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Tacoma, Wash.• A judge here on Wednesday ruled the children of missing woman Susan Cox Powell will remain in the custody of their maternal grandparents for now, ordering further evaluations of their father in light of explicit images found on a computer from the Powell's West Valley City home.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Kathryn J. Nelson sided with recommendations that Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, remain in the Puyallup, Wash., home of Chuck and Judy Cox. Nelson also ordered Josh Powell to undergo a psychosexual exam and take a polygraph test to determine any knowledge he has related to images West Valley City police found on a computer confiscated during a 2009 search of the Powell home.
Those images are separate from the child pornography charges against Josh Powell's father, Steve.
West Valley City police on Wednesday confirmed the department "discovered information specifically related to [the Powell children's] welfare" during their investigation and passed that evidence along to Washington authorities.
Assistant Attorney General John Long cited the images in requesting that Nelson keep the children with the Coxes.
A psychologist who performed an evaluation of Josh Powell has recommended an out-of-home placement for the boys until their father is further along in therapy, Long said. Josh Powell has attended one therapy session so far. The psychologist also determined a psychosexual evaluation and polygraph test of Josh Powell are needed due to the nature of the images pulled from his computer.
An attorney representing Josh Powell in court, Jeff Bassett, questioned the necessity of the psychosexual exam, calling it an "intrusive" test based on a disk of images that have not prompted any criminal charges.
"Utah was dangling the alleged content of this disk. If this disk contains what they're saying it contains why haven't they arrested my client?" said Bassett.
Bassett said he has not seen the images, and Josh Powell is not allowed to view the images due to a court order.
Long, who has viewed the images, defended the recommendations.
"It's not a fishing expedition," Long said. "The content of those images ... is not something you would soon forget."
Long added that images are part of a criminal investigation in Utah and that the Utah judge overseeing the evidence in that case only wanted information related to the images released if there was a possibility of the Powell children being returned to Josh Powell's home.
Bassett said his client has denied looking at "kiddie porn" and suggested a polygraph with questions strictly related to the images in place of the psychosexual evaluation.
"We're about to order such an intrusive report based on what may not be his images," Bassett said.
Bassett also asked Nelson to reconsider the placement of the children, citing injuries suffered by Braden while in the care of the Coxes, who are renovating their home. Braden suffered a concussion and a foot injury.
Long told Nelson that child welfare workers have investigated both injuries and determined them to have been accidents. Both of those cases have been closed, Long said.
Guardian ad Litem Julio Serrano, appointed to represent the interests of the children, also asked Nelson to keep the children with the Coxes, saying the bond between the boys and their grandparents has grown. The children were sitting in their grandparents' laps and showing Serrano their rooms and Christmas presents on his most recent visit, Serrano said.
The judge ultimately rejected Bassett's arguments, citing both concerns over the images found on the computer from the Powell home in West Valley City and the child pornography found in the home of Steve Powell.
State authorities took custody of the boys on Sept. 22 the same day Steve Powell, their grandfather, was arrested on charges of voyeurism and possession of child pornography. Josh Powell and his sons had been living in Steve Powell's Puyallup home since shortly after their mother's December 2009 disappearance.
After five days in a foster home, the state placed the boys in the Puyallup home of the Coxes. Nelson approved the temporary placement on Sept. 28.
Attorneys representing the state have argued the removal was warranted since an investigation into what, if anything, Josh Powell knew of his father's activities is ongoing. They have also cited Josh Powell's identification by West Valley City detectives as a person of interest in his missing wife's case.
Josh Powell has denied any role in his wife's disappearance and recently asked Nelson to move his sons to a neutral caretaker, claiming his missing wife's parents who have publicly implicated Josh Powell in their daughter's disappearance are turning their two sons against him.
Susan Powell was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009. Her husband told police he last saw his wife around midnight, when he put their sons in the family's minivan and took them on a late-night camping trip in Utah's west desert.
Following Wednesday's hearing, Susan Powell's sister, Denise Cox, said she is elated her parents will keep custody of her nephews for now. Denise Cox now hopes the spotlight again shifts to the search for her missing sister since her children will remain with their grandparents at least though the next court date scheduled for July.
"I was happy that the judge decided to keep my nephews where they are," said Denise Cox. "I am also happy they are making Josh take a polygraph test over the porn, which I think he will fail. I wish they would make him take one to find out what happened with my sister."
Tribune reporter Melinda Rogers contributed to this report.
"Website supporting Josh Powell launches as custody case nears"
"Josh Powell claims sons' grandparents turning them against him"
"For Susan Powell's sons, a missing mom and an uncertain future"
"What must Josh Powell do to get his sons back?"
"Judge rules Powell kids must remain in state custody"
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