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Family Photo
Family photos of Susan Powell along with Charlie and Braden.
It's added to my ability to heal. ... It's lent a lot of healing to me. Not just the music, but knowing that people care. —Jennifer Graves

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Camilyn Morrison struggled after hearing about the Feb. 5, 2012, murders of Charlie and Braden Powell at the hands of their father, Joshua.

"It just hit really close to home," she said. "I was heartbroken, just devastated. It was really, really bothering me."

The brutal details of the way they were killed were especially difficult and left her confused and on her knees, asking God for comfort. She said she experienced what she can only describe as a dream two days after the deaths and said Susan Cox Powell was there.

The boys' mother — a West Valley City woman who has been missing since December of 2009 — told her something that provided the needed comfort, she said.

"With their hands in mine, they left just in time," Morrison recalled Susan Powell saying in the dream. "They were both safe inside God's arms before they felt any harm."

Morrison wrote the words down and, within a few weeks, turned them into part of a song that she asked a friend to record. She then gave the song, titled "Susan's Song: 'A Dream Away,'" to Josh Powell's sister, Jennifer Graves.

"I just wanted to give her something more than a hug — that would last longer," Morrison said.

Saturday, the song was performed publicly for the first time at Ivy Girl Academy, an event which aims to provide confidence and leadership training for girls between 12 and 18 years old. Program director Jessie Funk was the friend Morrison asked to record the song and she performed it to a backdrop of a video collage of Susan, Charlie and Braden.

"I'm happy to sing it, I'm honored to sing it," Funk said before addressing the girls in attendance. "You are worth protecting. You are worth standing up for. You are worth saying, 'I don't think so' when someone doesn't respect your boundaries."

Graves said she first heard the song in March and listened to it 40 to 50 times that first weekend. As soon as she'd stop crying, she'd start the song over.

"It's added to my ability to heal. ... It's lent a lot of healing to me," Graves said. "Not just the music, but knowing that people care. In March, we decided to release it to the public."

The decision was made to release the song around Susan Powell's Oct. 16 birthday. She would be 31 this year. The song is now available for sale on iTunes and all proceeds will go toward a memorial family and friends hope to erect in Utah of the woman and her two sons.

"They'll be the faces," Graves said. "We hope to use that to help other people get out of that situation."

The performance of the song Saturday came after a presentation from Graves, who has worked with the family and friends of Susan Powell in seeking justice and answers in her disappearance. The woman spoke during an empowerment segment about having healthy relationships by setting boundaries. She said she chose this topic because she wanted girls to know that they can have control in their relationships.

"Abuse, manipulation, control is not appropriate," she said. "Those things need be addressed and changed or cut off."

She began by talking briefly about her experience with a verbally abusive father. She said her father was a negative influence whose "really bad actions" were passed on to her brother.

"(Josh Powell) was critical, manipulative, controlling and verbally abusive to his wife," Graves said. "He ended up killing her about three years ago. Two years later, he killed his sons and himself."

Josh Powell was always suspected in his wife's disappearance, but was never arrested or charged. He killed himself after killing their two young boys.

What happened to Susan Powell was not a common situation, but Graves said told the girls it is important to understand their personal boundaries that will help "keep the good in and keep the bad out." She also explained that each girl has the power to control her attitude, feelings, beliefs, choices and limits.

"We own our own thoughts," she said. "We are responsible for what we think."

She talked about the importance of having a close, outside support group even when in a relationship and being aware of negative behaviors that can't be addressed and improved upon.

"They should be moving in a positive direction, making progress, changing," Graves said.

After the singing was over, Graves, Morrison, Susan Powell's best friend Kiirsi Hellewell and Debbie Caldwell, who provided childcare services for the two Powell boys, sat in a room talking about the song, about Susan, her children, change and all that they have endured together.

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Morrison said the song basically wrote itself and she mostly just had to listen.

Hellewell said she'd like to see changes in laws that would keep children from parents who are suspects or persons of interest in a spouse's death.

Graves said she believes angels were there to protect Charlie and Braden before they died.

And Caldwell said she thanks heaven they have each other.

"This is the legacy that's left," she said, indicating the tearful women around her as her own eyes filled to the brim. "We don't want anybody to live what we've lived."

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam