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Desert search in Susan Cox Powell case enters 10th day

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 21 2011 3:58 p.m. MDT

DELTA — Wednesday marked the 10th day of a long search around Topaz Mountain for clues into the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell.

"It's been a long couple of days. It's been a long week-and-a-half," said West Valley Police Sgt. Mike Powell.

Searchers from the West Valley Police Department, along with assistance from the Juab and Millard County sheriff's offices, on Wednesday returned to the base camp near the area where they spent four days last week excavating a site that cadaver dogs indicated contained human decomposition. The goal for Wednesday was to go back over a few areas northeast and southwest of the dig site that may not have been as thoroughly searched as investigators would have liked to do the first time, Powell said.

"After each and every day we go back, download all of the GPS coordinates that have been tracked throughout the day by various searchers and we are able to look from an overhead view and see where we have covered and maybe what we haven't covered," he said.

"It gives us maybe a little bit better idea of what we need to accomplish or if we need to push forward in a different direction the next day, and that's exactly what we've done today."

Searchers have found several objects over the past few days that they have either taken pictures of and documented or collected in an evidence bag.

"They have been mainly articles of clothing, clothing items, or pieces of clothing. We've documented where we have located them, photographed them," Powell said.

Whether or not they have anything to do with the Susan Powell case is unknown, he said. Some of the items would be taken back to Salt Lake County for further analysis.

Although investigators have not come up with any hard evidence into the West Valley mother's disappearance, Mike Powell (no relation) said the past week has been very worthwhile.

"We've been successful covering a lot of terrain," he said. "Each and every day we've set out to accomplish some tasks before us, and we've accomplished those tasks. When we set out to search a particular area, we're able to come back and say, 'Yes, we've covered this area, we've searched this area, we're confident and comfortable with the area we have covered,' and that's a success."

At the end of each day, GPS coordinates and other information collected throughout the day are downloaded onto a computer and analyzed. Powell said the determination of how much longer the search will continue will be made on a day-by-day basis based on the information collected.

Powell said the search would likely continue Thursday.

Susan Cox Powell, 28, was last seen on Dec. 6, 2009. On that night, her husband Josh Powell said he took his two young boys camping on a very cold night near Simpson Springs, about 25 miles away from the Topaz Mountain area.

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

The search around Topaz Mountain was the third publicly visible search in the case in the past month. Previous high profile searches included the mountains outside of Ely, Nev. and a search warrant on the home of Josh and Steven Powell, Susan's husband and father-in-law.

Chuck Cox, Susan's father, was in Utah last week when investigators became very interested in an area that was "hit" on by near a dozen cadaver dogs. Detectives found about 100 pieces of what appeared to be charred wood buried about 2 ½ feet underground. Because of the dogs' reaction to the pieces, police say the items likely came into contact with human decomposition at some point, whether that meant blood or tissue or clothing that had come in contact with blood or decomposing tissue.

The charred material was taken by to Salt Lake City for further analysis.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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