This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Topaz Mountain • Police searching for signs of Susan Cox Powell are continuing to excavate an area where cadaver dogs have indicated there are human remains.
West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt said Thursday afternoon that U.S. Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Joelle McCarthy determined any remains would neither be ancient nor likely to belong to an American Indian.
Soil at the site showed signs of a recent disturbance indicating remains would be less than 10 years old, Merritt said. Investigators by Thursday evening had dug an area about 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep at the site but did not discover any bones before stopping for the day at 6 p.m.
"The dogs are still smelling something, but we have not come across bones," Merritt said. "We have not come across clothing."
The excavation and additional police searches of the area were set to resume at 9 a.m. Friday. The dig will continue as long as the cadaver dogs able to detect remains buried as much as 12 feet deep are indicating, said Merritt.
West Valley City Police Chief Buzz Nielsen joined investigators at the search command post Thursday afternoon, saying he wanted to see the area and discuss detectives' needs. He said the cadaver dogs alerted their handlers to a location with "upturned soil" Wednesday afternoon.
"We're hoping it's a really good lead for us," Nielsen said. "There is some information we received lately that says they [Susan and Josh Powell] were out here."
This remote area is about 30 miles away from where Josh Powell, the only person of interest named in his wife's disappearance, says he took his two young sons camping the night his wife disappeared from their West Valley City home. Police have said Josh Powell liked to gem hunt and family and friends have confirmed that Josh and Susan Powell had visited the area on previous family excursions.
Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, traveled from his home in Washington to Salt Lake City on Thursday afternoon and officers were planning to bring him to the search site Friday.
"He needs to come out here and see what we're doing," Nielsen said. "We keep him briefed."
The Cox family has endured other suspenseful situations in at least four other instances over the past two years as remains that did not turn out to be those of Susan Powell were found in Utah and other states. Chuck Cox on Thursday remained doubtful the site would hold the remains of his daughter, saying the remote location would have been difficult to reach during a snowstorm that occurred the night of her disappearance.
Meanwhile Thursday, detectives on all-terrain vehicles and cadaver dogs and handlers continued combing the area northwest of Delta for clues their fourth day of searching for anything related to Susan Powell's disappearance.
Josh Powell issued a statement through his sister, Alina Powell, in an email on Thursday, asking police to reveal more information.
"With very little information available to the public, we can only hope that additional information is released quickly to minimize heartache to those of us who love Susan. In the meantime, we continue to hope for Susan's safe return," the statement reads.
Last month, detectives searched 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 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.
Nielsen said Thursday he is confident the disappearance will be solved.
"It will be probably one of the most significant things we've done in 30 years," Nielsen said.
Melinda Rogers contributed to this report.