Sins of the father: Steven Powell's behavior leaves a legacy of harm

Published: Saturday, May 5 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

"And then it got worse and the addiction got worse and then he started to have additional things that he was unfaithful to my mom with, like having this obsession with a woman in our ward," Graves recalled. "It just led down this path that he just refused to recognize as wrong."

During Steven and Terri Powell's divorce proceedings, it was suggested that Steven was in love with a woman in his church congregation and wanted her to become his second wife. He allegedly said he was having "fantasies about her all the time," according to Terri's sister, Becky Mulcahy, in divorce documents.

Terri noted herself in divorce papers that while she was pregnant with Alina, she found Steven's diary, which "was a record of two years worth of explicit fantasies he had about a woman we both knew. … His writings were detailed descriptions of what he would like to be doing with her, particularly sexually."

Steven Powell wrote in his own diary that he wanted to marry the woman and raise her children should anything happen to the woman's husband, Terri Powell said in divorce papers.

"He even wrote a song about motherhood that was inspired by her," court papers state. "I was concerned sometimes that he might even have it in his mind to harm her husband to put himself in the position that he desired."

As early as 1984, Terri said her husband asked her, "What would you think if I got another wife?"

Years later, after Susan Powell went missing, reports surfaced that Steven Powell had talked at one point to his son about "sharing" Susan. Chuck Cox, Susan's father, noted in court papers that Steven Powell had once suggested that his daughter-in-law could become a "common wife" to both him and Josh.

Graves said she doesn't know when or how her father's obsession with pornography began.

"My mom told me she started suspecting things just within a couple of years of them getting married," Graves said. Terri believed it was her husband's heavy travel schedule through his work that gave him an outlet to dive deeper into pornography.

"She was suspecting he'd leave and go indulge his fantasies somewhere else," Graves said.

Terri Powell, 57, who lives in Utah, has remained steadfast in staying out of the public eye since her daughter-in-law disappeared, refusing all interviews.

It wasn't until October of 2011 that Terri Powell broke her silence in a letter she wrote for the courts in Washington on Josh's behalf during his custody battle with his in-laws, Chuck and Judy Cox, over his sons.

She said her son was a "loving and very engaged father in the care of his sons" and  called the atmosphere at her son's home "supportive and calm." Months later, days after a judge told Josh Powell he would not immediately regain full custody of his two boys, he murdered the children and killed himself in an inferno at a home in Graham. Wash.

By the time Graves was between 10 and 12 years old, she knew pornography was a problem in her parents' marriage. Graves said she remembers traveling on a business trip with her father and stopping for the night at a hotel:

"I remember one of the evenings I was laying on my bed and he was on his bed and he turned on this program that was just total porn. And I was just huddled in my bed like, 'Oh, my gosh!'" she said.

Pornographic magazines were kept in Steven Powell's home office, which he either gave to his sons or they found on their own, Graves said.

"He was bringing it into our home even at that stage. So the fact that he is so into it now and it has led to additional steps of degrading into child porn and that kind of stuff, it's not a surprise to me."

The child pornography allegations are part of the court case facing Steven Powell this week. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has also declined several requests to be interviewed.

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