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West Valley Council meets with police chief on Powell case

Published April 5, 2012 7:34 am

Options • Lawyer for Coxes says next step could be advocacy, legislation or lawsuit.
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West Valley City • Amid growing criticism of the police investigation into the disappearance of Susan Powell, city council members on Tuesday held a closed-door meeting with Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen to discuss the case.

The council members voted at a study meeting to go into executive session to discuss "pending or reasonably imminent litigation."

No lawsuits have been filed against the city. Susan Powell's relatives have generally said they are considering a lawsuit, but they have not identified whom they could sue or what legal claims they believe they might have.

The motion did not identify what case would be privately discussed by the council, but afterward, Mayor Mike Winder said the city's elected officials will not comment on the Powell investigation.

Susan Powell vanished on Dec. 6, 2009. Her husband, Josh Powell — the only person of interest in her disappearance — claimed he took his sons on a midnight camping trip to Utah's west desert and had no idea what happened to his wife.

On Feb. 5, Josh Powell fatally attacked his sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, with a hatchet and then used gasoline to set his Puyallup, Wash., house on fire, killing himself.

City Attorney Eric Bunderson and Assistant City Manager Paul Isaac attended the closed council meeting. Bunderson on Wednesday declined to discuss it, including what made officials believe that a lawsuit might be imminent.

In general, he said, "filing a lawsuit is a really easy thing to do" and the city must be prepared to defend itself even against a meritless claim.

Officials in Washington state, where Josh Powell moved in 2010, released search warrants last week that contained new details on the investigation into Susan Powell's disappearance. The warrants said, among other information, that the woman's blood was found on the floor of her West Valley City home on the day after she vanished and that her then-4-year-old son told a police investigator that she had gone camping but did not return home with them.

The Washington officials received the search warrant information while investigating voyeurism accusations against Josh Powell's father, Steve Powell.

Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, had publicly supported police efforts to solve her mysterious disappearance until the search warrant information was released. Chuck Cox said Sunday that police should have arrested Josh Powell.

Nielsen has said there was not enough evidence to win a case, and without a body, Powell could have escaped conviction at trial or pleaded to a lesser charge.

The Coxes' Washington attorney, Anne Bremner, met with them on Wednesday to discuss potential action, including filing lawsuits. Bremner said they are still evaluating what to do next, and there are several ways they could go.

"What they have always wanted is something positive to come out of this, some change, so this doesn't happen to anyone else," Bremner said. "That could come through legislation, victim's rights groups, advocacy, litigation ... we just don't know. Those are things we are talking about to see if there is some way they can help to make sure this doesn't happen to other families."






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