Police focused on Josh Powell's odd behavior from the beginning, new documents show

Redacted reports reveal little new info in Susan Powell case

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

Family photos of Susan Powell along with Charlie and Braden.

Family Photo

WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley police focused in on Josh Powell's odd behavior almost immediately following the disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell, in 2009.

Powell's evasive nature with investigators combined with statements made by Charlie Powell, Josh's son, and forensic evidence collected inside the Powell home prompted an official criminal investigation into Susan Powell's disappearance within two days of her being reported missing.

In less than a week, detectives were referring in search warrants to their case as an investigation into "unlawful detention, kidnapping and/or homicide."

Tuesday, 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton released 84 documents — including numerous search warrants — filed in court by West Valley police over the past two years. All of the documents had been sealed at the request of police and prosecutors.

The court papers give insight into the West Valley City Police Department's investigation when Susan Powell was reported missing on Dec. 7, 2009.

Many pages of the documents are heavily redacted, including all of the returns on the search warrants that indicate what items were seized. Of the 853 total pages in the documents, 615 pages — or 72 percent — contain redactions. Some pages have minor redactions such as email addresses or fax numbers, some have major redactions and some of the pages released are completely blacked out.

The majority of documents that were not redacted contain information that has already been released. Much of that information was previously released in search warrants unsealed in March in Tacoma, Wash.

The documents may provide more fuel for critics — including Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox — who have wondered why police and prosecutors in Utah neither arrested Josh Powell nor labeled him as a suspect in his wife's disappearance, despite circumstantial evidence against him. Prosecutors and police in Washington have said they believe enough evidence had been gathered to make an arrest.

"When you put all that together, I don't know how they couldn't arrest him," Cox said Tuesday after reviewing the newly released documents. "From this, it's clear to me they had plenty to arrest him."

From the earliest stages of their investigation, West Valley police focused on "blood stain patterns" found on the sofa, carpet and floor of the Powells' West Valley home. In a search warrant affidavit from Dec. 14, 2009, detectives believed "that someone was injured and lost blood while on the sofa inside the residence." Forensics testing later confirmed the blood was Susan Powell's.

Detectives also noted in court documents: "There was nothing missing from the residence, there was no signs of forced entry and it didn't appear there was a robbery, home invasion, burglary or signs of a struggle."

Also compelling for police were the statements of Josh and Susan Powell's son, Charlie, who was 4 at the time. He told detectives that "his mother had gone with them camping on Sunday and that for some reason she stayed at the campsite and did not return home with them," according to a search warrant affidavit filed the day after Susan Powell was reported missing.

In a Dec. 13, 2009, affidavit, police quoted Charlie as similarly saying that his mother "had gone with them but decided to stay there."

Susan Powell was last seen by another person alive at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2009, when a neighbor left their home after eating a pancake dinner with the family. The friend said Susan Powell got tired after eating the meal that her husband had prepared.

Josh Powell claims he took his sons sledding at 5:30 p.m., then arrived back home at 8 p.m. At 11:45 p.m., several neighbors reported hearing the car alarm to the Powells' vehicle, according to court records.

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