WEST VALLEY CITY — When Josh Powell was first told his wife was missing, it took him two hours to get home, even though he said he had been driving around West Valley City, according to a neighbor and friend of Susan Powell.
The same neighbor said Josh Powell didn't wanted to talk about his wife's disappearance in the early days of the investigation, despite repeated questions from friends.
These and other details of Josh Powell's unusual behavior in the days following his wife's disappearance were revealed Wednesday. She has not been seen since Dec. 6. Police say her husband is a person of interest in the case but not a suspect.
His strange behavior since his wife went missing has resulted in numerous questions being asked by friends and family members.
Tim Petersen is a neighbor of the Powells and a member of their LDS Church ward. He and his wife are good friends with Susan Powell, and Petersen has helped her with her marriage counseling.
On Dec. 7, police were called to the Powell house after the couple failed to show up for work and their children were not dropped off at day care. The day-care providers contacted Josh Powell's mother, who went to the house and found it locked. Fearing a carbon monoxide incident, she called police.
Josh Powell later told police he had decided to go camping about midnight on Dec. 6 in rural Tooele County and took his two sons, ages 2 and 4, with him.
Petersen said friends and family members tried several times to call Josh Powell on his cell phone Dec. 7. When Powell finally answered, Petersen said, he didn't seem very panicked when they told him his wife was missing and no one had any idea where she was.
"They told him, 'The police are here at your house. You might want to come home.' It took him two hours. When we asked him where he had been, he just said, 'I've been driving around West Valley City.' It took him two hours to get home. He wasn't in a big hurry to get home and find his wife, he just … I don't know. It's a really crappy situation," Petersen said.
The odd behavior continued over the next two days as police started combing the Powell house for evidence. Investigators seized the Powells' lone vehicle, a minivan, to look for possible clues. They also took Josh Powell's cell phone and many items from inside his house, including his bedding and a carpet cleaner, Petersen said.
"They started completely tearing his house apart," he said.
Soon after police took Powell's cell phone, he went to Walmart and got a pre-paid cell phone, Petersen said.
More information was also revealed Wednesday about the alleged wet spot police found in the Powell home.
Another church member helped police get into the house shortly after Susan Powell's disappearance, Petersen said. The church member later told Petersen he had seen two fans aimed at a wet spot on the carpet in the front room. There were toys also scattered around the floor, he said.
Josh Powell stopped by the Petersens' house on Wednesday, Dec. 9, but didn't want to talk about his wife at all despite their continuous questioning about what might have happened to her.
"He wanted to talk about everything else. He sat there in a daze. He was ticked off police took his van," Petersen said. "He was just being extremely careful about everything he said."
Petersen said it was very uncharacteristic of Josh Powell, who he described as normally very chatty.
"All he wants to do is talk. He dominates conversations," Petersen said. "It was extremely odd" that he didn't want to talk about his wife.
Josh Powell was not asking the questions that Petersen believes most husbands in that situation would ask, such as: What happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen?
Petersen said that he noticed, while Powell was sitting on the Petersens' couch, that the man's hands "were just absolutely wind burned."
"They were just toast from the wind. His hands were absolutely toast. He kept taking a bottle of lotion out and putting it on his hands," Petersen said.
When Josh and Susan Powell were first married, both were very active in the LDS Church, Petersen said. They were sealed in the temple. But once they moved to Utah, Josh Powell stopped attending church.
Petersen said the Powells' marriage counselor instructed Susan Powell to set specific goals. Susan Powell told her husband that her goal was for him to become active in the church again by the end of 2009 and to have his temple recommend again by their anniversary in the spring. Otherwise, she was going to divorce him and take the children, Petersen said.
Anyone with information on Susan Powell can call West Valley police at 801-840-4000.
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