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Hangman's noose, exercise equipment handle — or art object?

That latest description of a knotted rope apparently came hours after it was referenced in a custody court hearing for the children of missing Utah mother Susan Powell.

In a story that aired Thursday morning, ABC News correspondent Abbie Boudreau said "overnight ABC News got exclusive access to the home where Josh Powell lived with his two young sons."

Inside, she said the station got a "glimpse" of what Asst. Attorney General John Long referred to in a Pierce County, Wash. courtroom Wednesday as a "hangman's noose."

The short clip begins in a darkened hallway at the top of a staircase and then enters what appears to be a lighted storage room. The camera focuses on a wood frame leaning against a shelf packed with books and other items. A noose-like rope dangles over the frame; next to it hangs what appears to be a papier-mâché figure.

Long told Superior Court Judge Kathryn J. Nelson discovery of the "hangman's noose" added to the state's concerns about the "environment" at the Puyallup, Wash., home the children shared with Josh Powell, husband of the missing woman, and other relatives.

The boys, ages 6 and 4, were temporarily placed Tuesday with their maternal grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox. Nelson decided Wednesday the children will stay for now with the Coxes, who maintain Josh Powell is directly responsible for their daughter's disappearance on Dec. 7, 2009.

Josh Powell told the judge Wednesday the rope was a makeshift handle for a piece of exercise equipment.

"And now it's part of an art display," said Boudreau, who attributed the new description to the Powell family.

Neither Josh Powell nor his siblings, John and Alina, who also live in home, speak or are seen in the brief clip.

Their father, Steve Powell, lived in the residence until his arrest Sept. 22 on charges of voyeurism and possession of child pornography. He is in jail awaiting trial. Police have said Steve Powell took thousands of explicit images of women and girls without their knowledge and that they are still investigating whether anyone else knew about Steve Powell's activities.

Twitter: @Brooke4Trib Porn was part of Steve Powell divorce

In her 1992 divorce, Terrica Powell accused her husband, Steve Powell, of damaging his children's respect for marriage.

In court documents she wrote her husband talked of teaching his children about birth control methods when they were as young as 9 years old. Terrica's sister, Becky Mulcahy, wrote in the documents that Steve Powell told her that he had shown his youngest children books about sexual intercourse when they were 6 and 8 years old.

Terrica Powell said her husband viewed people as animals and that they should be able to have sex with anyone at any time. She recalled a conversation in which Josh referred to a girl his brother, Johnny, liked. "All she is good for is her body, right Dad?" Terri recalled Josh saying.

"Yeah, that's right," Steve Powell replied, according to the declaration.

Terrica Powell also said Steve Powell kept hardcore pornography in the home and that he visited pornography shops.

Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's sister, recently recalled going on a business trip with her father when she was about 11 years old and that he viewed a pornographic video while she was with him.

"Looking back, I wonder if he was willing to do that with a 10-12 year girl — his daughter— in the room, what else would he be willing to do?" she said.

The Associated Press