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Police remove computers, boxes from Powell home
Washington state • On national TV, father-in-law describes his relation with Susan as "flirting."

By Nate Carlisle And Jen Harper The Salt Lake Tribune

Published August 25, 2011 4:20 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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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Puyallup, Wash. • The search for Susan Cox Powell came to the home of her husband and father-in-law here Thursday as detectives removed evidence they say will further their investigation.

Officers from Utah and Washington serving a search warrant on the home removed computer towers and boxes. Neither Powell's husband, Josh Powell, nor her father-in-law, Steve Powell, were arrested.

Police said little about the latest development in the 20-month disappearance of the missing West Valley City mother, but acknowledged they had been looking for and recovered specific items of evidence.

"We've actually accomplished what it is we hoped to accomplish," said West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt near the end of the six-hour search. "The items we collected today are definitely going to further the investigation."

Merritt was among a group of 13 West Valley City detectives who traveled to the Powell home in Puyallup. A trailer with West Valley City police decals, hitched to a pickup with Utah plates, was parked outside the home. Detectives from the Pierce County, Wash., sheriff's department assisted.

Merritt said the search warrant permitted a search of Josh Powell's minivan and of several but not all of the rooms in the home.

Steve Powell said he was at work on the phone with his family when the search of his home in the small subdivision of South Hill began.

"They haven't even told us what they're looking for," Steve Powell said as he was on the way home Thursday afternoon. "They're victimizing us more."

Earlier in the day, Steve Powell gave interviews to national news networks in which he contradicted earlier descriptions of his relationship with his daughter-in-law. He earlier told The Salt Lake Tribune nothing inappropriate had occurred between him and his daughter-in-law.

In an interview with ABC News Thursday, Steve Powell claimed the two shared "Father-in-law - daughter-in-law flirting with each other, maybe some sexual touching or whatever. And, I enjoyed it, frankly."

However, both Steve and Josh Powell in televised interviews continued to deny any role in Susan Powell's disappearance. The pair have said they believe Susan Powell is alive and may have run away with another man.

Josh Powell's estranged sister, Jennifer Graves, said Susan Powell rejected sexual advances by her father-in-law. Graves claims that gives her father a motive to be involved with Susan Powell's disappearance.

Josh Powell is the only person of interest named by police in the case of his wife. Susan Powell, 28, was last seen Dec. 6, 2009.

Josh Powell has told police he last saw his wife as he left her at home and took their sons, then ages 2 and 4, on a late-night camping trip to the west desert in the family's blue minivan. Josh Powell has previously said he and the children stayed warm in the freezing temperatures with a generator and heater he had purchased two weeks earlier. Josh Powell and his sons moved in with his father in Puyallup weeks after the disappearance.

Besides Josh and Steve Powell and the boys, two of Josh Powell's siblings also live in the home. Police arrived at the two-story home about 2:45 p.m. local time Thursday.

A Tribune reporter observing the search saw police carry five computer towers out of the home as well as garbage bags and boxes. Detectives also searched Josh Powell's minivan.

The Powell home is in a middle-class neighborhood of suburban Seattle. While the search was ongoing Thursday night, neighbors stood outside the police tape watching and snapping photographs of police officers with their phones.

"I think it took them too long to do this," said Jason Wick, a neighborhood resident who has followed the case and whose son attends the same school as Josh Powell's oldest son, 6-year-old Charlie.

It is at least the third time law enforcement has searched the home. In the early days of Susan Powell's disappearance, Steve Powell said he gave his permission for detectives from West Valley City and Pierce County to search his home and ensure his daughter-in-law was not there.

Federal agents arrived at the home on May 11, 2010, to retrieve a GPS tracking device they had secretly placed on Josh Powell's minivan. Documents provided by Steve Powell show he gave agents permission to search his home that day, too.

Steve Powell said agents from the U.S. Marshals Service also arrived at his home Nov. 16 requesting copies of Susan Powell's childhood journals. Steve Powell told The Tribune he agreed to provide copies of the journals but agents never followed up on their request.

The journals have become another source of contention in recent weeks. Steve Powell planned to post excerpts online in an effort to show Susan Powell was mentally unstable and capable of leaving her family. Susan Powell's parents and supporters have denounced the plan as an invasion of privacy.

The families, who are at odds over the case, reached new heights in their feud this week when Josh Powell sought a restraining order against Chuck Cox, claiming to a Pierce County court commissioner that Chuck Cox had been stalking him and mouthed "You're dead" when the two saw each other at a local Lowe's store.

Chuck Cox denied the threats, and told the commissioner this week that he simply asked to hug his grandchildren. The commissioner ordered the men to stay 500 feet away from each other.

West Valley City police last week searched abandoned mines in Ely, Nev., for signs of Susan Powell. Police said the search was based on information in previously served search warrants. Merritt said the Puyallup search was planned prior to the Ely search.

"We need to find answers as to whether Susan is out there," Merritt said. "We need to find answers as to whether she is deceased."

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ncarlisle

mrogers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mrogers_trib

Melinda Rogers contributed to this report.



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