Days before a Washington state custody hearing for the children of missing West Valley City mother Susan Powell, the family of Joshua Powell launched a new website to advance child abuse allegations against the boys' maternal grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox.
The website, titled "4thekidzz" at http://sites.google.com/site/4thekidzz/, which was up on Monday, but listed as "disabled" on Tuesday morning also accuses the West Valley City Police Department of incompetence in handling the case of Susan Powell and claims law enforcement has harassed Josh Powell during the course of their investigation.
Information on the website including allegations that the Coxes either abused Susan Powell's two boys or allowed them to come to harm were countered Monday by an attorney for the Cox family.
The author of the website's content is Michael C. Powell, who is Josh Powell's brother. He alleges, among other things, that the boys now 7 and 5 years old were unattended as they stuffed mud in electrical sockets, and that the younger child suffered a concussion and foot injury while in the Coxes' care.
Josh Powell's sister, Alina Powell, said the website was designed because she and other family members are concerned about the children's safety.
"Recently, my nephews have been subjected to multiple instances of severe endangerment and physical abuse by the Coxes. Child Protective Services (CPS) has condoned the Coxes' abuse and endangerment of my nephews, and certain members of CPS are trying their best to smooth it over and cover it up," Alina Powell wrote in a statement.
Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said the department can't comment on the children or the allegations because of privacy rules. But Anne Bremner, an attorney representing Chuck and Judy Cox in a civil case the family filed against Josh Powell over a previous website, www.susanpowell.org, quickly denied the Powells' claims regarding the Coxes' alleged negligent care of the boys.
"The children are in a safe and loving home with their maternal grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox. Chuck and Judy are constrained by court order and privacy laws from discussing the boys publicly. All responsible for overseeing and monitoring the safe placement of these boys (e.g. the guardian ad litem, DSHS and CPS) are fully advised in the premises and have every confidence that the children are safe, well-placed, loved and well," Bremner wrote in an email to The Tribune.
The "4thekidzz" website includes links to news stories about the case and a lengthy essay authored by Michael Powell about police's "lack of credibility," "incompetence" and "malice." Michael Powell wrote that police have overlooked other leads in the case, including the possibility that missing Utah man Steven Koecher is involved in Susan Powell's disappearance. He also named his sister, Jennifer Graves; Chuck Cox; and Tim Peterson, who was a member of Susan and Josh Powell's LDS Church ward in West Valley City, as people police should be investigating. Peterson and Michael Powell clashed in the early days of the Susan Powell case in 2009, when Peterson went to the couple's home to retrieve a swing set he had given the Powell children. Peterson yelled at Michael Powell, who was there to help his brother move back to Washington, because he felt Josh Powell had not been cooperative with police
Peterson, who had counseled Susan Powell about marriage troubles with her husband, later told reporters that when Josh Powell was asked about Susan's whereabouts by Peterson's wife, Josh Powell replied, "Well, it's not like I stabbed her."West Valley City Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Powell (no relation to Josh Powell's family) declined Monday to comment on the allegations lodged against the police department and against others on the "4thekidzz" website.
The website's launch comes as the fight for who will raise Susan Powell's children continues in court. Meanwhile, there continues to be no answers in her mysterious disappearance.
A Pierce County Superior Court judge on Wednesday is scheduled to hear an update in the custody case involving the children, Charlie and Braden. A judge in October granted temporary custody of the boys to the Coxes after Washington child-protection workers removed them from the care of their father. The children had been living with him since their mother's disappearance on Dec. 7, 2009. The Coxes asked the court to appoint a guardian ad litem, an attorney who represents the interests of the boys alone in court proceedings. The Coxes stated in their request that the children were having some difficulties with the custody situation
In January 2010, Josh Powell moved from Utah to the Puyallup, Wash., home of his father, Steve Powell, who was arrested Sept. 22, 2011, on allegations of voyeurism and child pornography. Police have said they are investigating who else living in the home may have known of Steve Powell's activities.
Josh Powell has said he knows nothing about his wife's disappearance or his father's alleged crimes. A judge has granted him supervised visits with his sons.
On the website, Michael Powell alleges his brother's children have been unfairly kept from their father. He also calls for a Justice Department investigation of the West Valley City Police Department for "investigative negligence, taxpayer fraud, slander, harassment, false imprisonment, kidnapping and child mutilation."
Denise Cox, Susan Powell's sister, said her nephews are doing well in the care of her parents. She said the "4thekidzz" website mischaracterizes what was a simple accident at home, and that her parents promptly sought medical attention.
"The boys are in no harm in fact my parents are extremely overprotective with them," said Denise Cox, who plans to appear on CNN later this week to discuss the website and the custody case involving her nephews.
Jennifer Graves, who is Josh and Michael Powell's sister, said she believes the new website is an attempt to create a distraction as Josh Powell who she believes was involved in his wife's disappearance remains under scrutiny. Graves, who lives in West Jordan and is estranged from her family in Washington, said her brothers believe there is a conspiracy against them.
The website, Graves said, is "grasping at straws."
"You can only hide for so long," she said of her brother. "The heat is on."
The Susan Powell Case
Susan Powell disappeared Dec. 6, 2009 from her West Valley City home and was reported missing the following day. Her husband, Josh Powell, has said he took his young sons 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 West Valley City police shortly after the disappearance but has not spoken to them since. Josh Powell and his sons moved to Puyallup, Wash., to live with his father weeks after the disappearance.
West Valley City police searched deserts near Ely, Nev., and near Utah's Topaz Mountain, but discovered no evidence of the woman's remains.
Police have so far named only Josh Powell as a person of interest in his wife's case, though they say others are being considered.