One year ago today, on February 5, 2012, 36 year old Josh Powell killed his two young sons then himself in his Graham, Washington home. Powell had been in the public eye ever since police labeled him a person of interest in the 2009 disappearance of his 28 year old wife, Susan.
Susan Cox Powell was last seen on the afternoon of December 6, 2009 at their West Valley City, Utah home, by a friend who had stopped by for lunch. After the Powell’s failed to drop off their sons, Brandon and Charlie at daycare the following morning and failed to show up at their jobs, relatives called police. Later that same day Josh Powell and his sons, then ages 2 and 4, returned home. When questioned by police, Powell claimed he had left with the boys around 12:30 a.m. on December 7 for an overnight camping trip. Asked why he would take his young children camping on a freezing night, Powell said he wanted to test his new generator.
There was no sign of robbery, forced entry or a struggle at the Powell home. Friend’s and family told investigators that Susan would never voluntarily walk out on her sons. It was also uncovered that the Powell’s had been having financial and marital problems. In mid-December Josh Powell, who was being uncooperative with the investigation, according to police, was named a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance.
In early January 2010, Powell packed up his Utah home, and he and his sons moved in with his father, Steven, in Payallup, Washington, where Josh and Susan had grown up. In September 2011 Steven Powell was arrested and charged with multiple counts of voyeurism and possession of child pornography. Shortly after that, a judge gave Susan Powell’s parents custody of Brandon and Charlie.
On February 1, 2012, a Washington judge ordered Josh Powell to undergo a psychosexual evaluation, including a polygraph test, before he could regain custody of his boys. Around noon on February 5, a social worker brought Brandon and Charlie t their father’s home in Graham for a supervised visit. Powell let his sons into the house then blocked the social worker from entering. She called 911 and reported hearing the boys crying and smelling gasoline. Powell then ignited a massive blaze that killed him and his children. It was later discovered he had attacked the boys with a hatchet before starting the fire.
Authorities determined that Powell had planned the murders in advance, even giving boxes of his children’s toys to Goodwill and emailing his pastor and family members just before setting the fire with instructions about how to take care of some of his final business. Susan Powell was not mentioned.
A lawyer for Susan’s parents said that before their deaths the Powell boys had begun telling their grandparents more of what they remembered about the night their mother disappeared. According to the Associated Press, the lawyer said: “The oldest boy talked about that they went camping and that Mommy was in the trunk. Mom and Dad got out of the car, and Mom disappeared.” Susan Powell has never been found.