Josh Powell keeping a low profile, moving to Washington

Published: Friday, Jan. 8 2010 12:32 a.m. MST

WEST VALLEY CITY — Josh Powell did his best to stay out of the public eye again Thursday as he reportedly prepared for his move back to Washington.

Friends and neighbors say the husband of Susan Powell, missing for over a month, is selling his house and moving back to his hometown of Puyallup, Wash. Josh and his two sons, ages 2 and 4, have reportedly been staying with relatives in Washington since Christmas.

Kiirsi Hellewell, a close friend of Susan's, said Josh has asked members of his LDS ward to help him move on Saturday. Hellewell said before Susan disappeared, Josh had started attending their ward again and has reportedly been attending church in Washington.

Susan Powell, 28, has been missing since Dec. 7. Josh told police he went camping in a remote area of Tooele County about 12:30 a.m. that day with his two boys. When he returned, his wife was gone. Thursday, a body wrapped in duct-taped plastic was discovered about 40 miles outside West Wendover, Nev., creating high speculation that Powell's body may have been found. Investigators determined quickly, however, the body was not Powell.

"The position they're taking is they're relieved that it's not Susan," said family spokeswoman Shelby Gifford. "And after the pain of the last month, their hearts are pretty tender."

The family sent an update on the twitter page for Susan, expressing their condolences for the family of the victim, who detectives from the Elko County Sheriff's Office in Nevada said is that of a Hispanic male about 5 feet 5 inches tall. The body was discovered about noon Thursday in the Pilot Valley area, said Elko Undersheriff Doug Gailey.

Initial reports of the body led to speculation that it might be the remains of Susan Powell.

Hellewell said she was crying and shaking out of fear the body would be identified as Susan, which would have dashed any hope that she would be found alive.

"I'm pretty shaky — at the time, it was really horrendous," Hellewell said. "We are extremely relieved it's not her, but at the same time, it was like, let this be over. The waiting is the worst part."

With their hope of possibly finding Susan restored after a nerve-wracking couple of hours, Hellewell said friends and family devoted to finding her plan to work "harder than ever" by passing out more fliers and ribbons to spur efforts.

Since Susan went missing a month ago, friends and family have maintained hope that she will be returned to them. However, police who have been working on the case say Susan's husband, Josh Powell, has been uncooperative in answering their questions. That, combined with a pair of odd media interviews and reports of unusual behavior, has raised public speculation and criticism of Josh. Police have called him a person of interest in the case. Powell lost his job soon after his wife disappeared and questions about his behavior surfaced.

Also Thursday, some neighbors were still talking about a dispute over a swing set in the Powell's backyard that ended with police being called to the Powell house Wednesday afternoon.

The Powells have a playground set in their backyard at 6254 W. Sarah Circle. The man who built that swing set and placed it in the yard so his kids and Josh's kids could use it claimed the swing set was his, said West Valley police Capt. Tom McLachlan.

But after a pickup truck was backed up to the Powell's yard Wednesday and became stuck in the snow, a dispute over ownership of the playground equipment started between the neighbor and Michael Powell, Josh's brother who drove to Utah with him from Washington to help him move. McLachlan said Michael Powell reportedly changed his mind and thought moving the swing set would become too much of a problem.

Although he wouldn't classify it as an argument, McLachlan said Michael Powell "was nervous about all the media" sitting out front watching, and he called police.

An officer arrived to keep the peace but did not arrest anyone. Because of the dispute over who owned the property, the group was ordered to keep the play equipment where it was, McLachlan said.

Josh Powell was not seen by the responding officer, he said. McLachlan said because he is not a suspect, Powell is free to leave the state whenever he wants.

Meanwhile, friends and families who helped launch a 72-hour social media blitz over such networks as Facebook and Twitter were extremely pleased Thursday with the results,

Approximately 22,000 people friended the "Friends and Family of Susan Powell" Facebook page during those three days.

"That 22,000 means 44,000 new eyes and ears," said Gifford. "Who knows what that might end up being?"

Gifford believed they had received Facebook responses from every continent. Messages were received over the past three days from Japan, Australia, Africa and Mexico, she said.

"(The social media blitz) went extremely well. Way beyond our expectations," Hellewell said. "The main point beside keeping her name and face in the news was hoping someone would remember something."

Both Hellewell and Gifford said the campaign resulted in some good new tips about the case that police are now following up.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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