Susan Powell case: 'We've got more stuff than they can even imagine'

Investigation in the '4th quarter,' West Valley chief says

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 27 2011 11:02 p.m. MDT

Police have kept Chuck Cox informed throughout the investigation, including this month's search at Topaz Mountain.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley Police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen admits he takes the case of missing mother Susan Cox Powell very personally.

"I promised (Chuck Cox) that we would do everything that is humanly possible, that we just wouldn't give it up," he said of his vow to Susan's father to resolve the case.

It's been 21 months since Susan Powell was last seen. It's been an investigation that saw a swarm of media attention in the beginning, seemingly went quiet for about a year, and recently skyrocketed to the forefront of news headlines with high profile searches in Ely, Nev., the Topaz Mountain region and at the home of Steven and Josh Powell in Puyallup, Wash.

In a sit-down interview with Nielsen in his office Tuesday, the chief used phrases like being "in the fourth quarter" and the "tipping point" when describing where the investigation into Susan's disappearance is now at.

"We're right here on the verge of this. We get through the evidence in that trailer, I'm greatly optimistic we will be ... oh man, all that hard work is paying off I think," he told the Deseret News.

Much of his excitement comes from the mountain of evidence collected Aug. 25 during the search of Josh and Steven Powell's home.

"We filled a damn trailer. It's going to take us three months to go through it," the chief said.

Investigators collected videos and photographs of child porn as well as images of Susan Powell apparently taken without her knowledge, in addition to other items, and loaded them into an evidence trailer.

Part of that evidence led to the arrest of Steven Powell, Susan's father-in-law, who was charged in Pierce County Superior Court with 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of child porn.

Nielsen said there is still plenty of evidence left to comb through, which could possibly lead to finding other persons of interest.

Nielsen clarified statements that Josh Powell, Susan's husband, is the only person of interest in the case.

"We say, somehow, he's our only person of interest, that's really not true," the chief said. "Anything that comes up, we're looking at it."

Nielsen said investigators did not want to focus on one person and "forget the other stuff."

But the chief also noted that right now, all the outstanding questions in the case keep coming back to the husband.

"Most of the time, generally speaking, you don't do (a crime) in a vacuum. Do our leads keep coming back to that person of interest? Absolutely. But we're not going to rule out any type of other people that show up on these investigations."

When asked whether Steven Powell is a person of interest in Susan's disappearance, Nielsen said, "Not yet, but we don't know." What determines whether he becomes a person of interest could be in the trailer of evidence police collected.

Investigators have said repeatedly that Josh Powell has not cooperated with them. But Powell insists, even in recent interviews, that he has been cooperative.

"None of that is true," Nielsen said.

Josh Powell also recently said in an interview that he would be willing to talk to the FBI but not to West Valley police.

In the coming days, Nielsen said his department plans to draft a letter personally inviting Josh Powell to sit down with the FBI and his department will take care of the expenses.

"If he's innocent, then great, let's figure this out, tell us what we're missing, sit down with us," Nielsen said. "Josh also has the right to tell the truth. He has the right to come forward."

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