Search for Susan Cox Powell is over, West Valley police say

Josh Powell's brother believed to have 'intimate involvement' in disappearance

Published: Monday, May 20 2013 1:00 p.m. MDT

West Valley Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell conducts a news conference Monday, May 20, 2013, to discuss detailed information on the Susan Cox Powell investigation. Susan Powell was last seen in December 2009.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — After more than three years of searching through 11 states and investigating more than 800 tips and "countless" hours of investigation, West Valley police on Monday announced the investigation into the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell is now officially a cold case.

“We are announcing the end of the active phase of the search for Susan. This comes after a long and arduous struggle, but it is time to do that. We have no further active leads to develop at this point,” said West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle.

"Susan is still missing. We do not know where she is or what happened to her,” added West Valley Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell. “We have left no stone unturned over the 3 ½ years of this investigation.”

But officials promised that if any new "credible" leads into the whereabouts of the missing mother came up, they will be investigated.

To mark the closure, West Valley police revealed new details about their investigation on Monday, including the release of more than 2,000 files and "tens of thousands" of pages of police reports and other documents.

As for what police believe happened to Susan Powell, Mike Powell (no relation to the Powell family) said Josh Powell "was definitely involved" with his wife's disappearance, but stopped short of saying he murdered her.

Among the most interesting new details released Monday:

Josh's brother Michael Powell — who committed suicide in February — was "heavily investigated" and likely had "intimate involvement" in Susan's disappearance.

Michael Powell's car was abandoned in Oregon in 2009 near Pendleton. DNA evidence was found in the trunk of the car but it did not match Susan's profile.

Michael and Josh Powell had "significant" communication with each other, including sending encrypted electronic messages that police were never able to decipher.

Court-approved wire taps were used for three months, monitoring the conversations between Josh Powell and his father, Steven Powell.

Investigators do not believe Steven Powell was directly involved in his daughter-in-law's disappearance, though he may have some knowledge about what happened to her.

West Valley police met with Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, over the weekend to tell them what information they planned to release, according to family attorney Anne Bremner. The Coxes are scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday in Seattle.

"It's just hard to hear from the police that it's basically over," said Kiirsi Hellewell, Susan Powell's best friend. "I don't think (police) are giving up, even though it feels kind of like that. They're basically not going to have the full time team devoted to it."

Michael Powell

“We believe firmly that Michael Powell was involved in her disappearance. We don’t believe he was directly involved, but he had involvement at some point with her disappearance,” the deputy chief said.

Michael Powell committed suicide in February in Minnesota where he was living. Police say said he had been "deceitful" with investigators and had adamantly defended his brother.

After Josh Powell murdered his two young sons and killed himself, police say their "primary focus" became Michael Powell. Once he committed suicide, it “essentially left us with no other significant suspect” to focus on, the deputy chief said.

“Many of the details have left this world with them,” he said of the brothers.

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