SALT LAKE CITY — Concerns about the behavior of Josh Powell's two young sons. The intense feud between the Cox and Powell families. Josh Powell's "triggers." Steven Powell's divorce.
About 1,700 additional pages of documents relating to Josh Powell and his family were released Friday by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. The documents included court filings, case reports, doctor evaluations and more.
Two weeks ago, the department released about 1,000 pages of documents including case notes, visitation reports, examinations and intake referrals concerning Charlie Powell, 7, and Braden Powell, 5. The documents shed light on the disturbing and negative influences Josh Powell was having on his young children. They also outlined in detail pornographic computer-generated images Powell had on his computer.
Friday, the remaining case documents were released. Much of documents repeated what was already reported. But they also shed more light into the mental state of Powell and his sons and how their attitudes seemed to change over the months they were monitored. But while the psychological well-being of the children seemed to genuinely improve, Powell only seemed to become better trained on how to give the right answers to observers.
Powell killed Charlie and Braden Feb. 5 by striking the boys with a hatchet before dousing the inside of his house with gasoline and igniting a fireball. Powell also died in the fire.
Since the murders, many have questioned whether enough was done by officials in Washington state to protect the boys and whether enough information was shared between law enforcement, welfare officials and the courts.
Last week, Chuck and Judy Cox, the grandparents of Charlie and Braden, spoke at a public hearing hosted by Washington state Sen. Pam Roach, who is calling for change in the way Child Protective Services and the Washington Department of Social and Health Services do business.
The Coxes believe that there were enough red flags — especially after Powell was ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation four days before he killed his sons — that he should not have been allowed any type of visitation with the children.
One of the major revelations in the set of documents released last month was that approximately 400 computer-generated pornographic images — some depicting incest — were found on Powell's computer seized in West Valley City in 2009. In court documents released Friday, prosecutors in Washington noted on Nov. 21, 2011, to DSHS that they were hearing for the first time about "5-6 images released of computer generated incestuous child porn. No one has seen these images up here, don't know how important they are," John Long, with the Washington Attorney General's Office, said in an email to the state.
On Jan. 26, 2012, just 10 days before the boys were killed, the state sent a letter to the doctor who conducted the psychological evaluation on Powell stating they had learned the number of images on Powell's computer was more in the range of 400.
Like in the first set of documents released, Friday's batch also outlined potential behavioral problems with the children, which seemed to improve after they were placed with the Cox family.
The children were placed in the custody of the Cox family on Sept 22, 2011. A state report on Charlie from Sept. 26 noted that "counseling is recommended given the multiple stressors in his life."
A child health and education tracking report for Charlie dated Oct. 19, 2011, noted that "Charlie has told his grandparents that he does not like school because people don't like him. The grandparents think this is because of the situation they are in and what other children may be hearing or saying."
The report noted concerns that Charlie "worries about everything, he can be selfish" and at times anti-social.
A report dated Oct. 26 noted that Charlie had made comments such as, "My grandparents are evil," and "I know my grandparents are trying to keep me from seeing my dad."
During a supervised visit with their father on Nov. 27, state worker Elizabeth Griffin-Hall noted that when Braden asked Josh about his favorite color, he replied, "All the colors are my favorite, just like Mommy." Charlie responded that his grandmother told them purple was "Mommy's favorite."
"Dad said that she loved all the colors and they knew Mommy so it didn't matter what other people said," according to the report.
Later Braden said, "'They found Mommy in the desert.' Dad asked them, 'Who said that?' The boys didn't answer Dad and stopped talking. Dad became agitated and turned red. He asked the boys again and they did not respond. I changed the subject back to eating dessert. Dad did not appear to recover his balance and composure during the rest of the visit. He remained agitated and seemed angry at the situation," Griffin-Hall wrote.
A report for Braden noted that he "seems to like it when he takes something and it makes the other person mad, cry or get in trouble and seems to have no regard for others." Yet another report showed that Braden felt sad when others were hurt.
Both the Cox family and Josh Powell agreed that counseling was needed for both children.
After the children were taken into protective custody and about to be placed with the Coxes, Steve Downing, the Coxes' attorney, noted that there would be "a national media crush based upon the nature of this case."
Josh Powell's behavior and interaction with his children was also recorded in many documents.
The day after the boys were removed from Josh Powell's house, he told the state that the Coxes were "the most dangerous people on the planet to my sons."
But in a follow-up evaluation on Feb. 1, just days before Powell murdered his children, he said, "If anyone wants to be honest with themselves and the situation, the real story is not that anyone is a bad person, including me. The story is one of overcoming and rising above what many people think are insurmountable challenges. I know my own heart is free of any guilt regardless what people claim. I know the Coxes and others have suffered as much as me and it is time to let go of hurtful attitudes."
In one case report, state officials noted that Josh Powell "has not been diagnosed with anything but there is a concern about possible mental illness," and wrote, "He is a suspect in the murder of his wife Susan Cox Powell." A later diagnosis concluded Powell possibly had adjustment disorder with anxiety and traits of narcissistic personality disorder.
Handwritten letters Powell wrote to his boys after they were removed from his house were also released Friday. Powell appeared to have written a letter to each son every day. The short letters generally said, "I love you" and "I can't wait to see you." In a letter dated Oct. 3, 2011, Powell tells Charlie, "Everything I do is for you."
On Oct. 6, 2011, Powell asks his sons to write back to him, noting that he had not received letters from them yet. On Oct. 8, he wrote to his sons that his letters to them may be delayed because he was told to send them "through the government" instead of directly to the Cox family.Comment on this story
Documents released Friday also reveal that per Washington state law, the Pierce County Superior Court attempted to serve Susan Powell with notice of the dependency hearings regarding her sons. The papers were eventually given back to the court with "return of service" written on them.
The Department of Social and Health Services recently announced who was selected to serve on the Child Fatality Review Team for the Powell children. A review team is selected for every DSHS case that involves a death. The 12-member team includes attorneys, police, child welfare advocates, a psychologist and Washington state lawmakers.