Horrific details emerge in Josh Powell double-murder and suicide

Published: Monday, Feb. 6 2012 8:00 a.m. MST

Denise Cox, sister to Susan Powell, is emotional as she talks with the press at Emma L. Carson Elementary School where her nephews went to school in Puyallup, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Editor's Note: Please be advised, some of the content in this article may be disturbing.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — Josh Powell used a hatchet to try to kill his two young sons before igniting the gasoline he'd spread throughout his home, creating the inferno that ultimately claimed them.

That startling information came from the results of an autopsy that determined Charlie and Braden Powell died from carbon monoxide poisoning. But 5-year-old Braden also suffered "chop injuries" to his head and neck. His 7-year-old brother, Charlie, suffered a chop injury to his neck, said Melissa Baker, an investigator with the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office.

Josh Powell's death was listed as a suicide. His sons' deaths were listed as homicides.The hatchet was found Monday in the charred debris at Powell's home.

The autopsy results were the most shocking in a day of revelations: Powell used 10 gallons of gasoline to ignite the fire; e-mails were sent not just to his attorney, but to friends and family foreshadowing his plans; the children's toys were given away by Powell before his children's arrival, and the head of the West Valley Police Department came to Washington vowing to press on in the search for Susan Powell to give closure to the children's grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox.

On Monday, Cox recalled going into his grandsons' bedroom Saturday night to find them both "curled up in their beds sleeping peacefully."

Braden was tucked into his bed with pillow sheets from the Disney movie "Cars." Charlie was sleeping underneath a Spiderman themed bedspread. The boys were worn out after a day of watching their older cousin play basketball and then playing in their grandparents' large backyard full of dirt piles, trees and lots of mud and water.

Sunday morning, the boys had a breakfast of fruit and cereal. Then Chuck Cox went off to a church function. The boys, who were not allowed to attend services or be influenced by the LDS Church at the insistence of their father, Josh Powell, were picked up at 11:30 a.m. to be taken to their father's home for one of their weekly three-hour supervised visits.

Now, Cox says it's too painful to have those beds in his house.

"I'm going to have to take them down. I can't have them here," he said Monday.

Sunday at breakfast was the last time Cox saw his two grandchildren.

"Very, very quite shocking. We had no idea it was going to end in this way for these boys. We had made plans to take care of them," Cox said Monday at his Puyallup home. "I couldn't believe it's happening."

Cox was able to keep his composure for the most part on Monday as he accommodated numerous media requests for interviews. But at times, he fought back tears as he recalled his last days with Braden and Charlie.

"We knew we were not going to bring Susan back, but we were hoping to at least give the boys a chance at a good life. And now that's been taken away by their father killing them."

The sad reflections were shared Monday, a day after police said Josh Powell took two 5-gallon cans filled with gasoline into his house in the sleepy town of Graham, Wash., at 8119 189th Street Court East.

"One (can) was found with the bodies. The other one, we believe, was spread throughout the house. There were accelerants throughout the entire house," Pierce County Sheriff's Sgt. Ed Troyer said.

Investigators combed through the rubble of Powell's house Monday. They believe the fire started somewhere near the center of the home and was set immediately after the children were taken to the house by a court-appointed supervisor.

"He (Powell) pushed her out. He blocked her out," Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said of the supervisor. "The whole thing was planned."

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