In the last two days, several alarming news stories have appeared detailing the search warrant affidavits applied to Josh Powell and his father, Steven Powell (currently in jail awaiting trial on various pornography and voyeurism charges). The best article that summarizes this new information is from the LA TIMES. Read the whole thing (as they say on the blogs) and we’ll discuss.
Long-time readers of my former blog have followed a number of spousal murder cases, most notably Laci Peterson and Lori Hacking’s, and will notice many similarities to Susan Powell’s “disappearance”. However, unlike in Laci and Lori’s cases, Susan Powell’s body was never found and will likely never be found now that Josh Powell is dead along with the only potential (albeit unreliable) witnesses: his two little boys.
Susan Powell’s parents are understandably outraged and devastated by the news that their son-in-law behaved in ways that were undeniably regarded as consciousness of guilt: the removal of Susan’s cell phone SIM card, removing his own cell phone’s SIM card, lying about his whereabouts, renting a car the day after Susan’s “disappearance” and logging 800 miles on it (and WHY, by the way, were not West Valley Police following him at this point? Have they never had a spousal murder case in that town?!), plus all of the other Petersonesque behavior by Powell in moving out of the house right away, taking his children to Washington state, closing Susan’s bank accounts, and his blatant lack of cooperation with police.
Even if a man shows incredibly suspicious behavior, even if observers and law enforcement know in their guts that Powell was stone cold guilty, even if all the evidence points to a murder, it’s another matter to prove this in a court of law to a jury, especially one in conservative, male-dominated Utah among 99% white conservative Mormons. Had this murder (and we know it was) occurred in New York or California, we may have had a different outcome. We’ve seen murder trials succeed even without the murder victim’s body found. So, why didn’t the DA in Salt Lake City County prosecute? I’m sure this decision will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
When I received the Google alert that Josh Powell blew up his house with his children inside, I felt an overwhelming wave of rage, nausea and despair. This was one of the worst spousal murder cases I have ever followed, and the more we learn about it, the angrier I become.
It really doesn’t matter anymore if Josh is convicted in absentia. The DA may now pursue a case to save face, but the damage is done. Those poor little boys are gone, their mother will never have justice, and the Cox family may never recover from the blow. Perhaps we can obtain some satisfaction if Steven Powell is convicted of all charges and imprisoned for life, but even that won’t make up for the unforgivable part he played as an accessory to this horrific crime.
I think the DA should have prosecuted even with the weak circumstantial case she had against Josh. Charging Josh would have sent those boys to their grandparents months earlier, removing them from the Powell household and its damaging influence. It would have eliminated Josh’s ability to plot his murder/suicide and perhaps saved those boys, even if Josh was acquitted (which I don’t think he would have been). It was worth the risk.