New documents raise question: Why weren't charges filed against Josh Powell?

Published: Friday, March 30 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Sgt. Mike Powell of the West Valley City Police Department makes a public statement in West Valley City, Friday, March 30, 2012 regarding the ruling made in the state of Washington in reference to the search warrant served at the Steve and Josh Powell residence on August 25, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Evidence collected by West Valley police more than two years ago was enough to charge Josh Powell, a Washington state prosecutor said Friday.

Susan Cox Powell's sister believes the same thing.

Search warrants unsealed Friday in Tacoma, Wash. — including an affidavit written by West Valley police — provide some of the strongest evidence yet that Josh Powell was responsible for the disappearance and death of his wife.

Much of the evidence revealed in the search warrant came from the first three months of the investigation. Yet no charges were ever filed and 26 months later, Powell killed his children and himself.

Friday, West Valley police still weren't willing to call Josh Powell a suspect in his wife's disappearance and continue to call it a missing persons case after two murders and a suicide.

"Based on the facts we now know, I can say the case against Josh Powell for the murder of Susan Powell is one we would have charged," Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Friday. "There is direct evidence, there is circumstantial evidence, there is motive, there is everything but the body."

Nearly eight pages of the first 18-page warrant — which was written to investigate the crimes of murder, kidnapping and obstruction — listed a slew of details that all points to Josh Powell.

Some of the information had not been previously released: Susan Powell's cellphone was found in Josh Powell's car; Susan Powell's blood was found in her home; a tarp, shovel and gas can were found in Josh Powell's car; and members of Powell's own family accused him of lying within hours of Susan's disappearance.

Pierce County is not the investigative or prosecuting agency in the case of Susan Powell. If charges are filed, the case would be prosecuted in Utah, not Washington.

West Valley police on Friday would not address questions outside of what was released in the search warrants, including whether there was enough evidence to arrest Josh Powell or whether they believed they needed to find Susan Powell's body before making an arrest.

"Anything specific to our investigation I'm not going to be able to address," West Valley Police Sgt. Mike Powell said. "Anything that might impede our investigation will not be discussed."

Susan Cox Powell's family, however, believes more should have been done. An upset Denise Cox, Susan's sister, wondered Friday from her home in Puyallup, Wash., why the information was kept sealed until now.

“The boys would be alive if they had done something sooner," she said. “I’m wondering why they didn’t do anything two years ago. ... Somebody needs to be held accountable, but I don’t know who."

Cox said she was not surprised by the evidence that came out Friday.

“I think that was enough to convict him. I think anyone would have convicted him," she said.

Her father, Chuck Cox, also expressed disappointment that Josh was not arrested, believing police had enough evidence to take Josh into custody "probably within a week I think."

Cox participated with law enforcement in attempts to pressure Josh Powell into cooperating with police. "I told them several times it wasn't going to work," Cox said. "Unless he was in jail facing the charges before the judge, that's when he would have felt the pressure."

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said his detectives would have arrested Powell "a long time ago" if this had been their case. He said a detective in Washington state was aware of the details gathered and local authorities had been anticipating that Utah investigators would pursue an arrest.

"Obviously, it's frustrating," Troyer said. "We were always waiting for the phone call to go arrest him."

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