Josh Powell should never have been granted visitation, Coxes argue in hearing

Published: Thursday, Feb. 23 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

Chuck Cox (R) and Judy Cox speak during a funeral service for their grandsons, Charlie Powell and Braden Powell, February 11, 2012 in Tacoma, Washington.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — If any good can come out of the deaths of his grandchildren, Chuck Cox said he hopes it's changes in the way Child Protective Services and the Washington Department of Social and Health Services do business.

He called Thursday for a system where "evil is not allowed to flourish," referring to his missing daughter's husband, Josh Powell, who killed his two young sons and himself by setting his home on fire.

While he believes those who work for CPS and DSHS are good people, Cox said, "We believe there are a lack of strong guidelines and there are some policies and procedures that need to change.

"The reason we're here, is because there have been many incidents of failures of the CPS program and the DSHS."

Chuck and Judy Cox spoke Thursday at the John A. Cherberg building in Olympia, Wash., as part of a public hearing hosted by Washington state Sen. Pam Roach, a longtime advocate for changes in the state child welfare system. They were joined by the Coxes' attorneys, Anne Bremner and Steve Downing.

"Chuck and Judy have done everything right in this case, and everything went wrong," Bremner said. "It's the most horrific case I've dealt with in my 30 years of practice."

Bremner said it was clear Josh Powell was the subject of a murder investigation. That — combined with many other red flags, including the 400 images of pornographic animation found on his computer — should have been enough warning to prohibit visitation with his children, especially within his own home.

"Someone that violent should never have had those kids," she said. "How about looking out for the best interest of those kids?"

Charlie Powell, 7, and Braden Powell, 5, were killed just four days after a Pierce County judge ordered their father to undergo a psychosexual evaluation. The Cox family had been given temporary custody of the boys, but the judge said Powell could continue to have supervised visitation. A single supervisor was present for those visits at Powell's rental home. Police believe Powell rented the house only for those supervised visits and did not actually live there.

"Our family has had to deal with an overwhelming amount of tragedy in this past two years," Chuck Cox told the group. "And now our grandchildren have been murdered."

Cox, who wore a purple ribbon representing his missing daughter, Susan Cox Powell, said he wanted to point out what he sees as flaws in the system.

For example, he said even though he believed the children were suffering emotional abuse while living in the house with Josh Powell and his father, Steven Powell, there was no evidence of physical abuse. Because of that, CPS workers were not authorized to do welfare checks.

Cox is also upset that grandparents have very few, if any, rights in the courts when it comes to custody issues. He said he believes Josh Powell had more rights than he deserved.

Cox accused the system of bending over backwards to accommodate Powell's requests, including his insistence that the boys not be allowed to attend LDS Church services on Sunday — or any LDS activities at all, even at the Cox home. Powell, who often expressed strong feelings against Mormons and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had apparently even demanded that his boys not be allowed to step onto church properties.

"He should not have had control of that situation," Cox said.

Every "allegation that he'd dream up in his mind was given credence," Cox told the group.

Finally, Chuck Cox said, "Anyone who knows anything about this case knows they were investigating a murder" and that Josh Powell was the key suspect, whether he was officially called that or not.

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