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Hours before a Washington judge was scheduled Tuesday to hear Josh Powell's request for a restraining order against the father of his missing wife, new allegations flew between family and friends at odds in the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell.
Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's estranged sister, and Susan Powell's best friend in West Valley City, Kiirsi Hellewell, are alleging Susan Powell's father-in-law had made unwanted sexual advances toward her claims Steve Powell immediately denied.
Graves, who lives in West Jordan, said her missing sister-in-law told her that Steve Powell sent her nude photos of men and tried to kiss her on at least one occasion. Steve Powell also allegedly made a comment at one point suggesting Josh and he "share" the woman, Graves said. Susan Powell was repulsed by her father-in-law, Graves said.
"She spurned him a few times," said Graves, adding she believes her father may have had something to do with Susan Powell's disappearance. The man had motivation to go after his daughter-in-law when she rebuffed his advances, Graves said.
Graves said she and Hellewell are now coming forward with the information because Steve Powell is preparing to post teenage diary entries written by Susan Powell online at susanpowell.org. The Powells claim the entries show Susan Powell was capable of leaving her husband and two young sons Charlie, 6 and Braden, 4 for another man. Josh Powell has told police he last saw his wife Dec. 6, 2009, as he left their West Valley City home around midnight to take the children camping in Utah's west desert.
Steve Powell, when denying the claims against him, said his daughter "rejected him" following his divorce from his ex-wife, Terrica Powell, in 1992. He said that he and Josh Powell feel "under siege" by the bevy of false allegations against them.
"How did she come up with these ideas?" Steve Powell said of Graves. "I'm baffled, and I'm astounded."
Steve Powell said his relationship with Graves has been dicey because he and his other children are not devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The relationship ceased all together, he said, when Graves visited Puyallup a year and a half ago and confronted both Steve and Josh Powell about whether they were involved in Susan Powell's disappearance.
"She came to the door and accused me of murder and said it's because Susan spurned me," Steve Powell said. "Susan and I were very close and we were very close up to the end. They've tried to portray Susan as being offended by me and being afraid of me and that is not the case. There are just misunderstandings about how Susan felt about me. Susan never let me forget that she was a woman. But she was also a beautiful daughter to me."
West Valley City police have called Josh Powell the only person of interest in the case and continue to urge him to speak with them. Josh Powell, who has not spoken with police since the early days of the disappearance, has said he is willing to speak with FBI agents if they pay for an attorney to be present.
The feud came as a Tacoma court commissioner heard the case between Josh Powell and Chuck Cox on Tuesday afternoon. The commissioner ordered both men to remain 500 feet away from each other, The Associated Press reported. She said nothing in Powell's petition rose to the level of domestic violence, but she issued a mutual anti-harassment order to "keep the peace."
In a Tuesday blog entry at crosscountryadventures.wordpress.com, Hellewell backs Graves' claims. She recounts stories from Susan Powell about living with Steve Powell when she and her husband were newlyweds saving money. They had to convert a dining room into a bedroom, where they hung a curtain for privacy, Hellewell wrote.
"Shortly after moving in Susan began to feel very strange around Steve Powell. She said that she felt like her father-in-law was looking at her inappropriately and once she even caught him trying to watch her get dressed one day," Hellewell wrote.
"She tried to give her new father-in-law the benefit of the doubt, but the weird feelings and things continued, and one day it culminated in a very inappropriate episode where Steve Powell tried to kiss her. Susan was so creeped out, disgusted and horrified that she told Josh, 'That's it, we're moving out. Now.' "
The couple soon moved to Utah, Hellewell wrote, and one day a package arrived from Steve Powell containing photos of Susan's favorite movie star, Mel Gibson.
"Susan thought this was actually a nice gesture on the part of Steve Powell ... then she saw what was sitting in the middle of the stack of pictures: several pictures of naked men," Hellewell wrote.
Hellewell said Susan Powell threw away the photos and vowed to never let her father-in-law near her children. She said she didn't want the boys alone around Steve Powell, Hellewell said.
Graves recalled Josh Powell acting indifferent toward his father sending the package with photos.
"By then, he was blowing off most stuff. Whatever Dad would do, he would just accept it," Graves said.
Cox has condemned Steve and Josh Powell's statements about Susan Powell, disputing their allegations of promiscuity and mental instability.
Steve Powell on Tuesday said Susan Powell "had some conflicts" about her relationship with him and called her "very flirtatious and very sexual."
Friends of Susan Powell have alleged that Steve Powell wrote inappropriate songs about her.
Steve Powell, who performs as a musician under the name of Steve Chantrey, acknowledged that he has written songs about his daughter-in-law. On his website, stevechantrey.com, he said a song titled "You Were My First Love" is about Susan Powell.
"The third verse in 'You Were My First Love' was inspired by a picture of Susan and Charlie (her son) looking into each other's eyes when he was first born, even though the rest of the song was inspired by my own beautiful mother," Powell said. "Susan cried the first time she heard that song. That was the best compliment anyone could give a songwriter."
Controversy connected to Susan Powell's case has ballooned in recent days after a search over the weekend by West Valley City police in the eastern Nevada desert near Ely. West Valley City Sgt. Mike Powell said "recent information" led investigators to follow up on a tip, but no evidence emerged from the two-day search.
Mike Powell, who is not related to Susan or Josh Powell, said investigators are "aware" of the public exchanges between those connected to the case. He declined to comment on allegations made by Graves, Hellewell and Steve Powell, saying he can't disclose specific information about the case.
"We are busy with our investigation," Mike Powell said.