Mother gets emotional seeing voyeuristic photos in Steven Powell trial

Images reveal his 'secret' hobby, prosecutors say

Published: Wednesday, May 9 2012 9:00 a.m. MDT

Defense attorney Travis Currie, left, talks to Steve Powell of the second day of Powell's trial for voyeurism charges at the Pierce County Superior Court house in Tacoma, Wash. Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Powell, the father-in-law of missing Utah mother Susan Powell, faces 14 counts of voyeurism, alleging that he secretly recorded neighbor girls and other women without their knowledge. (AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Rick Egan, Pool)

Rick Egan, AP

TACOMA, Wash. — Despite all the talk about Susan Cox Powell and Josh Powell, the trial of Steven Powell is really about two young girls.

Wednesday, those girls had their day in court, speaking publicly for the first time about having their privacy violated. Prosecutors say it was their former next-door neighbor Steven Powell who videotaped and took photographs of them from his house — just 40 to 50 feet away — by looking into their bathroom through an open door.

The girls, identified in court only as JH and her older sister AH, were visibly nervous as they took the witness stand and told the jury that they did not give anyone permission to take pictures of them inside their home.

Their mother, identified only as DC to also protect her privacy, was able to mostly stay strong while on the witness stand. But then she was shown the photographs that prompted investigators to file 14 counts of voyeurism against Powell. At that point, she fought back tears.

"She was very emotional. She was somebody who is protective of her kids. But that was a raw emotional moment when she looked at those pictures. She lost it, and it was hard for her to recover. She saw her girls and what he did to them," the girls' attorney, Anne Bremner, said.

Bremner believes it was the first time the mother had seen those photos. It has only been within the last couple of months that DC told her daughters they were victims in the voyeurism case because she wanted to protect them.

The emotional testimonies of the mother and her two daughters capped off the first week of the Powell trial. Because of a scheduling conflict, the trial will not resume until Monday.

Powell is accused of taking thousands of pictures of the two girls when they were neighbors starting in 2006. The girls were 8 and 10 at the time. They are now 13 and 15 years old.

To the majority of people, the photos would not be provocative. They were images of the two girls doing everyday routine things in the bathroom like dressing, undressing, taking a bath, washing their hair and drying off.

But to Powell, 62, they filled his voyeuristic habits and he used these photos for sexual stimulation, prosecutors argued.

"I was so proud of those girls. They were really brave. And the fact that he was in the courtroom with them, and he knew we were all there and I know he's not liking it, and that's what makes it all the way worth it," Denise Cox, sister of Susan Powell, said after the hearing.

The girls testified about moving into the house next to the Powells. JH said she wanted to keep the bathroom door open when she was in there because "back then I was scared to be alone so I always kept the door open."

But the girls said they, in general, believed they were safe in their own home and no one could violate them. They said they assumed they had privacy in their bathroom.

In the summer, DC said the upstairs got very warm because there was no air conditioning in the house, so the family would leave the windows open at night to let in the cool air.

Prosecutors also pointed out to jurors that it was impossible to see into the girls' bathroom from the sidewalk. The only way those pictures could have been taken was from the Powell house, the state argued.

Despite being neighbors, the young girls and their mother hardly knew the Powell family. DC said she didn't think she even knew Steven Powell's name. Neither of the girls could identify Powell, who was sitting in the courtroom next to his attorneys. Powell rarely looked at the girls while they were on the witness stand.

Bremner believes the fact that neither girl could identify Powell in court only strengthens the voyeurism case against Powell.

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