We need to find your wife. I would think you would want to help me find your wife. Do you not want to find your wife? … Why are you making this so difficult, then? —West Valley police detective Ellis Maxwell said to Josh Powell
WEST VALLEY CITY — Josh Powell seemed to get anxious whenever the words "Miranda rights" were mentioned by West Valley police detective Ellis Maxwell.
"I'm not trying to hide anything," Powell nervously tells Maxwell.
"Then I need you to answer these questions," he fires back.
A day after Susan Cox Powell went missing from her West Valley home in 2009, police attempted to interview her husband, Josh Powell, at the West Valley Police Department. But, as has been noted in several previously unsealed documents, Powell seemed to be evasive with detectives, not giving complete answers to their questions.
The videotaped interviews with Josh Powell were released to the Deseret News and KSL this week through a Government Records Access and Management Act request.
In the interview, a meek-looking Powell is seated in a small room in a chair backed into a corner while an officer sits directly facing him from about a foot away with no table or barrier between them.
In one video, Powell seems reluctant to talk to Maxwell, who reminds him several times that he is not under arrest and is free to leave at any time.
"What do you want us to do? Do you want us to not talk to you and hope (your wife) just shows up?" Maxwell asks.
Powell mentions several times that he thinks he should call a lawyer and says he fears the officer will try to entrap him. He speaks slowly, at times very softly, and some of his statements seem to just trail off as Maxwell interviews him.
"You guys are already trying to trap me on little things," Powell said.
"We need to find your wife. I would think you would want to help me find your wife," Maxwell said. "Do you not want to find your wife? Why are you making this so difficult, then?"
At one point, Powell seems to be fighting back tears as he tells Maxwell he's scared of answering more questions.
"If you didn't do anything wrong, then there's nothing to be scared about," the detective replies.
As Maxwell proceeds to question Powell about the events of Dec. 6-7, 2009, Powell remembers some things well and seems to have a memory lapse on other items, such as what he packed in his car the night he said he took his young sons, Charlie and Braden, camping in a remote are of Tooele County near the Pony Express Trail. It's the same night that Susan Powell went missing.
"Oh come on, Josh, you remember putting cream cheese in your pancake and you can't remember what you put in your car?" a frustrated Maxwell says at one point.
After more than an hour of questioning, Maxwell's tone with Powell becomes more serious as he gets ready to read Powell his Miranda rights. Maxwell said he needed Powell's help if he was going to find his wife, and then asks Powell if he considers himself a suspect. Powell says no.
"I'm not arresting you. I'm not taking you to jail," Maxwell tells an increasingly nervous Powell right before reading him his rights. "We need to eliminate you as being a person of interest. There's nobody else out there for me to go and talk to and to clarify. So I need to verify your story, right?"
"I told you everything that I know," Powell protests.
Powell tells investigators at that point in the interview that he really thinks he needs a lawyer and asks to wait a couple of days so he can think about answering more questions.
"Your wife is missing, Josh, and you want to think about it for a couple of days?" Maxwell asks.
Powell gets up to attempt to leave a couple of times when a second detective walks into the room. Maxwell eventually tells Powell in the video that he is now being detained and no longer free to leave because his son, Charlie, has told officials that the three of them went camping with their mother, but she did not go home with them.
"They know that she didn't go with us," Powell tells the detectives. "There is nothing that happened, she was not with us."
"So your kids lie, then?" the officer presses.
"If they said she was with us, then I guess that would put her out in Pony Express," Powell says. "She was not with us. I did not leave her at the Pony Express. I didn't just take her out and drop her off or even do anything."
At one point in that interview, both officers are sitting shoulder to shoulder in chairs directly facing Powell's chair, which is still positioned in a corner of the room.16 comments on this story
At that point, Maxwell tells Powell that his car and his house are in the possession of the police department. When Powell left the police station a short time later, he went to the Salt Lake City International Airport where he rented a vehicle and drove more than 800 miles in it.
Powell eventually hired defense attorney Scott Williams to represent him. Williams was later present when officers drew blood from Powell. Powell ultimately agreed to participate in two police interviews but declined to show up for a third. In January of 2010, he packed his bags and moved back to Washington state with his sons.