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Police find no sign of missing West Valley City woman in camping area
Tooele deputies couldn't prove, nor disprove, Joshua Powell and his boys camped there.

By Nate Carlisle

And Jason Bergreen

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published December 11, 2009 10:04 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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Five days ago, Joshua Powell says he packed up his two boys, said goodbye to his wife and left his West Valley City home for a late night camping trip.

That was the last time he or anyone else saw his wife Susan Powell.

The 28-year-old woman's disappearance has left her friends, family and even police baffled as to her whereabouts.

A search of the area Thursday where Susan Powell's husband says he went camping shortly before her disappearance turned up nothing.

Tooele County sheriff's Chief Deputy Duke North said investigators from West Valley City on Thursday searched a section of the Pony Express Trail where Joshua Powell said he camped with his 2- and 4-year-old sons.

"They came out and searched an area but didn't find anything," North said.

North was not aware whether detectives have confirmed the family had been at that campsite. No other searches in Tooele County are planned, North said.

"The information thus far doesn't justify us using our resources," North said.

West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan said fresh snow hid any evidence of whether someone had been there.

"We can't confirm he was there. We can't disprove he was there," McLachlan said.

McLachlan said Joshua Powell is cooperative and not a suspect, nor a person of interest. The couple's one vehicle was searched and returned to Josh Powell, the captain said.

"He is a person we are interested in talking to again, interviewing again, as we have interviewed many people and talked to many people," he said. "We have no plans to talk to him again today [Friday]."

Susan Powell's father, Charles Cox was expected to fly into Salt Lake City from Washington state Friday night and meet with investigators in person, said Susan Powell's best friend Kiirsi Hellewell, who spoke with Cox.

Cox and Hellewell both said that it wasn't uncommon for the Powells to leave on the spur of the moment to go somewhere. Joshua taking the kids camping late at night, though odd, didn't altogether surprise his father-in-law.

"It's not beyond the pale," Cox said. "He would do that."

But, Cox said during a phone interview Thursday night, "Parts of [Joshua's] story are hard to believe. There's parts of it that just begs: What really happened?"

Cox said he learned his daughter was missing from Joshua Powell's sister, Jennifer Graves, on Monday.

Susan Powell was last seen just after midnight Sunday before her husband and their two young children apparently went on the camping trip, Cox was told by Graves.

West Valley City police have been looking for Powell since Monday morning when Graves reported the whole family missing. Neither of the Powells showed up for work that day and the children were not dropped off at day care, McLachlan said. Police went to the home to search for the family, but found nobody there. They did find Susan Powell's phone and purse, Cox said.

Joshua Powell and the children returned home sometime around 5 p.m. Monday, Cox said. Police interviewed Josh Powell twice this week, but he hasn't been able to help police find his wife.

McLachlan said the case is still a missing person case, but it has become suspicious. He said no one can or is willing to tell them where Susan Powell is, and she has not contacted anyone.

Because the Powell home was the last place Susan Powell was seen, police executed a search warrant on the home and collected items that may hold clues to her disappearance.

Hellewell said she and her husband spoke with Joshua Powell for two hours Thursday night.

"He's not very well," she said. "He seems really lost, like he doesn't have a friend in the world."

The children are doing a bit better.

"They seem like they are ready to smile and enjoy company, but they seem very confused," Hellewell said.

She said the oldest child has been telling people how his mother makes him toast and other things like that.

Cox said he last spoke with his daughter a week ago Thursday. They spoke about Christmas and gifts he recently sent by mail. He said she didn't mention anything was wrong and it was "a very regular conversation."

Cox and Hellewell said that the Powells had financial troubles in the past, but had mostly solved their problems. Cox said that the couple were occasionally unemployed, but both were working when Susan Powell disappeared. Cox had helped his daughter and son-in-law financially in the past, he said.

According to court documents, Josh Powell filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April 2007, listing more than $200,000 in credit card, furniture, student loan and other debts, not including the family's mortgage and car. At the time, Josh Powell listed his occupation as a Realtor for Homenet Real Estate and Susan Powell was listed as a homemaker.

Hellewell and others have started a Facebook page called "Friends and Family of Susan Powell." As of Friday evening 1,200 people were listed as friends.

One of those people, Kayla Reed, wrote on the site Friday that she had 300 fliers with Susan Powell's likeness that she planned to pass out at a Jazz game. She was hoping for donations so more could be passed out at the event, malls and in Susan Powell's neighborhood.

Cox said Thursday evening he can't imagine where his daughter could be.

"I'm sure somebody out there knows something," he said.

Tribune reporter Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this story.



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