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Searching for Susan Powell: Neighbor describes husband's odd behavior
Missing mom » Friend says man seemed indifferent to wife's disappearance.

By Sheena Mcfarland

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published December 23, 2009 7:40 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated.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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When Joshua Powell showed up at Tim Peterson's door with extremely wind-burned hands two days after his wife went missing, asking for a ride to the police station to get his van, he seemed "pretty unfazed."

"We kept asking about Susan, but all he could talk about was the new clothes and phone he had gotten at Walmart after the police took his stuff for evidence," Peterson said Wednesday about his neighbor.

Joshua Powell seemed to have that lax attitude from the beginning.

Neighbors called all day Dec. 7 after his wife was reported missing, and when they finally talked to Joshua Powell, it took him two hours to get home.

"He just said he was driving around West Valley City," Peterson said. "He wasn't in a big hurry to get home and find his wife. It's just a really crappy situation."

Two days later, when Joshua Powell dropped by the Peterson home, he had "the worst wind burn" Peterson had ever seen on the back of his hands and he kept applying lotion to them as they talked in Peterson's front room.

"I wanted to say 'Man, this just isn't adding up,' but I didn't, I was loving and supportive," Peterson said.

Powell wouldn't answer questions about his missing wife, only saying he didn't know where she was and that he wasn't actively looking for her because the police were handling that, Peterson said.

"This guy was absolutely a crackpot and there was just something wrong with this whole situation," Peterson said.

West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan would not discuss a phone or Powell's chapped hands, saying he will not discuss evidence in the case.

He said West Valley City police will not keep the same number of investigators on the case during Christmas Day.

"It will be peeled back a little , but we're keeping it going," McLachlan said.

Susan Powell was reported missing Dec. 7 after she didn't show up for work and didn't drop her children off to day care. Joshua Powell has told police he took his sons Charlie, 4, and Braden, 2, camping at 12:30 a.m. that day and had left his wife, who was not feeling well, home alone.

Powell said the police had taken his clothes, the quilt on the couple's bed and his cell phone. Police have acknowledged there was a wet spot with two fans blowing on it at the Powell home, and Peterson said Powell told him police also took their carpet cleaner.

"Josh is really possessive about his things," Peterson said. "He treated everything as his possessions, including his wife and kids. He was very controlling."

Peterson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and attends the same ward as the Powells. He and Susan Powell became close late this summer, when she asked him questions about marriage counseling, which Peterson and his wife previously had gone through.

On the day of the Powells' first meeting with the LDS Family Service counselor, she told Peterson about Joshua Powell's controlling behavior, and how he had become more possessive and obsessive since moving to Utah five years ago. She told Peterson she wanted her husband to become active in the LDS Church again and get his temple recommend by their anniversary in 2010, or she was seriously considering divorcing him.

"She went to the marriage counselor hoping it would save their marriage," Peterson said.

But Joshua's behavior showed a lack of caring for Susan's well-being, Peterson said.

One night in September, Susan called Peterson to ask for a blessing because she was feeling so sick. He called the Elders Quorum president, and the two went to the house. Joshua Powell talked with them for 45 minutes about a computer conference he attended before Susan finally walked into the front room, looking pale and ill, Peterson said.

He asked Susan if she wanted a blessing, and she accepted. Peterson asked Joshua Powell if he wanted to participate, as it was his wife and home. He shrugged his shoulders and said OK, Peterson said.

In the middle of the blessing, the Powells' 4-year-old son, Charlie, climbed onto Susan's lap and was pretending to give the blessing, too.

"All Josh could do was laugh at his son," Peterson said. "It was so heartbreaking to see he just didn't care about her needs."

Joshua Powell also became increasingly erratic.

Powell once yelled at the Petersons for taking off their shoes and socks in his home, saying he'd have to spend all night cleaning the floors from the germs on their bare feet.

Susan Powell talked with Peterson about her first four marriage counseling sessions, but stopped after Peterson counseled her to leave her husband, whom he didn't see making any effort to improve their relationship.

"I told her she was a beautiful, talented woman who could be so much happier in a different situation," Peterson said. "I told her her husband was an energy suck and no one could stand to be around him."

Peterson said Susan Powell wanted to be more social and have friends over more often, but fellow ward members "couldn't stand" Joshua and would avoid him.

Even though Peterson and Susan Powell stopped talking about the Powell marriage, they stayed in touch. She sent him an e-mail thanking him for a backyard play set for her two boys, saying it would be great to have next summer to entertain the boys while she did yard work.

"This was not a woman who wanted to leave," Peterson said.

smcfarland@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">smcfarland@sltrib.com

Nate Carlisle contributed to this report.



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