Did Steven Powell help plot Susan's disappearance?

Published: Friday, April 6 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

The last activity recorded on Susan's cellphone was when she called her friend Jovanna Owings, at 2:29 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2009.

Josh Powell made pancakes for dinner that night for his family and Owings. Susan Powell reported feeling tired after the meal and went to lie down. This has prompted speculation by some, including the Cox family, whether Susan Powell may have been drugged at dinner.

Owings was the last person known to have seen Susan, leaving the Powell house at 5 p.m. Josh Powell claims he took his sons sledding at 5:30 p.m. He arrived back home at 8 p.m.

At 11:45 p.m., several neighbors reported hearing the car alarm to the Powells' vehicle, according to court records.

According to statements made by Josh Powell, he left between midnight and 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2009, to take his sons — who were 2 and 4 years old at the time — camping in the Simpson Springs area of Tooele County, approximately a two-hour drive from his house. It means he wouldn't have arrived until about 2:30 a.m.

Powell said he and the boys slept in the van that night. Temperatures were below freezing and a snowstorm was in the forecast. Chuck Cox noted in court documents that when police went to the Powells' West Valley house about 10 a.m. on Dec. 7, there was four inches of new snow, untouched, in the driveway.

The next cellphone contact with Josh Powell was just after 3 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2009, when Owings' son called him. By that time, Susan had been reported missing and police were involved. Josh Powell told Jovanna Owings at that time, he was driving around West Valley City, according to a search warrant released in Washington.

Just before 5:30 p.m., Josh Powell's sister, Jennifer Graves, called and asked him where he had been.

"Joshua Powell responded by saying he was at work. When Jennifer Graves told Joshua Powell she knew he was lying, Joshua Powell then changed his story telling her he was camping," according to court records.

It wasn't until 6:40 p.m. that Powell returned to his home, 6254 W. Sarah Circle (3945 South). When police asked why Powell didn't answer his cellphone, he told them he didn't have a phone charger and needed to preserve his battery, according to a recently released search warrant.

The detective, however, "clearly saw Joshua Powell's mobile phone sitting on the center consul plugged into a cigarette lighter phone charger," according to court documents.

Investigators also found Susan Powell's cellphone in the center consul, turned off, with the SIM card missing.

The next day, when police attempted to question Powell about his camping trip, "Josh refused to answer and said, 'I'm in over my head,'" according to court records filed in 2011.

Authorities also interviewed 4-year-old Charlie Powell on Dec. 8, according to court records. He said during the interview, "that his mommy went camping with them although she did not come back home with them and he did not know why."

At no point after their mother disappeared did either of her sons mention Steven Powell being on the camping trip with them. But Cox questions whether that was simply because no one ever asked them.

"They might have (known if Steven was there), but I don't know that question was asked," he said.

Also on Dec. 8 at 10:30 p.m. Josh Powell rented a Ford Focus at the Salt Lake City International Airport while his car was being searched by West Valley police. Powell had originally waited in the police department lobby for the search to be completed. But an officer noted in court papers that by the time the search of the vehicle was completed, Powell was already gone.

Powell also purchased a new cellphone that was activated in Tremonton about 4:20 p.m. on Dec. 9. By 7 p.m. on Dec. 10, Powell returned the rental car, compiling more than 800 miles in less than 48 hours.

It was also on that day that Powell voluntarily surrendered his cellphone to police, but the SIM card was missing.

On Dec. 8 and 9, Steven Powell submitted a "leave slip" to the Washington Department of Corrections. A copy of the slip obtained by the Deseret News through a Washington Public Records Request shows Powell requested two days off as sick leave, citing a "family emergency."

It was the recent report of Powell calling in sick on Dec. 8 and 9 that Bremner said prompted the former co-worker to contact her.

Cox said he has no idea where Steven Powell was at the time his daughter disappeared.

"That's been a question on our mind forever. We've always asked that," he said.

Cox said police have hinted to him that they know something about Steven Powell's whereabouts on Dec. 7, but were "cryptic" about telling him. Kirk Graves has said his wife was talking to her sister, Alina Powell, on Dec. 7 at her home in Puyallup, Wash., and Steve was reportedly also at home at the time.

Steven Powell worked for the Washington Department of Corrections from March 1, 2006, until his arrest on Sept. 22, 2011. He sold furniture made by inmates to school districts and nonprofit agencies in Washington. His job reportedly included a lot of traveling.

He has been in jail in Washington since his arrest on multiple charges of voyeurism and child pornography.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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