Susan Powell Case: Cadaver Dogs Will Search House, Lawyer Says

Image: Susan Powell
Susan Powell has been missing since December 2009.West Valley City Police Dept. via AP file

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Cadaver dogs will search the former Washington state home of a man whose daughter-in-law Susan Powell disappeared in Utah in 2009, setting off an investigation that led to the murder-suicide of her children and husband.

The home where Steven Powell used to live in Puyallup, south of Seattle, was acquired this month by his next-door neighbors who sued him after he was convicted in 2012 of voyeurism for taking photos of their two daughters using their bathroom, said Anne Bremner, a Seattle attorney for the neighbors.

The neighbors received a $2 million judgment and got the house at auction early this month to partly satisfy that, Bremner said.

During Powell’s trial, the neighbors became friends with Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, and they agreed to the search of the property, Bremner said. She said the home still has Steven Powell’s belongings inside and that the cadaver dog search would take place “in the next few weeks.”

“Chuck is like any parent would be — he doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned,” Bremner said.

Susan Powell has been missing since December 2009.West Valley City Police Dept. via AP file

Steven Powell served less than two years in prison and was released in March.

His son Josh was a person of interest in Susan’s December 2009 disappearance from their West Valley City, Utah, home, but he was never charged. He told authorities that he took his children camping in the middle of the night in frigid winter weather and that when he returned, his wife was gone. The search has spanned Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere, but her body has not been found.

Shortly after Susan’s disappearance, Josh Powell moved his sons back to his father’s house in Puyallup. On Feb. 5, 2012, after a judge ordered him to have a psychological evaluation over incestuous sexual images found on his computer, Josh Powell bludgeoned his sons, 5 and 7, with an ax, then blew up the house in Graham where they had been living, killing them and himself. Josh’s brother Michael committed suicide a year later.

Steven Powell is shown during his 2012 voyeurism trial in Tacoma, Wash. He was convicted and served less than two years. He lost his house in a $2 million judgment against him by the family of two girls he was convicted of spying on.Ted S. Warren / AP file

Last week, a federal judge decided that life insurance policies covering Josh and Susan’s sons would be split between Josh’s family and Susan’s family. About $793,000 will go to Josh’s family, and another $2.2 million will be controlled by a trust that the couple had set up before she disappeared or by her father as her conservator, The Associated Press reported. But who controls the trust is still in dispute in Utah courts.

Also last week, police with cadaver dogs searched a rural property near Salem, Ore., for signs of Susan Powell’s body. Josh Powell’s aunt and uncle were renting the property in 2009 when Susan disappeared, NBC station KING5 of Seattle reported. The search turned up no sign of Susan, but Bremner said the Cox family was undeterred.

“Until Susan is found, I just don’t think that Chuck is going to rest,” she said.

— Gil Aegerter