Susan Powell case: 'We've got more stuff than they can even imagine'
Investigation in the '4th quarter,' West Valley chief says
Nielsen said his department got "beat up" in the media over their recent search in Ely, which included a check of abandoned mine shafts in the mountains outside of town. But detectives went there and to the Topaz Mountain area based on "solid evidence," he said. As for the "Monday morning armchair quarterbacks," Nielsen said he has told his investigators to mostly ignore them.
"They don't know that we've got more stuff than they can even imagine," the chief said.
Because of a court issued gag order, Nielsen cannot talk about specific evidence in the case.
He said detectives spent three to four months in the Simpson Springs area — the place where Powell said he took his children camping on the winter night in December 2009 when his wife went missing. Officers spent part of that time talking to mining experts, using cameras and cables, presumably to check abandoned mine shafts.
Whatever the public thinks they know about the case or whomever they think is responsible, Nielsen said it has to be backed up by evidence.
"It takes evidence, prosecution and a conviction. We only get one shot at this," he said. "People should realize we haven't given up ever."
There is no statute of limitation for filing a case. So Nielsen said he wants his detectives to do it right.
When asked whether the public search of Ely was also meant to "shake the trees" of potential suspects to see how they'd react, Nielsen admitted that was a small part of their motives.
"Whatever we say here today, Josh will be reading tomorrow," he said. "I committed to Mr. Cox that we will give him everything. And I think with this last round, we'll start to see some things move now, so I'm really optimistic we're in the right direction."
Nielsen said his detectives had checked each lead at least a couple of times, including the theory that Susan ran away with missing Utah man Steven Koecher. Both Josh and Steven Powell have repeatedly said they believe that's what happened to her. The police chief said there is no evidence to support that.
"We didn't have any leads or any evidence, and we still don't today, that would indicate she's still alive," he said.
Nielsen roughly estimated the department has spent about $500,000 on the case. But through donations and other means — in addition to the tremendous cooperation from law enforcement agencies both in Utah and Washington — he said it has all worked out.
Some detectives have been working three months straight without a day off.
"The drain on resources is really significant," Nielsen admitted. "It's been one of the tougher years I can remember."
The biggest reason the case has progressed so slowly is the lack of cooperation from Josh Powell.
"We had to turn over every rock. That's what's so difficult about this case," Nielsen said. "We've had no help from Josh. So we've had to turn over every little shred ourselves."
The chief also said he is extremely concerned about Susan and Josh Powell's two young sons, who were taken into state custody last week when their paternal grandfather, Steven Powell, was arrested. Nielsen made his comments prior to Tuesday's custody hearing in Puyallup. A judge is expected to decide today whether their father or their maternal grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox, will have custody.
With everything that's happening currently with Josh and Steven Powell, Nielsen isn't sure the Powell home is the best place for the two boys. He recounted that when West Valley police arrived at their home last month to serve their search warrant, the children were playing in the yard.
The children apparently knew one of the female Pierce County sheriff's deputies. The other officers present said it was almost "emotional" how the two boys sprinted to the deputy when they saw her and gave her a big hug, Nielsen said.
"We're going to solve this. This is going to get resolved. I promised the Coxes I would never give up. It's been a long road but it's starting to come around," he said.
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