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Topaz Mountain • There have been false hopes raised in the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell before bodies found in Utah and elsewhere that had people wondering if it could be her.
Yet even West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt couldn't help but have hope after his searchers discovered human remains here Wednesday.
"It's exciting that we've located this," he said.
Merritt said he did not know the gender of the remains or how long they have been here. He declined to specify their condition or how they were discovered, though he said five cadaver dogs confirmed the remains were human.
The remains were found about 1 p.m. Since personnel from the state medical examiners office could not reach the area before dark Wednesday two detectives were to camp overnight to guard the scene, Merritt said. The excavation and an additional search will proceed Thursday.
Merritt said police were treating the site, located in Juab County, as a crime scene in line with standard procedures. The Juab County Sheriff did not have reports of anyone missing near Topaz Mountain, Merritt said.
Chuck Cox, Susan Powell's father, said Wednesday the family has sat through suspenseful situations in at least four other instances over the past two years when remains were found in Idaho, Washington and Utah. In January 2010, West Valley City police headed to a remote desert valley near West Wendover when a body described as a person about 5-feet, 4-inches tall wrapped in plastic and duct tape was found. The body turned out to be Jesus Landin, a 46-year-old homicide victim from Lehi.
Chuck Cox is doubtful remains recovered Wednesday belong to his daughter, since the remote location would have been difficult to reach during a snowstorm that occurred the night of the woman's disappearance.
"To me, it doesn't seem like it's very likely. That area is so remote, it could be someone from 100 years ago. It doesn't feel like it's anything to get too concerned about," Cox said.
"We know eventually we're going to get a call that says 'We found your daughter.' We're going to have to deal with that someday," he said, adding that he's still hopeful that perhaps she is alive and has been kept in captivity.
Kiirsi Hellewell, Susan Powell's friend in West Valley City who has been instrumental in leading flier campaigns to spread awareness about the disappearance, posted Wednesday on Facebook that she is nervous about the outcome of investigators latest discovery near Delta.
"I'm feeling very emotional. The roller coaster starts again," Hellewell wrote.
The remains were found on the third day of the latest search for Susan Powell.
ATV riders from the West Valley City Police Department and cadaver dogs and handlers have been searching the sagebrush, grasses, hillsides and boulders.
Janarie Cammans, a dog handler from Price who volunteers on missing person searches, followed her 3-year-old Labrador mix Callie up a hillside. Cammans would occasionally call Callie back to her and have the dog sniff a clearing in the grass.
"You kind of have to get in [the suspect's] mind," Cammans explained.
Topaz Mountain is about 35 miles northwest of Delta and is a popular area for gem and rock hunters. Police have said Josh Powell, the only person of interest named in his wife's disappearance, liked to rock hunt and Topaz Mountain is about 30 miles from where he says he took his two young sons camping the night his wife disappeared from their West Valley City home.
Last month, police searched of a number of mines in the desert around Ely, Nev. The police department has called that search successful, but have not said whether it yielded any useful evidence.
Following the Ely search, West Valley City police traveled to Puyallup, Wash., to serve a search warrant at the home where Josh Powell now lives with his father, Steve Powell. Investigators seized computer towers and several boxes of possible evidence.
Powell, 28, disappeared Dec. 6, 2009, and was reported missing the next day after she failed to show up to work. Her 35-year-old husband has said he took his then 2 and 4-year-old sons on a late-night camping trip to Simpson Springs in Tooele County and returned to find his wife gone.
Police have encouraged citizens to report any tips which may be connected to Susan Powell's disappearance. On Wednesday, Tony Abbott, of Delta, and his father drove to the scene of the search to tell investigators about some unusual activity he saw along a road.
After speaking with police, Abbott declined to give specifics of his information to a reporter. But he said he has long been aware of the Susan Powell case and it wasn't until this week that he decided the tip might be important.
"I hadn't seen [police searching] in the area before, particularly this part of the country," Abbott said.
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Melinda Rogers contributed to this report.
Dogs trained to find human remains
The cadaver dogs used in the search for Susan Powell are part of a program operated mostly through volunteers. › B2