Families remain at odds over actions of Josh Powell, even after his death

Josh Powell's sister in Utah had hoped to adopt the two boys

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 8 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

Kirk and Jennifer Graves talk with the media about the recent murder of their nephews in Salt Lake City Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Jennifer is the sister of Josh Powell.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Relatives of Josh Powell have been at odds since his wife disappeared more than two years ago.

Now, even with his death, they remain in conflict.

One side is criticizing police work and a "broken system" that they say contributed to Josh Powell's decision to end his life and take his two young sons with him. Others are finding it difficult to see why there is any misplaced blame at all.

"There's no broken system here. Josh was broken," his estranged sister, Jennifer Graves, said Wednesday. "Josh did this and to blame anyone else for him taking a hatchet to their necks and blowing them up and causing them to suffer for their last breaths is wrong. It's wrong to say that anyone else is at fault here."

Jennifer and Kirk Graves of West Jordan met with reporters for two hours Wednesday, putting the blame squarely on Josh Powell, citing the controlling behavior of their father Steven Powell as contributing to his downfall, and revealing their plan to eventually care for the children.

The Graves had said they were working to adopt 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden Powell into their family and raise them as their own children, "until (Susan) can take over again," Jennifer Graves said.

A significant reminder of those plans now sits in their driveway — a 15-passenger van the couple purchased to make room for their family of seven they hoped would grow by two more.

Josh Powell had different plans.

When his father was taken to jail for investigation of voyeurism and possession of child pornography, Josh Powell had asked an aunt and uncle in Texas to take his boys "should the need arise," according to a statement released Tuesday by Maurice and Patti Leach.

The couple said they have become disillusioned with the legal system after watching the events of the more than 2-year-old case unfold.

"In our hearts and minds, we feel this family tragedy was set into motion from the beginning due in part to the various questionable government agencies' practices, religious bias, the Internet kangaroo courts, and sensationalized news media, all of whom have circumvented the laws that protect all of our rights to due process," the Leaches wrote. "Stewardship of the responsibilities that have been entrusted to those organizations and individuals has been completely compromised.

"America, this is not only a tragedy, Sunday was a dark day for all of our families," the statement continued, adding that the Leaches will hold all members of the lost Powell family in their hearts forever.

On Sunday, Josh Powell killed his children and himself after igniting gasoline he'd spread throughout his home, Washington police said. Investigators said the killings were planned and intentional. They said the 36-year-old father spent his last hours running errands, including a trip to the bank and to a gas station, where he purchased 10 gallons of gasoline and the accompanying containers that were later found charred in his home.

The Leaches said they stand by Josh Powell, citing his "great deal of restraint, with patience and dignity" in recent custody hearings, which they said came from a fear of losing his sons.

A judge hearing the case had recently ordered Josh Powell to undergo a psychosexual evaluation, including a polygraph test. She had said that if the results were positive, it would help his bid to get his children back.

Until then, Chuck and Judy Cox were awarded temporary custody. The Graves said Wednesday the Coxes wanted to remain the boys' grandparents and had a verbal agreement with the Utah couple to help them adopt the children.

Jennifer and Kirk Graves said they felt comfortable with the way things were going, that the judge had given Josh Powell no reason to feel hopeless.

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