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Investigators search for Susan Powell near Delta
Crime • Police say search is designed to find a body; chances low that missing woman is alive.

By Nate Carlisle The Salt Lake Tribune

Published September 14, 2011 7:39 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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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Topaz Mountain • The search for missing West Valley City woman Susan Cox Powell has taken police to another remote location, this time a well-known rock hounding area in Utah's west desert.

Police detectives on all-terrain vehicles, and cadaver dogs and handlers on foot, searched about a 2-square-mile area around Topaz Mountain on Tuesday, said West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt.

Merritt said they collected a few items but nothing known to be a clue in the 22-month-old disappearance.

"The chances of finding anything here are probably slim to none," Merritt said, "but these are the ways these cases get solved."

Merritt acknowledged the search is designed to find a body, adding that the likelihood that Susan Powell is alive is low.

A search of the area — near Delta, and about 135 miles southwest of Salt Lake City — also was conducted Monday, and West Valley City police said they plan to continue searching through Thursday.

Merritt said detectives had no specific information indicating Powell's body was at Topaz Mountain. But her husband, Josh Powell, liked to hunt for gems and rare rocks like those found in the area.

And, Merritt pointed out, Topaz Mountain is about 30 miles from Simpson Springs, where Josh Powell claims he took his two young sons camping the night of Dec. 6, 2009, when Susan Powell went missing.

A search around Topaz Mountain "has been on our task list for a while," Merritt said.

Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, said police gave him a heads-up about the search.

"It's another search and we'll see what they find," Cox said. "It shows they are still definitely working hard on the case."

Last month, West Valley City police led a search of a number of mines around Ely, Nev., and offered a similar explanation. The police department has called that search successful, but they have not said whether it yielded any evidence of what happened to Susan Powell.

Merritt said similar searches are planned for other remote locations. Merritt said the searches are not designed to place pressure on Josh Powell, who is the only person of interest in his wife's disappearance and who has refused to speak with West Valley City police since the early days of the case.

During Tuesday's search, a line of ATVs drove slowly along dirt trails and in the sagebrush, Merritt said. The cadaver dogs and their handlers, on loan from the Carbon County Sheriff's Office, also searched an area.

Merritt said law enforcement looked for clothing, a recently made clearing or anything else that looked out of place. About 20 people and nine dogs participated in the search.

Powell, 28, disappeared Dec. 6, 2009, from her West Valley City home and was reported missing the next day after she failed to show up to work. Her husband, 35-year-old Josh Powell, has said he took his young sons, ages 2 and 4, on a late-night camping trip to Simpson Springs in Tooele County, and when he returned, his wife was gone.

Josh Powell gave two interviews to police shortly after the disappearance but has not spoken to them since. Josh Powell and his sons moved back to Puyallup, Wash., to live with his father, Steve Powell, just weeks after the disappearance.

Last month, following the Ely search, West Valley City police served a search warrant on the home of Josh and Steve Powell, where they retrieved computer towers and several boxes of evidence.

Josh and Steve Powell have said they think Susan Powell ran away and is still alive. They've suggested she went to Brazil with Steven Koecher, a Utah man who disappeared from Henderson, Nev., around the same time Susan went missing.

— Melinda Rogers contributed to this report.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

What's next?

P Judge Vicki L. Hogan, of the Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Wash., will consider whether to grant an injunction requested by Chuck and Judy Cox.

The Coxes want to stop Josh Powell, and his father, Steve Powell, from posting excerpts of Susan Powell's childhood diaries on a website they maintain at susanpowell.org. The court last month issued a temporary restraining order that bars the Powells from publishing Susan Powell's diary entries and mandated that they to stop disseminating entries to the media.

The judge will consider making the temporary order permanent. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Sept. 23.



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