TWIN FALLS, Idaho — For the past two days, the father of Susan Cox Powell has been traveling from Pendleton, Ore., to Utah, hoping to spark new leads into the mystery of what happened to his daughter.
"I know we're looking for a needle in a haystack, but it got a little bit smaller," he said Wednesday just outside of Twin Falls.
Last week, the West Valley Police Department announced its active investigation into Powell's disappearance was over, but it will still investigate any credible new leads that are received. Investigators also revealed that they have strong suspicions that Michael Powell was deeply involved in her disappearance. He is the brother of Josh Powell, the husband suspected of killing her.
Just two weeks after Powell disappeared in December of 2009, Michael Powell drove from Utah back to Washington. His car broke down outside of Pendleton and he ended up selling his 1997 silver Ford Taurus to Lindell Salvage there for $100.
Police didn't find out about the sale until 2011. They found the vehicle and brought in a cadaver dog to go through it. The dog "hit" on the trunk of the vehicle and DNA evidence was collected, but it did not match Susan Powell's profile.
Michael Powell committed suicide in February, about a year after Josh Powell killed their two young sons and then killed himself.
Within days of Susan Powell's disappearance, Josh Powell rented a car from the airport and quickly put 800 miles on it, according to investigators. He also bought a new cellphone that was activated in Tremonton.
The distance between Pendleton and Tremonton is about 486 miles along I-84. Chuck Cox, Susan Powell's father, wants to encourage those who drive I-84 frequently to keep their eyes open.
"We're raising awareness of people along this stretch of I-84 all the way down from Pendleton, that this place could have been used to dispose of Susan," Cox said. "We have the flier we made up and are distributing out. We're also stopping and talking to sheriff departments, state police, local police and at public gas stations where we've been stopping and handing out fliers and making them aware."
The family has also hired two private investigators who are helping the Coxes investigate areas previously untouched by searchers, including stops along I-84.
Cox said he and his daughter Denise Cox Olsen have been talking to people at each stop — both officers and members of the general public — reminding them that Susan's body was never found.
"They say, 'Oh yeah, I heard about that,'" Cox said, adding that the goal is to raise awareness and make people aware that her body could be in those areas.
Olsen believes Michael Powell drove to Idaho to meet his brother and help dispose of her sister's body.
They slipped by not destroying the car, and it gives us more of an idea of where they might have taken her," she said. "We're really counting on the people who've been around and know the area and have been here for a while. They know the land, they know the people, they know what belongs and what doesn't."
Local law enforcement officers have also promised to "look into things," said Chuck Cox, who believes they are closer to finding his daughter.
The family's next action will depend on what tips are generated by the current campaign, he said.
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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