Judge grants temporary custody of Powell children to their maternal grandparents

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 28 2011 11:00 a.m. MDT

Josh Powell, the husband of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, listens during a court hearing regarding the custody of his two sons, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011, in Tacoma, Wash. Powell's sons are currently with Susan's parents, but Josh Powell is asking for custody to be returned to him.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

TACOMA, Wash. — Josh Powell said he would rather have his two young sons temporarily live in foster care than with the parents of his missing wife.

He even offered to "provide the cost of transportation" of taking his older son to school if the judge allowed him to remain in foster care.

But the judge disagreed with Powell, and on Wednesday granted temporary custody of his children, ages 4 and 6, to their grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox.

Saying there was the "serious threat of substantial harm" if the children were allowed to return to the Powell home, Judge Kathryn Nelson ruled she "cannot return the children home at this time to the father" and agreed to allow the two boys to remain with their maternal grandparents at least for several weeks.

Another court hearing in the matter was scheduled for Nov. 15.

That decision came following a day long court hearing in the Pierce County Courthouse filled with renewed allegations against Josh Powell and the role he may have played in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Cox Powell. There were also new allegations that Washington officials say showed his home was not a safe environment for young children, and in fact put the boys in "imminent risk."

It was also a ruling that seemed to take Powell by surprise, as he said in court: "I was expecting to bring my sons home. I had no reason to believe they would not come back with me."

The decision to grant temporary custody of the children to the Cox family came with several conditions:

• Josh Powell will be allowed to have three hours of supervised visitation with the boys on Sundays while the Coxes are at church. He had requested unsupervised time with his children and asked that his sons not be allowed to attend LDS Church services.

• Josh will undergo a psychological evaluation including a "parental component."

• The boys will get immediate counseling

• Both parties will not speak poorly of the other in the presence of the children while also doing their best to protect them from their ongoing legal issues and the investigation into their mother's disappearance.

Wednesday's ruling is based on last week's decision by the Pierce County Sheriff's Office to pull the children out of the house and place them in protective custody as part of a "shelter care dependency case." A custody petition filed by Chuck and Judy Cox for their grandchildren will be placed on hold while this dependency case runs its course.

The Coxes fought for custody of their grandchildren, arguing that they believe their son-in-law is responsible for the disappearance of their daughter. Prosecutors also argued on Tuesday that Josh Powell is a subject in a voyeurism and pornography investigation.

Assistant Washington attorney general John Long, who is representing the Washington state Children's Administration, made additional arguments Wednesday about why the children should not be living in the home with Josh and his father, Steven Powell. He said Josh's mentally disabled brother has answered the door in the nude in the past and is often nude inside the home.

Long also told the judge that Josh Powell has admitted that he takes photos of people's legs in public without their knowledge. Long also talked about a poster of a woman found inside the house with a knife stuck through her.

But Josh Powell denied the allegations and had an answer for each accusation. He said the photos of legs were for marketing purposes but he wasn't allowed to show faces. He said the nudity was because when police showed up at the door with a search warrant, he didn't have time to get dressed. "My brother is a decent, modest person," he said.

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