Image: Josh Powell
Ted S. Warren  /  AP
Josh Powell, center, the husband of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, leaves a courtroom, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011, in Tacoma, Wash., after a judge awarded temporary custody of Powell's two sons to Susan's parents, Chuck Cox and his wife Judy.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/29/2011 2:41:24 AM ET 2011-09-29T06:41:24

The husband of a missing Utah woman is temporarily losing the right to care for his children after officials questioned Wednesday whether he is responsible for his wife's disappearance.

Judge Kathryn Nelson said there is reasonable cause to believe the two boys cannot be safely returned to the home of Josh Powell, so she ordered that the kids will temporarily stay with Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox. Josh Powell will have visitation rights.

Powell is a person of interest in his wife's disappearance, but he has not been charged and insists he did nothing wrong.

John Long, an assistant attorney general, described during Wednesday's hearing a variety of concerns he has about Josh Powell, including that he has been uncooperative with law enforcement.

"It leads the state to believe that he is responsible for her disappearance," Long said.

In Wednesday's court hearing, Josh Powell advocated without an attorney that it was in the best interest of the children for him to keep caring for them.

He also opposed the judge's decision to place them in the care of his in-laws, who have been openly critical of him.

Powell reiterated his statement that he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance and wants her back safely.

He continues to wear his wedding ring. Powell has said he took his boys, then 2 and 4, on a late night camping trip in freezing temperatures the day his wife disappeared from their West Valley City, Utah, home.

Child pornography charges
Among the concerns raised in the court by Long raised was that the children had been living in the home of Steve Powell, Josh Powell's father, who was charged this month with voyeurism and possessing child pornography.

Josh Powell said he wasn't aware of any illegal pornography and said there were no signs that it was in the home.

More details emerged Wednesday about Steve Powell's past in a 1992 divorce case from Spokane County.

Video: Susan Powell’s kin ‘shocked, outraged’ by porn charges (on this page)

Case documents reviewed by The Associated Press show Steve Powell's ex-wife accused him of keeping pornography, damaging his children's respect for marriage and inappropriately discussing sex issues with the kids.

Steve Powell was charged this month with child pornography and voyeurism after authorities investigating the disappearance of Susan Powell searched his home in Puyallup.

NBC-affiliate station King 5 reported that the state cited the condition of the home when he was arrested.

Police found one of Josh Powell's brothers, who is developmentally disabled, naked, according to King 5. The state also said a hangman's noose was found, as well as a poster on the wall with a sexually violent image of a woman with a sword.

Josh Powell responded that the hangman's noose was a rope used for weightlifting and that he did not believe there was a sexually violent poster in the house, King 5 reported. He said the brother who was naked during the arrest had just gotten out of the shower and the family had not been able to attend to him as they were were caught off guard by the raid.

King 5 said Josh Powell, who is in a custody battle with Chuck Cox, said that if he could not have his sons, he wanted them placed in foster care.

Terri Powell wrote in the divorce papers that Steve Powell talked of teaching his children about birth control methods when they were as young as 9 years old.

Terri's sister, Becky Mulcahy, wrote in the documents that Steve Powell told her that he had shown his youngest children books about sexual intercourse when they were 6 and 8 years old.

Viewed people as animals
Terri Powell said her husband viewed people as animals and that they should be able to have sex with anyone at any time.

She recalled a conversation in which Josh referred to a girl his brother, Johnny, liked.

"All she is good for is her body, right Dad?" Terri recalled Josh saying.

"Yeah, that's right," Steve Powell replied, according to the declaration.

Terri Powell also said Steve Powell kept hardcore pornography in the home and that he visited pornography shops.

Video: FBI expert: Why police raided Josh Powell’s home (on this page)

Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's sister, said in an interview with The Associated Press that she broke off ties with her father in part because of his problems with sex and pornography.

Image: Jennifer Graves, Kirk Graves
Ted S. Warren  /  AP
Jennifer Graves, the estranged sister of Josh Powell, sits with her husband Kirk Graves during testimony about conditions in the home where Josh Powell lived with his father, Steven Powell, and Josh's two sons, at a custody hearing in Tacoma, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011.

She recalled going on a business trip with her father when she was about 11 years old and that he viewed a pornographic video while she was with him.

"Looking back, I wonder if he was willing to do that with a 10-12 year girl — his daughter — in the room, what else would he be willing to do?" she said.

Steve Powell has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges of voyeurism and one of possession of child pornography. He remains jailed on $200,000 bail.

Prosecutors said that for at least a decade, he had been secretly filming women, including Susan Powell, and that he shot footage of two young neighbor girls as they took baths and sat on the toilet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Missing mom’s husband loses custody of kids

  1. Closed captioning of: Missing mom’s husband loses custody of kids

    >> washington state on another very serious story where a husband of a missing utah mother has now lost custody of his two sons, at least temporarily. n

    >> reporter: the boys were taken from their father josh powell after susan powell 's father-in-law steven powell was arrested on child pornography and voyeurism charges. today steven powell remains in jail as josh powell fights for his kids.

    >> the children cannot be safely returned home at this time.

    >> reporter: a judge wednesday ordered susan and josh powell 's sons to remain in the temporary custody of susan 's parents chuck and judy cox. the children, who had been living with josh in steven powell 's home were first moved to their grandparents' home tuesday.

    >> last night went well. the children are doing well in the cox home. there are no issues in that regard.

    >> reporter: the children were removed from the powell home after steven powell , susan 's father-in-law, was arrested on 14 counts of voyeurism and possession of child pornography . he's pled not guilty. in court on the custody case, josh powell said he had nothing to do with his father's alleged activity.

    >> i have not harmed them. i have not subjected them to any environment or person that i believe to be even a potential threat to them.

    >> steven powell is accused of secretly videotaping susan and an unknown number of other females.

    >> do you want to say anything?

    >> reporter: including taking nude images of two girls from outside a home in a neighborhood. authorities say they're investigating whether josh was involved in the pornography case. and as they pored through 15 computers taken from the powell home wednesday they claim josh may have taken some of the pictures.

    >> mr. josh powell has indicated to the cps investigator that he does take pictures of people's legs in public without their knowledge.

    >> reporter: a claim josh denied in court.

    >> i do not take photos of people. i certainly do not take any photos of any person's body parts.

    >> reporter: the environment of the home has also been called into question. two of josh's adult siblings live at the powell residence including a brother with a mental illness.

    >> law enforcement has reported that the adult brother is schizophrenic, that he's answered the door to law enforcement in the nude, and that he's often naked around the home.

    >> reporter: josh has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation, and for now was granted just three hours of visitation on sunday. susan powell vanished in 2009 on the same day josh told police he took his boys camping overnight in a snowstorm. police have named josh a person of interest in the case. he's denied involvement in the disappearance. final custody is yet to be determined, and the boys could eventually be returned to their father.

    >> i'm here for the best interest of my sons and i believe that in the best interests of my sons they should come home and be with me.

    >> reporter: in court josh powell said he would rather see his children live in foster care than with susan 's father and mother. as for their part the cox family left court without making any comments. this deep-seeded family feud certainly shows no sign of ending any time soon.

    >> okay, miguel almaguer, thank you so much.

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