Four years after Susan Powell's disappearance, families gather to remember lost children

Published: Friday, Dec. 6 2013 10:05 p.m. MST

Flowers are placed at the Christmas Box Angel Statue in Salt Lake City Cemetery. More than a hundred white roses were laid at the base of the Christmas Box Angel statue Friday night at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. A vigil is held every year on Dec. 6, the date of the child's death in the novel "The Christmas Box" — and also the day Susan Powell went missing four years ago.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — More than a hundred white roses were laid at the base of the Christmas Box Angel statue Friday night at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

The vigil is held every year on Dec. 6, the date of the child's death in the novel "The Christmas Box" — and also the day Susan Powell went missing four years ago.

Those attending bundled up and gathered for the healing ceremony to remember lost children. For Debbie Caldwell and Kiirsi Hellewell, Charlie and Braden Powell were on their minds. Caldwell was the boys' caretaker for 18 months, and Hellewell was Susan Powell's best friend.

"Cute little boys. Typical little boys. mischievous, full of energy," Caldwell remembered. "Charlie, just his favorite things were going outside, playing with the bugs or digging in the dirt, and Braden liked cars. He was a big tease, very much like Susan. He looked like Susan."

The boys lives came to a tragic end on Feb. 5, 2012, when Susan's husband, Josh Powell, violently took their lives and killed himself in a rental home in Graham, Wash. while under suspicion in the disappearance of Susan.

Judy and Chuck Cox, Susan's parents, attended a similar vigil near a Christmas Box Angel memorial at the Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup, Wash., where Charlie and Braden are buried. It is one of 105 similar statues in 39 states, and in Japan and Canada.

Susan Powell was last seen alive at her home in West Valley City at 5 p.m. when a neighbor left after eating dinner with the family. Josh Powell would tell police that he went sledding with his sons after dinner, returned to the house, then left again around midnight to go camping with Charlie and Braden — then 4 and 2.

It was a night much like Friday — bitter cold with very little reason to take young boys on a camping trip.

Police said Josh Powell "was definitely involved" in his wife's disappearance. However, he was never charged or arrested prior to the murder-suicide in Washington.

The investigation took West Valley City Police throughout the Western United States while looking for her remains. The active investigation ended in May.

"We're never going to stop looking for her, so every year we try to commemorate her disappearance and keep ... her memory in everybody's minds because she's still missing, and we really need to find her," Hellewell said.

She said Susan Powell's parents have hired a private investigator, and her loved ones are still hoping to find her. Hellewell also said her best friend's story has helped people have the courage to escape abusive relationships before it is too late.

"As Debbie said to me tonight, 'I feel so much less alone,'" Hellewell said. "Because there are so many people here who know what it's like to lose someone who they love, especially a child."

A Christmas Box Angel statue will be erected in Newtown, Conn. next week in honor and memory of the elementary school children killed there by a gunman a year ago.

Twitter: @madeleine6

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

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