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'Stuff we were looking for': Police pore over Powell home evidence

Published August 27, 2011 9:51 am

Items removed from home of Josh Powell are being examined.
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A day after 13 West Valley City police investigators combed through the Washington state home of Josh Powell, investigators are taking stock of evidence seized and determining how to proceed next.

West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt said Friday that officers remained at the Puyallup-area home of Powell — the only person of interest named by police in the case of his missing wife, Susan Powell — until around midnight Thursday.

Merritt said investigators don't plan to reconvene at the Powell home because they have retrieved everything they were seeking.

"It was the stuff we were looking for. We're very happy to have that sort of outcome," he said.

Merritt said a police trailer, filled with a "significant amount" of evidence, will be taken back to Utah where it will be analyzed.

He said he did not expect arrests in the case to occur Friday and that more work needs to be completed before any arrests would take place.

Merritt declined to provide specific details about what was seized from the home, but reporters and neighbors watched as five computer towers as well as several boxes and garbage bags were removed from the home.

A search warrant obtained from Pierce County Court in Tacoma permitted a search of Josh Powell's minivan and of several, but not all, of the rooms in the home, Merritt said. That search warrant has been sealed by the court.

Merritt said Josh Powell stayed at the home for about an hour Thursday, then left with his sons, Charlie, 6, and Braden, 4. At one point, the boys ate pizza with police in the backyard.

"He was very cordial and calm," Merritt said of Josh Powell. "I did not see any hostility."

Josh Powell's father, Steve Powell, was not on-scene during the search, but angrily told The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday, "They're victimizing us more."

Steve Powell told reporters outside the home Friday morning that investigators told him they were looking for Susan Powell's journals — and they took his journals, as well.

"I didn't want them to have my journals," he told Seattle media outlet KOMO-TV. "There's very embarrassing things in my journals."

West Valley City police for the first time on Friday acknowledged publicly they have investigated Steve Powell's possible connection to the case.

While Steve Powell hasn't officially been labeled as a "person of interest" by police, he, in addition to all of Susan Powell's close friends and relatives, has been investigated, Merritt said.

"We have of course looked at everybody we can think of that was close to Susan, and that would include Steven. Has he been looked at as a potential person of interest in the case? Of course he has," Merritt said.

He added: "On any case that we have, we have to look at every single possibility that exists."

Merritt's comments came after Steve Powell gave interviews to national news networks in which he contradicted earlier descriptions of his relationship with his daughter-in-law. In December, he told The Tribune that nothing inappropriate had occurred between him and his daughter-in-law.

"Perhaps you should leave this type of allegation to the tabloids," he wrote in an email in response to a question about whether he had tried to kiss Susan Powell or had romantic feelings for her.

He gave a different answer to the same question earlier this week, telling The Tribune that Susan "never let me forget she was a woman."

His comments became more graphic during a Thursday interview with ABC News, where he 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."

Jennifer Graves, Steve Powell's daughter who lives in West Jordan, and Chuck Cox, Susan Powell's father, have said Steve Powell lied about any consensual relationship with Susan Powell, and that the woman disliked her father-in-law.

Jennifer Graves, Chuck Cox, and Kiirsi Hellewell, Susan Powell's best friend who lives in West Valley City, all have said during interviews in recent days that Steve Powell at one point spoke of "sharing" the woman with his son.

Chuck Cox said Friday he is happy about the police's progress in searching the Powells' home.

"It needs to be done," he said of gathering potential evidence from the house.

Steve and Josh Powell have continued to deny any role in Susan Powell's disappearance. The two have said they believe Susan Powell is alive and may have run away with another man. They have repeatedly pointed to Steven Koecher, a Utah man who went missing within days of Susan Powell's disappearance, but police have denied any connection between Koecher and Susan Powell.

Merritt said Chuck Cox wasn't told that the search warrant was going to be served Thursday on the Powell home, but said West Valley City police spoke with him after news of the search broke.

Merritt said Alina Powell and John Powell, Josh Powell's adult siblings, remained at the home while police conducted their search.

Merritt said the Thursday search of the Powell home had nothing to do with a search in Ely, Nev., last weekend that police carried out after receiving "recent information." During the Nevada search, four West Valley City detectives looked into abandoned mine shafts for evidence related to Susan Powell's case.

They called the search "successful," but apparently found nothing.

He said police had been planning the Thursday search of the Powell home for some time, and it was a coincidence that it resulted around the same time as the Nevada trip.

Thursday's search was at least the third time law enforcement has searched the Powell 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.

Susan Powell, 28, was last seen Dec. 6, 2009.

Josh Powell has told police he last saw his wife when 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.

mrogers@sltrib.com Twitter: @mrogers_trib

­The Associated Press contributed to this report. —

Temporary restraining order filed

A Washington state court on Friday granted a temporary restraining order sought by the family of missing West Valley City woman Susan Powell, prohibiting her husband and father-in-law from making public her journal entries.

The Powell family had been portraying Susan as promiscuous and emotionally unstable and had been offering as proof several diary pages from the missing woman's teenage years. Her family says the entries were written by a young girl and have no bearing on the 28-year-old's disappearance.

KOMO news in Seattle reported the order, issued in Pierce County Superior Court, orders Josh Powell and his father, Steven Powell, to "immediately cease" publication of entries from Susan's private journal.

It also orders the husband and father-in-law to "immediately remove" Susan's journal entries from their website, SusanPowell.org, and from any other public forum where the entries are posted.

The Associated Press, KOMOnews.com






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