West Valley police search Washington home of Susan Powell's husband

Police remove computer equipment from the home

Published: Thursday, Aug. 25 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

Josh Powell, foreground right, husband of missing Utah mother Susan Cox Powell, talks with one of approximately two dozen law enforcement office officers from the West Valley City Utah Police Department and Pierce County Sheriff's Department who are investigating leads in the two-year-old case, at the home of Josh's father, Steve Powell, in Puyallup, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. Two years after Susan Powell vanished, her case has spiraled into a salacious saga of finger-pointing and accusations of sex and lies between two sparring families.

Associated Press

PUYALLUP, Wash. — West Valley police officers arrived in Washington Thursday to serve search warrants at the home of the father-in-law of missing Utahn Susan Cox Powell.

About a dozen investigators from West Valley and 10 forensics experts and detectives from the Pierce County Sheriff's Office in Washington arrived about 2:45 p.m. Thursday and searched until just before 10 p.m. at the home of Steven Powell, where Susan's husband, Josh Powell, also lives with their two boys.

A large group of residents arrived near the property to watch and police were seen taking computer equipment from the home.

"This warrant stems from information that detectives have developed during the investigation and there is probable cause to believe that there is evidence inside their home and/or vehicles that will help further the case," West Valley Police Sgt. Mike Powell said.

West Valley police have previously conducted searches at the Puyallup home, but those were conducted with consent from Steven Powell. "This is the first time we've come in here with a search warrant," West Valley Police Lt. Bill Merritt said.

Merritt confirmed he and his team were looking for specific items, but would not elaborate.

In order to serve a search warrant, he said, "We have to have probable cause that they (items of evidentiary value) exist and they are in the Powell home or their vehicles."

No one was detained or arrested Thursday.

"They were told up front, 'You're free to go. ... We're not detaining you,'" Merritt said of Josh Powell and others in the home. Steve Powell was not home and was reportedly out of town on business when police arrived.

Merritt said the family did not know beforehand that police would serve the warrants.

Thursday's activity came during a week of renewed interest in the Susan Powell case, first sparked by a highly-publicized police search in Ely, Nev., and further fueled by an intensifying battle of words between Josh and Steve Powell and Chuck Cox, Susan's father.

Susan Powell, a 28-year-old mother of two, has been missing since Dec. 6, 2009. The night before she was reported missing, Josh Powell said he took their two young children camping in single-digit temperatures in a remote part of Tooele County in the middle of the night. When he returned a day and a half later, he said his wife was gone.

Josh Powell has been called a person of interest in the case because West Valley police say he has been uncooperative.

The search warrants were not connected to last weekend's search outside of Ely.

"This has been something that has been in the works before the search in Ely took place. They are not connected," Merritt said.

The warrants permitted investigators to search the Powell home and other vehicles. After officers searched Josh Powell's minivan, it was cleared. Josh Powell was at the house for about an hour before he left in that van.

News helicopters followed Josh Powell and his two boys as he drove to a McDonald's drive-thru, then to a park where the children played.

Kirk Graves, who is married to Josh Powell's sister, Jennifer, said news of the warrants took him by surprise Thursday.

"There's a certain amount of excitement knowing there's something the police have something to act on," he said.

The case has been difficult for him and his wife, who is estranged from her father and brother — particularly since the recent search in Ely and the war of words that has escalated since.

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