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Officials: Explosion at Wash. home kills Josh Powell, husband of missing Utah woman, 2 sons

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 3:27 a.m. MDT

Stromee Ryan and Shayanna Smith along with Powell family friends and well wishers hold a candlelight vigil in Salt Lake County  Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. Josh Powell and his two sons were killed in an explosion in Washington.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Stromee Ryan and Shayanna Smith along with Powell family friends and well wishers hold a candlelight vigil in Salt Lake County Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. Josh Powell and his two sons were killed in an explosion in Washington. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Josh Powell's brother-in-law Kirk Graves interviewed by KSL Radio

GRAHAM, Wash. (AP) - Days after a judge ruled against him in a child custody hearing, a father of two young boys apparently blew up a house Sunday with all three inside - a tragic ending to a bizarre, long-running case that began when the man's wife went mysteriously missing in Utah.

Authorities say it appears the husband, Josh Powell, blew the house up on purpose.

The Child Protective Services worker brought the two boys to Powell's home, and Powell let his sons inside - but then blocked the social worker from entering, Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Franz told The Associated Press.

Cheyenne Miller along with Powell family friends and well wishers hold a candlelight vigil in Salt Lake County  Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. Josh Powell and his two sons were killed in an explosion in Washington.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Cheyenne Miller along with Powell family friends and well wishers hold a candlelight vigil in Salt Lake County Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. Josh Powell and his two sons were killed in an explosion in Washington. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The social worker called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas, and moments later the home exploded. What's left of the house was still smoking Sunday afternoon, and fire crews were mopping up the scene.

Sgt. Ed Troyer, Pierce County sheriff's spokesman, said emails Powell sent authorities seemed to confirm the Powell planned the deadly blast. Troyer didn't elaborate on the contents of the emails.

Jeffrey Bassett, who represented Powell in the custody case, said he received a three-word email from his client just minutes before Powell and the two boys died. It said, "I'm sorry, goodbye."

The email arrived at 12:05 p.m. Sunday, about 10 minutes before the explosion, but he didn't see it until two hours later, when others told him Josh and the boys had been killed. He said he knew Josh was upset after being ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation recently, but he didn't see this coming.

Firefighters spray water on a house near Fredrickson, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, where, according to a sheriff's spokesman, the bodies believed to be Josh Powell and his two sons were found. (Associated Press) Firefighters spray water on a house near Fredrickson, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, where, according to a sheriff's spokesman, the bodies believed to be Josh Powell and his two sons were found. (Associated Press)

Powell was under investigation in the disappearance of his 28-year-old wife Susan from their West Valley City, Utah, home in December 2009. He claimed he had taken the boys on a midnight excursion in freezing temperatures when she vanished.

The children, 5 and 7, had been living with Susan Powell's parents since Josh Powell's father Steven was arrested on child porn and voyeurism charges last fall. On Wednesday, a judge had denied an attempt by Josh Powell to regain custody, saying she wouldn't consider returning the two boys to their father until he underwent a psycho-sexual evaluation.

"It's the most horrifying thing you can imagine happening," said lawyer Steve Downing, who represented Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, in the custody fight. "The Coxes are absolutely devastated. They were always very fearful of him doing something like this, and he did it."

TV crews set up for live shots up the street from the home of Josh Powell in Puyallup, Washington, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) TV crews set up for live shots up the street from the home of Josh Powell in Puyallup, Washington, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Kirk Graves, Josh Powell’s brother in law said he and his wife were shocked when they received the call earlier Sunday about the explosion.

"We really thought Josh loved his boys," Graves told the Deseret News.

He said no member of the family had spoken with Powell since prior to the custody hearing in Washington. At that hearing, Powell was ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation.

Graves said he and his wife think Josh Powell deliberately set off the explosion to kill him and his sons.

"His world was falling apart around him and he was going to lose his boys and get arrested for Susan's disappearance," he said. "He's a narcissist and he has no love for anyone but himself.

Bassett said he represented Powell free of charge because "every parent deserves the right to an attorney." Powell called or emailed him at least once a day, and often more than that, and in their conversations "he never once admitted doing anything regarding Susan. In fact, he denied it."

Pierce County Sheriff's deputies and Graham Firefighters work around the smoldering remains of a house near Fredrickson, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, where, according to a sheriff's spokesman, three bodies were were found. The bodies are believed to be Josh Powell and his two sons. The explosion occurred moments after a Child Protective Services worker brought the two boys to the home for a supervised visit. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) (Associated Press) Pierce County Sheriff's deputies and Graham Firefighters work around the smoldering remains of a house near Fredrickson, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, where, according to a sheriff's spokesman, three bodies were were found. The bodies are believed to be Josh Powell and his two sons. The explosion occurred moments after a Child Protective Services worker brought the two boys to the home for a supervised visit. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) (Associated Press)

Sgt. Mike Powell of the West Valley City Police Department in Utah, which is handling the investigation into Susan Powell's disappearance, said it was too soon to say how Josh Powell's death may impact their probe.

"Quite frankly, this has obviously quickly unfolded up in Washington and we're obviously just working through the details ourselves here," Powell said Sunday.

"We are in contact with authorities," Powell added. "It's obviously an ongoing situation in Washington at this point."

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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