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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Ciara Hellewell posts a Susan Powell flyer at a Burger King in West Valley City. Ciara's mother Kiirsi is at right. Kiirsi is one of Susan Powell's good friends. At left is Ciara's brother Bran. Friends and volunteers worked to bring awareness in West Valley City, Dec. 7, 2010 for Susan Powell, who has been missing for a year.

SALT LAKE CITY — One year after Susan Cox Powell was last seen, family and friends remain hopeful she'll be found.

Police are still treating her disappearance as a missing-persons case, dedicating numerous resources to the investigation. West Valley City Police Sgt. Mike Powell said on Monday that more than 8,000 hours have been spent working on the ongoing investigation, including addressing hundreds of phone calls that continue to come in from the public.

Susan Cox Powell's father, Charles Cox, said police update the family weekly.

"At this point, we want to move on with positive thoughts about her because there's been no body found," he said. "She could still be alive."

He still meets with people who have not heard of the case, and that is lending hope to the possibility that someone who might have seen something critical may still be able to help.

"We're always hopeful of finding her alive," Judy Cox, Susan Cox Powell's mother, said during a telephone interview from Puyallup, Wash., on Monday. "We are also realizing it could be the other way, but we're more hopeful she will be alive."

Susan Cox Powell went missing Dec. 7, 2009, and before her husband, Josh Powell, returned to their West Valley City home with their two sons, some believed the whole family had disappeared. Josh Powell said he had taken the boys camping overnight.

"Every once in a while, I still think she should be walking through that door," said Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's sister and Susan Cox Powell's friend. "She was such a bright person, such a bright spirit. She just was happy and positive. She was just a bright spot in my life."

After a trying 12 months, Graves believes her brother is responsible for her friend's disappearance, and she has essentially been disowned by her family for her beliefs in the matter. She last spoke to Josh Powell on Jan. 22.

"The fact that he left two weeks after she disappeared, to go on vacation — that is just offensive to me," she said. "Then, he moved a month after she disappeared. That doesn't show actions of a spouse who loves and cares about their spouse."

In addition to losing their daughter, Charles and Judy Cox last saw their grandsons on April 10 at a park in Puyallup. They've been asked to communicate with Josh Powell via e-mail, but they say he doesn't always respond.

"We believe he's the key to telling us what happened to her or at least moving the investigation beyond where it is," said Charles Cox.

Police have yet to name any suspects in the case, however, Josh Powell was named as the only "person of interest" at one point. Since Susan Cox Powell's disappearance, he has made numerous postings on a website he maintains, and has made claims that she ran off with another man or that she left them.

"It doesn't look to me like there would be any possibility that she could admit to her parents, for example, that she was actually out doing something with another guy and going to run off with somebody else," Josh Powell's father, Steve Powell said on Monday. He has also posted information on the site and has recently tried to link Susan Cox Powell's disappearance with that of a St. George man.

"Although it's upsetting, it's also ridiculous," said Charles Cox. "They're flailing about with absolutely no evidence or anything."

Susan Cox Powell's friend, Kiirsi Hellewell, can't believe it has been an entire year with no resolution.

"It's horrible," she said. "It's like walking around all the time with this just overwhelming load of bricks on you, and as the day gets closer and closer to a year that Susan's been gone, it just gets heavier every day."

Friends and family held multiple events Monday to mark the anniversary of her disappearance, including one that focused on a children's story time and gathering books for the Granite School District.

"Instead of doing something that's maybe sadder, like a candlelight vigil, as we've done in the past, we wanted to celebrate Susan's most important role in her life and the thing that meant the most to her, and that is that she was a wonderful mother to her two little boys. She loved to read to them," Hellewell said. Hellewell said her friend wouldn't know anyone was looking for her "because she's either dead or taken against her will and is being held somewhere where she doesn't have access to the luxuries we take for granted."

Police continue to encourage anyone with information that might be pertinent to the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell to call the West Valley City police department at 801-840-4000.

e-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, aadams@ksl.com