Case for missing Utah mother, Susan Powell, still 'very active'

Published: Saturday, Aug. 20 2011 1:00 p.m. MDT

Other than about a dozen mine shafts and a couple of dilapidated structures, the investigators left well enough alone in Nevada.

"I actually thought they were going to be looking in hotels, apartments, you know, things like that," Susan Cox Powell's husband, Josh Powell said. "That's what I was hoping they'd be looking for — for people — frankly, for Susan."

He said Friday that he found the police announcement of a search to be almost a non-event.

"It just didn't seem like they said anything," said Josh Powell, who has been named as a person of interest and not a suspect in the case of his missing wife. "Honestly, that's what went through my mind." 

Similar thoughts were had by several of Susan Cox Powell's family members and friends, who said the seemingly impromptu search left them even more confused about the case. However, retired FBI special agent Lou Bertram said the search might be part of a larger strategy on the part of West Valley police. 

"Maybe by announcing it, they thought Josh was going to get in the car and drive to Ely and check a mine to make sure she's still there or something," he said. "I don't know. I have no idea."

Bertram said there is a tactic called "being proactive" that is meant to let potential suspects know police are on their trail. 

"It means that you come up with some suggestions and ideas, some may not be entirely ethical, maybe in a gray area, but the point being that you want to set up a scenario," he explained. He said the FBI used a similar plan of action while investigating the Unabomber case.

In that case, Bertram said the initial search "bombed," but added that law enforcement did "get the ball rolling" with the tactic.

"I think (West Valley City police) had some ideas and wanted to see what developed and what an individual might do," Bertram said.  That said, he thinks more manpower should have been committed to the search effort.

"I wish they had 300 people down there," Bertram said. "That's the way to do it."

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said that out of respect for the investigation, he has not pried for details on the Ely search, but has full confidence in the police department, "whether it's in two days, two months or two years, this mystery will be solved."

He acknowledged that Friday's press conference in Ely was unusual but added that in his opinion its good to have the media along for the search to help the public know what is going on.

"I'm optimistic that at the end of the day when this mystery is solved we'll look back on this weekend and understand where it fit into the scheme of things and how important it really was," Winder said.

Contributing: John Daley, Sarah Dallof and Paul Nelson

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards

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