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

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

There were about 400 "hand drawings, computerized drawings and photographs," according to a report. Some of the images were of well-known cartoon characters, such as the Simpsons, the Flintstones and SpongeBob engaged in pornographic acts. Some of those images depicted incest.

A state-appointed evaluator said the graphic nature of the images was not only "concerning," but also suggested "global approval" of sex between a minor and an adult.


No matter what the conversation was about, Steven Powell always had to be right, family members said.

"I was afraid to bring people home because you never knew what he was going to say. He might just stick to embarrassing me or my friend, but he also might wrap them into some sort of philosophical discussion — and you can't have a different opinion," Graves said.

"If you try to have a different opinion with my dad, you're wrong. So I just couldn't bring my friends home because I didn't want to subject them to that."

In divorce documents filed in 1992, Terri Powell noted, "For those who will listen to Steve, as the older boys have, he seems to have a powerful way of controlling."

"I know that Steve is persuasive in a most harmful, deliberate way," she wrote. "Steve's manipulation of the kids' thoughts and emotions is terribly difficult to deal with."

Josh Powell was 16 when his parents divorced.

The cycle of odd and negative parental influence apparently started with Steven's own childhood. Terri noted in her divorce papers that when Steven was a young boy, "he was a victim of parental kidnapping," making her "fearful that he may try to take our two youngest children."

Steven Powell addressed the parental kidnapping in an odd way on a website he created under the alias of Steve Chantrey, apparently to promote his music. On the website, he posted songs he had composed and recorded — some of them reportedly about Susan.

In his biography on the website, Steven said his mother "made a unilateral and secretive decision to separate from my dad," and took him, his brother and his sister to live in Ohio. A few months later she returned to Steven's father in Portland.

But just a few months after that, when Steven was 7, according to his bio, "my dad made a unilateral and secretive decision to separate from my mom." Steven said he and his siblings were taken to live with his grandparents who had moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, unknown to Steven's mother.

"'Where is Momma?' I asked. Grandma curtly replied, 'You're never going to see your mother again,'" Steven Powell wrote on his website. "My older brother, my sister and I were inconsolable."

Graves said starting when she was about 10 or 12, she doesn't remember being allowed to have much contact with her grandparents. It was around that time period when she also remembers her family starting to unravel.

In the early years, Graves recalled her father reading to her when she was about 6 years old and occasionally having Family Home Evening, the LDS practice of gathering a family together once a week for instruction and activities.

When Steven and Terri were first married, "Steve worked hard, served God and loved me. He was very thoughtful, very devoted towards me," Terri Powell wrote in court papers filed in 1992. "We attended church together."

But a few years after they were married, Steven "began to change in many ways," she wrote. "He is a complete opposite of the man that I married."

As the divorce became uglier, Graves said her father did all he could to drive a wedge between members of the family and was able to "manipulate extremely well." He seemed to have a particularly strong influence over Josh.

"My dad was really good at playing the sides," Graves said. "My dad did work hard to divide the family. He was really pulling for sides and really had the boys wrapped up into his side."

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere