Joshua Powell's father on Friday said posters of his missing daughter-in-law plastered around his Washington state neighborhood this week are upsetting and confusing his two young grandchildren.
"Five-year-old Charlie did notice the flyers, and was concerned, asking why his mother's picture was on all the signs," said Steven Powell, father-in-law of Susan Powell, in an e-mail. "We have made every effort to shield the children from emotional trauma and will continue to do so."
Joshua Powell and his sons, ages 5 and 3, have been living with Steven Powell since December. The home is in a gated community in South Hill, an area just outside of Puyallup, Wash.
Colleen Russell, who lives two doors down from the Powells, said she organized the effort after seeing a recent episode of "Dr. Phil" discussing the search for Susan Powell. Russell went door to door and asked neighbors if she could tie purple ribbons to trees in their yard in honor of Susan Powell. Many in the neighborhood didn't know about the case or Joshua Powell's connection to it, she said.
"I just feel it's unfair that Josh can move out of state and forget. We're not going to allow that," said Russell, who had never met the Powells or the Coxes before organizing the neighborhood flier and ribbon campaign.
Steven Powell said the homeowner's association in his gated community has agreed to take down some of the Susan Powell memorabilia as well as to pay for cleanup of the materials.
He wrote that he and his family "all support any legitimate effort to locate Susan," and linked to www.susanpowell.org. The home page features a photo of Susan and Josh Powell, along with their two children, outdoors in the snow near what appears to be a campfire.
"Susan, we love and miss you," the headline on the page states.
The Web site contains information about when Susan was reported missing and includes contact information the West Valley City Police Department. The site includes separate biographies for Susan and Josh Powell, and says it will "attempt to share general facts about the children's happiness and progression."
"These sweet boys will need your support both in terms of prayers and in terms of any other support you would like to offer," the Web site states. "The children are happy and well adjusted in their new home...They receive love and hugs frequently throughout each day. They regularly play with their friends. And they get lots of personal attention to their education and other needs."
Josh Powell's biography on the Web site offers a stark contrast from descriptions from several of Susan Powell's friends and family, who have described Josh Powell as controlling and abusive toward his wife and cited incidents including keeping her from using the family car and bank accounts and undermining her parenting abilities to their children.
The Web site, however, describes the 34-year-old as a "loving father and husband."
"He likes to take his wife out to dinner or watch movies with her. He regularly does activities with his beautiful wife and with his entire family. Josh is totally committed to his wife and children, continually finding new and engaging activities to do with them," the Web site states.
"Josh loves to socialize with friends and family. He enjoys gardening, woodworking, and building construction projects. He knows a few songs on the piano and guitar. And he has been known to sing a song when the mood hits. He also loves photography, especially when the photos are of Susan and the boys. He enjoys problem solving and he is a computer programmer by trade. Josh is very involved in his children's lives and every day he includes the children in many hobbies, educational events, and outdoor activities."
Steven Powell in his e-mail to The Tribune confirmed that his son has been frustrated by reports that he is not allowing Chuck and Judy Cox to see their grandchildren, Charlie and Braden. Powell included an audio recording in the e-mail of a last-minute phone message Chuck Cox left at the Powells informing them they wouldn't be able to attend one of the children's birthday party because someone in their LDS Church ward had been admitted to the hospital.
Shelby Gifford, a spokeswoman for the Coxes, said Chuck Cox canceled only after someone collapsed from a heart attack in the same room as him during a meeting at church. She said that Josh Powell refused to allow his boys to attend a birthday party at the Cox home on Dec. 19.
At point, Josh Powell told Chuck Cox, "The kids can't come over. You understand," Gifford said.
"He said, 'I don't understand. Explain it to me,'" Gifford said.
Josh Powell gave no answers, and hasn't been consistently returning phone calls, she said. The last time Josh Powell allowed his sons to visit the Coxes was Jan.3.
Wayne Hamberg, a friend of Josh Powell who lives in Utah, recently told The Tribune that Josh Powell has been treated unfairly by his in-laws. He said when Josh has brought the boys to the Coxes home, he has to wait outside.
Hamberg said his friend is being unjustly targeted and doesn't believe Josh Powell knows anything about his wife's disappearance. He thinks others are afraid to support Josh Powell publicly.
Kirk Graves, Josh Powell's brother-in-law, said the Coxes supported Josh Powell in the early stages of the investigation.
"They were the ones most likely to turn people away from speculation about Josh and keep things focused on Susan," Graves said.
That's changed since Josh Powell stopped speaking with investigators and hired an attorney early in the case.
"The more recent approach they are taking now is in response to Josh's lack of cooperation with them or the police, and their conviction that he knows more than he has said," Graves said.
Graves and his wife, Jennifer, have publicly criticized Josh Powell for refusing to speak with police. The Coxes are working hard to see their grandchildren and may soon see more of them, he said.
Susan Powell, 28, was reported missing Dec. 7.
Police have said Joshua Powell told them he last saw his wife when he left their West Valley City home to take their two young sons camping in the west desert at 12:30 a.m. Investigators have named Josh Powell as a "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance.
Joshua Powell has rented out the home and moved to the couple's hometown of Puyallup, Wash.