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

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

The bitter feud between Josh Powell and his wife's parents became increasingly public following the disappearance of Susan. At one point, Josh told Washington state officials the Coxes were "the most dangerous people on the planet to my sons."

Josh claimed in court documents that he was "afraid for my life" because he feared Cox blamed him for the disappearance of Susan and "would attack and try to kill me."

Cox called the claims preposterous. But the deep divide ultimately became a legal divide when in August 2011 a judge ordered Josh and his father-in-law to stay at least 500 feet away from each other.

Josh's negative influence continued to appear in his children.

A family services report dated Oct. 26, 2011, noted that Charlie had made comments such as, "My grandparents are evil," and "I know my grandparents are trying to keep me from seeing my dad."

On another occasion Charlie told a counselor that he could not see his mother because Chuck and Judy Cox "are Mormon and they abuse her."

The feud between Josh and the Coxes was reflective of Steven Powell's apparent disdain for his wife's parents when they were married.

In divorce documents, Steven delivered blistering comments against John and Carol Martin, his in-laws, and other members of the Martin family.

When a member of the Martin family talked about moving to Utah, Steven wrote in court documents: "These people never seem to find green grass under their feet." He said if Terri were to be awarded custody of their children, they "may be subjected to a migratory life."

Steven suggested in court documents that the Martin family was jealous and envious of his own personal successes. He called his sons Josh and John "very creative, something which the Martins, with their narrow lives and minds, somehow find fearful and repulsive."

In divorce documents, Steven said his in-laws had "ignorant and superstitious reactions to the activities of their grandsons," and claimed his in-laws' marriage was more of a "master/servant" relationship, and also alleged "pathological dysfunction" within the family.

At one point, when responding to his father-in-law's perception of his view on religion, Steven wrote that "his ignorance is betrayed by a lack of insight and of a liberal education."


Graves has been subpoenaed to testify against her father during his trial. She said she does not plan to stay in Washington to hear her father's fate. She said she has her own family to think about now.

"I haven't really had contact with my dad for years. It's been really just as much as I need to maintain a relationship with my other siblings. It's been a sad thing to me to have that separation to have them so confused, just wrapping themselves into this whole mess of supporting Josh and supporting my dad in their sins, in their sins against society, sins against their families."

"But I can't condone it. I can't hang out with them and try to reconcile until they come around to understand what really has gone on. And until that point, I'm just going to have to move forward.

"I'm going to be happy either way. I have my family here. I have five beautiful children and a wonderful husband."

Powell trial begins Monday

The trial of Steven Powell on 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of child pornography begins Monday in Tacoma. Jury selection is expected to take two to three days. Opening arguments may be delivered by the end of the week.

Powell is accused of taking pictures of two young neighbor girls in their bathroom through an open window.

Each charge carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison. If he is convicted of all charges and a judge orders the sentences to run consecutively, Powell could be sent to prison for 75 years.

Court documents

User discretion advised: Court documents contain sensitive material.

Steven Powell warrants

Josh Powell storage unit search warrant

Related coverage

Sept. 22 2011: Father-in-law of Susan Cox Powell arrested on charges of voyeurism, possession of nude photos of minors in Washington

Feb. 10 2012: Focus returns to Powell children today

April 4 2012: Steven Powell called in sick the day after his daughter-in-law was reported missing

April 6 2012: Did Steven Powell help plot Susan's disappearance?

Follow @DNewsCrimeTeam on Twitter for updated tweets from the courtroom throughout the trial.

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

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