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Ted S. Warren, Associated Press
Chuck Cox, the father of Susan Powell, who was reported missing Dec. 7, is comforted by his wife, Judy, at a press conference Thursday.

WEST VALLEY CITY — The family of Susan Powell says it is deeply saddened and it "breaks our hearts" that her husband, Josh Powell, is being called a person of interest in connection with her disappearance.

But a spokeswoman said Thursday family members are not surprised, "given the events and his reaction to them in the past week."

Also Thursday, West Valley police returned to the Powell home, 6254 W. Sarah Circle, with a search warrant to look for additional evidence. Police declined to discuss what, if anything, was taken from the house.

Family members of Susan Powell held a news conference in their hometown of Puyallup, Wash., Thursday to talk about her and urge the public to keep looking for her. But the family admitted it is concerned about the actions of Josh Powell, especially the camping trip he said he took with his two young boys on the night his wife disappeared.

"Susan was an excellent mother. She would not have tolerated her children being taken out of the home after midnight to go camping in dangerously cold conditions," said Shelby Gifford, one of Susan Powell's friends who has been acting as the family spokeswoman. "That's a huge red flag for us."

Josh Powell told police he went camping about midnight on Dec. 6 with his two young boys. They went to Tooele on a night when the temperature was about 10 degrees. The three allegedly slept in their minivan and returned home the next day to find Susan Powell missing.

At times wiping away tears, her family said she is a loving mother, daughter, aunt and sister who loved her two boys, 4-year-old Charlie and 2-year-old Braden. The family members said the children would continue to "shout her name and show her face" in an effort to find her.

Her father, Chuck Cox, who just returned from Washington after spending a few days in Utah, said he has not given up hope that his daughter is alive.

"I believe she is. As a father, I can't give up the hope," he said.

The comments from Susan Powell's family came hours after surprising statements were made by Josh Powell's brother-in-law.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he gets arrested in the next seven days," Kirk Graves told ABC News. "Even if he's innocent, there's more than he's telling us."

That statement seemed to be in contrast to a different message Saturday, when Graves stood next to Josh Powell during a news conference. Josh Powell did not speak to reporters that day. Instead, Graves read a statement asking the public to keep the focus on finding Susan Powell and less on his brother-in-law.

"There's a lot of speculation," Graves said at the time. "Unfortunately, that doesn't do Susan any good. It's destructive and damaging to what's going on."

Graves is married to Josh Powell's sister.

West Valley police, however, weren't sure where Thursday's statement was coming from.

"We're very surprised he would make that comment. We don't know why, what basis he's using to make that comment," Capt. Tom McLachlan said.

Gifford said Susan's family also didn't know what to think of those comments.

"We're a little bit surprised about the forthcoming way he brought that out. It was surprising for us to hear as a family," Gifford said.

Also Thursday, police said they had interviewed the Powells' 4-year-old son last week and he told investigators that he did go camping with his dad. But McLachlan declined to answer any other questions regarding that interview, such as whether the boy clarified whether they went camping on the day Josh Powell said they did or if he meant a different time, or where they went.

Despite the visible presence of police at the Powell home Thursday, police had no new leads or information to release publicly. Susan Powell's family said police are still classifying her disappearance as a "missing person's case" but with "suspicious and criminal overtones."

Powell was interviewed by police late Tuesday and submitted to a search warrant to collect DNA. Investigators have said Josh Powell has not been very forthcoming with his answers and refuses to give detailed or specific answers to their questions.

Family members Thursday said they had heard reports of Josh Powell being controlling and of a possible notebook belonging to Susan Powell that she kept at work. But the family said it did not have enough information on these items and referred all questions regarding evidence to police.

Josh and Susan Powell had experienced "ups and downs" and attended marriage counseling in the past, family members said, but there was no indication of threats of abuse.

Family members also said they do not believe Susan Powell ran away.

"Absolutely not. We have no reason to believe that," Gifford said. "That would be so out of character for her."

Family members again stressed that Susan Powell would not leave her children. Furthermore, they don't believe she would have left without her keys, cell phone or purse.

Their boys have been staying with relatives and with Josh Powell since their mother disappeared. Cox said he was not concerned about their safety.

"He's a super father to them," he said. "I have no doubt in my mind that they are safe with him."

Gifford said Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound was offering a $1,000 reward on Susan Powell's whereabouts. Also, a fund to help her family pay for the search, travel and specialists has been set up at FAA First Federal Credit Union.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com