This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Tacoma, Wash. • Steve Powell's journals leave little doubt he had a "sick" obsession with his daughter-in-law.
Passages scribbled on more than 2,330 pages in 17 spiral notebooks vacillate between descriptive sexual fantasies to desperate vows of love for Susan Cox Powell, who disappeared in 2009.
The Pierce County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday gave The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., 2,721 pages of journals and investigative reports related to the Powell family.
Other heavily redacted court documents released Tuesday show detectives almost immediately classified Susan Powell's disappearance as a murder and kidnapping, and focused on her husband, Josh Powell, as the suspect.
Little of that appears in Steve Powell's journals. He instead focuses on his growing feelings for his daughter-in-law and seems to convince himself at times that she feels the same way even as she refuses to be around him.
Steve Powell was convicted in May of 14 counts of voyeurism for filming two neighbor girls, then 9 and 8, during 2006 and 2007. He lived in an adjacent house at the time and used a zoom lens to peer inside his neighbor's window. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.
His journals were evidence in his case.
He first writes about Susan Powell in January 2003, when he acknowledges his "greatest problem" and "greatest pleasure" is falling in love with her.
"The fact is, I can hardly control myself when it comes to her," he wrote in loopy cursive.
He confides that he secretly recorded his daughter-in-law and regularly watched the video clips while he masturbated. Several entries detail him using a handheld mirror to spy on her under a bathroom door.
He also admits that others might view his sexual urges as "sick."
Penning his fantasies about his daughter-in-law "represents the first time I've mentioned fetishes and what might be considered sociopathic. I mean, who looks under the bathroom door with a mirror?"
He also writes of a deepening love and obsession.
Powell secretly scanned her childhood journals so he could read them at night. He kept a drawer with items he swiped from her, including underwear and used leg waxing papers.
He sold the house he raised his children in after learning she found it was too dark so he could buy a larger house in case she one day agreed to marry him. He internally debated whether their age difference – 31 years – was a big deal, clipping newspaper articles about love spanning age and agonizing over whether to dye his hair to look younger.
Things changed in December 2003, when he apparently told Susan Powell he was in love with her. She refused to speak with him for at least five months and apparently asked her husband to break off contact with his father.
"I am now going crazy with desire for her, but I do not regret any of it," Steve Powell writes.
His words become more frustrated and angry after the couple moves to Utah, where Susan Powell was living when she disappeared from her home Dec. 7, 2009.
He rails against her for making him fall in love with her and then leaving seemingly without a care in the world. He continues to lust after her from afar and wrote 50 songs with her in mind.
He makes several references to his son's deteriorating marriage, and how poorly Josh Powell treated his wife. He opines that, "Theirs is truly a marriage made in hell" and "it's hard to believe that two people could be so nasty to each other."
Yet, he seemed to believe divorce wasn't an option because Josh Powell relied on his wife for financial help and she didn't want to disappoint her parents with a failed relationship.
There is an unusual lack of entries in Steve Powell's journals between October 2009 and May 2010.
When he resumes writing, he says his daughter-in-law has run off with another man and expresses concern that people believe Josh Powell is involved in her disappearance.
"I would be devastated were I to find out Susan was dead from any cause," he writes in one of the final entries. "I am still so in love with her I can barely function."