Report: Washington social workers needed more Powell information from West Valley police

Published: Thursday, Aug. 2 2012 11:00 a.m. MDT

Family photos of Susan Powell along with Charlie and Braden.

, Family Photo

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A new report concludes social workers could have made more informed decisions about Josh Powell's sons had they received more information from West Valley police about the investigation into his missing wife, Susan Cox Powell.

That information could have either been shared between police and social workers in Washington or social workers could have made more of an effort to seek it out, according to the report.

However, even with additional information, the committee that issued the report determined that "nobody could have anticipated that Joshua Powell would murder his two sons."

“There wasn’t anybody who had dropped the ball or someone made a mistake or an oversight that had happened,” panel member King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Richard Anderson told the Seattle Times. “There are some people who do terrible things in life. The ‘Batman’ incident (the theater shootings in Colorado) is a perfect example. You can’t explain things like this. I think Mr. Powell had this in his mind and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it.”

A much anticipated 12-page report on the deaths of Susan Powell's two sons was released Thursday in Washington.

While the report from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services' Child Fatality Review Team did not directly point any fingers blaming people for Charlie and Braden Powell's deaths, it suggested that communication between social workers and police could have been better. It also suggested that social workers could improve on both seeking information from police and receiving domestic violence training.

The committee did not draw conclusions about whether any actions by social workers, police or the court could have prevented Josh Powell from killing his children and himself.

However, in a prepared statement summarizing the report, the committee found that DSHS "could have evaluated (Josh Powell) differently for domestic violence and not allowed in-home visits with the boys," and that it would have been beneficial for DSHS to have more information about the West Valley police investigation into Powell.

"Other information that could have aided DSHS and law enforcement in decision making was sealed in Utah records as law enforcement officers in that state continued to investigate the disappearance of Powell’s wife, who remains missing," the fatality review committee wrote. "The committee noted the importance of law enforcement and the department working jointly to share decisions concerning visitation and evaluation of an evolving child dependency situation."

The committee noted that when Charlie and Braden Powell were removed from Steven Powell's home, where Josh and the boys had been living, "At the request of (West Valley police), Pierce County law enforcement did not provide information to Department of Social and Health Services - Children's Administration staff regarding the Utah investigation into the disappearance of Susan Powell."

Chuck Cox, the boy's maternal grandfather, said Thursday he was not surprised by the committee's findings and said he and his wife warned social workers and others that their son-in-law was capable of horrible things.

"It's what I would have expected. I think they have ignored the primary concerns and they need to give themselves a pass on some level, because I agree that no one — no normal thinking person — could understand a person as messed up as Josh was. A person who could do that to their own children. It's hard for rational people to understand irrational thoughts like that," Cox said.

"But the idea that they listened to us and they took everything and they weighed it ... we warned them. The idea that no one could foresee this happening ... We saw it happening," he said.

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