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Powell family tragedy continues with apparent suicide of Michael Powell days after anniversary of brother's, nephew's death

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 12 2013 4:35 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Michael Powell killed himself Monday, less than a week after the anniversary of the deaths of his brother Josh Powell and two nephews.

Minneapolis Police Sgt. Steve McCarty confirmed that a 30-year-old man jumped approximately five stories from a downtown parking ramp around 2:25 p.m. There were witnesses to the incident, but he said there was no information about what may have prompted the man to take his own life.

The man was dead when emergency responders arrived, according to a police report obtained by the Deseret News.

McCarty said police were waiting for a medical examiner to confirm the man's identity. But Kiirsi Hellewell, a close friend to both Susan Powell and Josh Powell's sister Jennifer Graves, said Graves confirmed the news of her brother's death late Monday.

The death is yet another tragic turn in the horrific saga of the Powell family, which includes the patriarch Steven in prison, two sons now dead, two grandchildren killed and the wife of Josh Powell missing and presumed dead.

"I just felt so heartbroken for her," Hellewell said. "They have been through so much. … Even though she's been estranged from Michael for the last three years, she still loved him," she said of Jennifer Graves. "He's still her brother. She grew up with him and she's just got to be going through so much."

Josh Powell is believed to be responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of his wife Susan Cox Powell, who has not been seen since December 2009 when she went missing from their home in West Valley City. After her disappearance, Josh Powell relocated with the couple's two young sons to his hometown of Puyallup, Wash., to live with his father, Steven Powell.

In 2011, Steven Powell was arrested in connection with a voyeurism case. Josh Powell's children, Charlie and Braden, were subsequently taken from his care and placed with their maternal grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox. The week before Josh Powell lit his home on fire, killing himself and his two young sons, a judge had ordered that the Coxes retain custody of the children and that Powell undergo a psychosexual evaluation.

Michael Powell supported his brother throughout the ordeal, flying to Utah to help Josh Powell move to Washington and launching a website accusing the Coxes of abuse and defending Josh Powell as a loving parent. A few months before his death, Josh Powell changed his life insurance policy to list Michael Powell and sister Alina as the primary beneficiaries.

Nine days after Josh Powell killed himself and his children, Michael and Alina Powell contacted New York Life Insurance about collecting on the policies for Josh and their nephews, worth an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million. The company questioned whether they should pay the beneficiaries listed by Josh Powell.

Hellewell said she had mixed emotions upon learning of Michael Powell's death.

"When I first heard I was very sad, first of all, that somebody would just throw their life away," she said. "Second of all … I felt so sorry for Jennifer and her family and the rest of her siblings and they've been through so much tragedy and so much horror and then also there was this other part of me that thought, 'Oh great. Now there's one more chance that we might have had to find Susan and maybe he knew something and now he's gone.'"

Steven and Terrica Powell had five children: Jennifer, John, Josh, Michael and Alina. Alina and John were last known to be living in Washington state.

Steve Powell is serving prison time for voyeurism convictions and is scheduled to be released sometime this spring.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com, mgiauque@ksl.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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