This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Huddled beneath a blanket in her West Jordan living room, Jennifer Graves remained besieged by grief on Monday a day after her brother, Josh Powell, killed himself and his two sons in a horrific Washington house fire.
Graves had left dozens of media interviews about her brother's unspeakable actions to her husband, Kirk, on Sunday because she was too overcome with agony to speak. Unable to comprehend what drove her brother to kill Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, Graves, a day later, still struggled to explain her grief as tears streamed down her face.
"It was just the ultimate act of selfishness," said Graves, who has been estranged from her brother while publicly calling upon him to be more forthcoming with information in the case of his missing wife, Susan Powell.
"It's been really shocking," she said. "There are some things you can't foresee."
Graves and her husband were among those happy to hear that a Washington state court judge ruled last week that her nephews would be staying with their maternal grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox. Josh Powell had been entwined in a bitter custody dispute with his in-laws following the arrest of Steve Powell, who was detained in September on suspicion of voyeurism and child pornography.
Graves said she and her family traveled to Washington in November to celebrate Thanksgiving with Braden and Charlie Powell and was delighted to see the boys flourishing. They seemed like the boys who had visited Graves' home in happier times, before their mother disappeared and before her brother became a different, detached person who refused to speak about the circumstances surrounding his wife's disappearance.
Josh Powell's mother, Terrica Powell, has resided with the Graves in West Jordan, but has been visiting a relative in Layton in recent days, where she continues to stay.
Terrica Powell declined to comment through the Graves, but said she does anticipate speaking about her son's actions in "the near future."
In October, Terrica Powell, 56, broke a long-standing silence in the case of her missing daughter-in-law and her son, by writing a court affidavit in support of Josh Powell retaining custody of his boys.
In the declaration filed in Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Wash., Terrica Powell called her grandsons "happy, well-adjusted and vibrant children ... even though they miss their mother."
The court document contains the first comments Terrica Powell, 56, has made about her son in a public venue since the December 2009 disappearance of Susan Powell.
"Josh has long maintained a tradition of frequent activities with the kids, such as going to the zoo, or to the park to feed the ducks, or to the museum, or to Lowe's for the little building projects they offer for kids," Terrica Powell wrote. "In addition, I have been impressed with the extra level of care Josh takes in teaching his little boys about how things work, such as when he built a new deck for their home: He delightedly let the boys be involved in a way and at a level that was interesting and safe for them. Other examples include studying animals or learning about science together.
"I have been relieved and pleased to note how very well Charlie and Braden are doing, despite the trauma and sadness of missing their beloved mother. They seem to be continuing to thrive."
Jennifer Graves said she has spoken with her mother, who isn't coping well. Graves said Terrica Powell's sister, who lives in Washington, has been tending to the other adult Powell siblings Alina, Michael and John as the family tries to move forward with potential funeral arrangements.
Graves said relatives told her Josh Powell sent his siblings a text message shortly before the fire, but added she didn't know whether the message contained more than "I'm sorry. Goodbye." Josh Powell also sent messages his attorney and cousins.
She said she sent her own children to the homes of friends on Monday, hoping they would find some normalcy as the controversy and emotions over their cousins deaths continues to circulate in the community.
Graves said she'll cherish memories of her nephews, who were always excited to visit their cousins and play at the Graves' home in West Jordan.
"They were active, happy children," she said. "They loved being here and they were excited to see my kids."