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

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

Terri Powell documented in divorce papers: "Steve has long kept hard-core porno hidden in our house. Steve also visits adult porno shops." She also claimed that Steven had made comments like, "People are just like animals anyway, we ought to be able to have sex with anyone, anytime we please."

When Alina and Michael were 8 and 6 years old, their father showed them books about sex, Mulcahy said in court documents. Steven also suggested supplying his children with birth control when they ranged in ages from 9 to 12, according to his ex-wife.

Terri suggested then that her husband "totally stripped away all respect in Josh and John for fidelity in marriage," according to court documents. "This attitude Steve has portrayed regarding sexuality has been very troubling. I worry because the kids don't view sex with the kind of respect they ought to," she said.

Graves recalled a business trip where Josh and another boy were swimming in a hotel pool, and a short time later she found them around a corner with a 4-year-old girl who was no longer wearing a swimsuit.

Terri said her son Josh made a comment in 1992 about a girl his brother liked: "All she is good for is her body, right Dad?"

Allegations of taking secret pictures would lead to Steven's public downfall.

On Aug. 25, 2011, West Valley police traveled to Steven and Josh Powell's home in Puyallup, Wash., with a search warrant in hand. The warrant was in connection to the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Susan Powell.

"It was discovered through the investigation that Steve Powell had a very strong obsession for his daughter-in-law Susan Powell," a recently released search warrant states.

Less than a month later, Steven Powell was arrested and charged with 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Police said they found about 2,000 photographs of young children, mostly young girls and many in partial states of undress. The charges were based on photographs Steven Powell allegedly took from June 2006 to August 2007 of two neighbor girls, ages 8 and 10, through an open window into their bathroom without their knowledge.

Other pictures of Susan, allegedly taken secretly with her only wearing underwear, were found in her father-in-law's bedroom. VHS and 8mm tapes with Susan's name on them were also seized, according to the search warrant.

When Josh and Susan Powell's children, Charlie and Braden, were subsequently removed from the Puyallup home, state officials expressed concern about a graphic poster of a woman found inside the home with a knife sticking through her.

State welfare officials noted in one report that "pornography was laying out primarily in (Steven's) room" when investigators went through the house.

It was about the same time the Powell home was searched that Steven began delivering a series of troubling comments to the media. He told reporters gathered in front of his house the day after the initial search warrant was served that many of the seized pictures and videos taken would be considered "inappropriate for a married woman and her father-in-law" and suggested there was a flirtatious relationship with Susan in which she was a willing participant. He made comments on national news programs that he was in love with Susan and that she was sexual with him.

Susan's friends and family quickly responded to the claims, saying Steven was obsessed with his daughter-in-law, but she in no way reciprocated the feeling. In fact, she moved to Utah to get away from her father-in-law.

Josh Powell admitted taking photos of people's legs in public without their knowledge. And shortly before he killed his two sons and himself, shocking allegations were revealed about pornographic animated images — some depicting incest — that had been found on his laptop in West Valley City.

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