Josh Powell packs up West Valley City home

Some in his family question move with wife still missing

Published: Sunday, Jan. 10 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Josh Powell loads up a moving truck at his home in West Valley City Saturday. Powell's friends and neighbors helped him fill a U-Haul truck and trailer with the contents of his home Saturday in preparation for a move to his home state of Washington. Powell?s wife, Susan, has been missing since Dec. 7.

T.j. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — A quiet, somber-looking Josh Powell spent Saturday, accompanied by as many as 20 volunteers, filling a U-Haul truck and trailer with the contents of his home.

Some say he's moving on. Others say he can't afford to stay. But whatever the reason, there were plenty of people still willing to help.

Throughout the morning, friends and neighbors came trickling in to help Powell pack his belongings from his home at 6254 W. Sarah Circle for the move to his home state of Washington. The way they see it, until they know what happened to his wife, Susan, Powell is a friend and neighbor like any other.

"The biggest thing is, nobody knows," said John Dabel, a member of Powell's LDS Church ward. "We're like everybody else. You just hope somebody you know wouldn't do something like that. But we don't even know if anything did happen."

Powell's wife has been missing since Dec. 7. Police say he is a person of interest in the case but they are frustrated with his lack of cooperation. Powell, who lost his job since his wife went missing, went back to Washington with the couple's two sons, ages 2 and 4, over the holidays before returning this weekend to move away indefinitely.

Though many volunteers seemed to believe that Powell had to move due to his current economic situation, his brother-in-law Kirk Graves said as far as he knows, they're up to date on their house payments. And there are a good number of people willing to help and provide a place for him to stay in Utah.

"We would much rather him be here for a couple of reasons," Graves told the Deseret News. "Here, he might be a help with the investigation, and we would love to still see the kids. But we don't have any say in that and he's going to do what he's going to do."

Graves said he and his wife, Jennifer, who is Powell's sister, have been helping with the move for three days. He said Powell will be moving in with his father in Puyallup, Wash., and has been really focused on the move.

Unless Powell is asked to return by his attorney or police, he has no plans to return to Utah, Graves said.

"I'd say he's moving on," Graves said. "There's a lot of stress in his life. He's quieter than normal and isn't talking as much as he normally does."

Powell largely ignored the media Saturday, doing little more than shaking his head no to numerous inquiries as to whether he'd like to make a statement or answer questions.

Neighbor and family friend Kiirsi Hellewell said she and her husband helped Josh Powell pack up boxes Friday night, including Susan Powell's belongings.

"I can't even tell you how hard it was," she said. "As I packed every item of her clothing, I could picture her wearing it."

Josh Powell had "a lot of stuff" as a result of his various career changes, John Hellewell said. He believes the move is largely an economic decision.

"It's not like anyone's going to give him a job right now," he said, adding Josh Powell has said he'll take any job available at this point.

"He can't afford the house, and he's got to get the stuff out before the bank gets to it," John Hellewell said. Neighbors said Josh Powell told them he'd like to finish the basement before renting or selling the house.

Friend and neighbor Ron Stagg said the decision Josh Powell has made to move in the midst of an ongoing search for Susan Powell is his to make.

"No matter who's responsible for Susan's disappearance, Josh is still suffering," he said.

Meantime, the Hellewells and others are trying to keep Susan Powell's face and name in the public. Michelle Oreno, a member of the Powells' LDS ward who met the couple when they moved to Utah five years ago, organized a group of women to tie lavender ribbons for lapel pins. They said lavender is one of Susan Powell's favorite colors.

Oreno said that they had assembled about 300 pins and were planning to give them to "anybody who wants one."

Kiirsi Hellewell said the next step will be a fundraiser but said she didn't know what it would be or where the funds would go.

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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