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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

Investigators confirmed that DNA evidence was located inside the trunk of a Ford Taurus that belonged to Michael Powell. The car had been abandoned in a salvage yard the same month that Susan Powell disappeared. West Valley police, however, didn't find out about the car until about 20 months later in August of 2011. Specialized search dogs indicated there was DNA in the car.

Several of Josh Powell's computers were seized from his home early in the investigation. But he and his brother Michael used “sophisticated” encryption technology to communicate with each other that West Valley police were never able to decode, said Deputy Police Chief Phil Quinlan.

Bremner said she wasn't completely surprised to hear Michael Powell was involved. But she was surprised as to extent of his alleged involvement.

"I had a gut reaction about him, and I knew enough about him to think that he had been involved in at least disposing of her body. I just had a bad sense," she said.

Bremner said red flags were raised for her when Josh Powell made Michael the 93 percent beneficiary of Susan Powell's $3.5 million life insurance policy.

Hellewell, however, said Susan rarely talked about her brother-in-law.

"Jennifer Graves told me that Susan would always have nice things to say about Michael. And she would say her dad is a disgusting, slimy pervert who is always ogling me when I'm around him. And the rest of them don't seem to like me, but Michael is the only one who's nice to me and she just had nice things to say about him. So it was really shocking to us that he would be at fault," Hellewell said.

Charges, odd behavior

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office was involved from the beginning of the investigation, police said Monday. But the evidence against the Powells was largely circumstantial. There was no crime scene and no body.

"It never materialized to the point where we had sufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge of murder to Josh Powell," said Quinlan. Investigators were in constant contact with a prosecutor assigned to the case, but the parties felt there was never enough to file charges.

Susan Powell was last seen alive at her West Valley house on Dec. 6, 2009, at 5 p.m. when a neighbor left their home after eating a pancake dinner with the family.

Josh Powell claimed 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.

He said he left between midnight and 12:30 a.m. that night to take his sons, Charlie and Braden — who were 2 and 4 years old at the time — camping in Tooele County, about a two-hour drive from his house. Temperatures were below freezing, and a snowstorm was in the forecast. He told police he wanted to try out his new generator.

A friend of Susan Powell would later tell investigators, however, that Josh had a strong dislike of camping, according to newly released police reports.

Susan Powell was reported missing the next morning when she failed to show up for work and her sons were not dropped off at day care.

During an interview with Josh Powell on Dec. 8, police were informed "that Charlie had disclosed in a forensic interview that their mother had gone with them (camping) the night before, but that they left her there and she didn’t come back home with them,” a report states.

Among the evidence released Monday were voice mails left on Susan Powell's cellphone the day she was reported missing. Messages had already been left from friends and family members saying they're worried about her when Josh Powell left a voice mail message, claiming he forgot what day it was and why he hadn't gone to work, even though he had been called by others at that point asking about his wife's whereabouts.

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