struggles between her and her husband to the point that she seemed to be in fear of him.
Several of her friends, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed to the Deseret News that they had turned over to police e-mails that she sent them in June and July of 2008, the point when all friends agreed the Powells' marriage was at its worst.
One friend confirmed that in one of the e-mails, Susan Powell said she was afraid Josh Powell might kidnap her two boys, divorce her or worse.
The friend said Susan Powell had talked to her one day about something she had written and left in her desk at work.
"She had mentioned about writing something so that no one would ever think she committed suicide. She said it would be so her boys would know that she would never kill herself, because she would never leave her boys alone," the friend said.
"I didn't really know the context in which she was talking. I didn't even know what to say to that."
The friend said that was the only time Susan Powell brought up that topic.
West Valley police on Tuesday declined to talk about any potential evidence in the case. Other friends had reported earlier that a notebook Susan Powell kept in her desk at work at Wells Fargo was among the items seized by police.
The notebook, according to one source, detailed threats allegedly made about a year ago against her.
Susan Powell has been missing 16 days as of Tuesday. She was last seen Dec. 6. A cloud of suspicion has hovered over Josh Powell since her disappearance. Police have called him a person of interest, but they have not called him a suspect. The case is still classified as a missing person investigation, but with suspicious and criminal overtones.
For Susan Powell's friends and family, a red flag to them that foul play is likely involved is that she never would have left her two young boys, ages 2 and 4.
"She wouldn't even go visiting teaching for an hour without the boys," one friend said.
Susan Powell remained active in her LDS ward, even after her husband stopped going to church, according to friends. She was in the Relief Society and recently had accepted a new calling prior to her disappearance.
Friends say 2008 was a tough year for the Powells' marriage. They confirmed previous reports that Josh Powell was very controlling and that his wife had confided to a few friends that she was considering whether to leave him.
"She'd talk about how she was debating about how she should get divorced. But she wanted to give him a chance to change to how he was when they first met. She said if they tried counseling, she'd give him another chance," a friend said, but added, "I don't know if anything was really changing."
"She prayed about it. She felt like she should stay and keep working on the marriage," another friend said.
One friend said counseling was supposed to be once a week, but they didn't always keep to that schedule.
The Powells filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2007. Money issues seemed to continue to be a point of contention between the couple in the years following.
But as far as friends could tell, Josh and Susan Powell were doing much better in 2009. And despite her e-mails, friends say she always tried to be optimistic.
"She's just very outgoing and bubbly. When she was having a hard time, you wouldn't know. She always tried to be positive and uplifting to others," a friend said.
But friends say she also started standing up more to her husband. She gained more confidence, they said.
"They knew how to push each other's buttons," a friend said.
Friends also noted that going on a spur of the moment camping trip wasn't necessarily out of the ordinary for Josh Powell. One friend recalled a time when Susan Powell had to get a ride home from work from another person because of a miscommunication with her husband. He decided one afternoon to take his two boys camping, the friend said. They returned about 3 a.m. because it got too cold, and the boys subsequently got sick.
"I don't know if he thinks things through sometimes," the friend said. "He just kind of picks up and decides to do it."
The father of Susan Powell told Seattle's KIRO-TV Tuesday that he wants some answers from his son-in-law about what happened to his daughter.
"I would like to hear a credible story," Chuck Cox said. "I'd like to know the facts, what happened. What does he know, what does he not know. And if it clears him, that's great because now we can get on to the main focus, which is where is my daughter at."
Josh Powell left Utah with his two boys this weekend and is in seclusion at his father's home in Puyallup, Wash. Members of Susan Powell's family, who also live there, had not yet seen the boys as of late Tuesday but very much want to, said Shelby Gifford, a family spokeswoman.
As for whether Josh Powell had anything to do with his wife's disappearance, at least one friend didn't want to go there.
"At the very beginning, I was really hoping he had nothing to do with it, just because he has a different personality. The way he came across on the news wasn't good for people who didn't know him," the friend said. "At this point, I don't want to say anything. It's hard to talk about, anyway."