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Quoted: What Josh and Steve Powell have said about Susan’s disappearance

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Rick Egan | Tribune file photo Joshua Powell talks in August 2011 in Puyallup, Wash., after his father, Steve Powell, was arrested and charged with 14 counts of voyeurism and possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

By brooke adams

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 28 2012 08:55PM
Updated Apr 30, 2012 08:08AM

In the weeks and months after his wife disappeared from their West Valley City home, Josh Powell made few public statements about his whereabouts that night and what might have happened to Susan. These comments by Josh Powell and his father Steve Powell, compiled from various media interviews by Salt Lake Tribune reporter Brooke Adams, directly addressed those topics. (Some questions posed by media are paraphrased.)

• Josh Powell cried at times during this interview with media, including KTVX Channel 4, which took place on the doorstep of the couple’s West Valley City, Utah, home on Dec. 14, 2009:

"I just miss her. I love her. My boys love her. A lot of people love her. She’s just wonderful. All I can ask is that anyone who can, just help us try to find her. I’m just trying to do that."

Q. Any clue where she is?

"I don’t even have a clue."

[Turning to enter his home] "I’ve got to go get my boys.

Q. How are they?

"They’re doing okay. I just have to go get my boys. Thank you for the support. That’s all I can say, thank you for the support."

• Chris Jones of KUTV Channel 2 interviewed Josh Powell outside his West Valley City, Utah, home on Dec. 18, 2009:

Q. How are you doing. I know this has been difficult for you. What’s been going through your mind today?

"Well, I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do, so I don’t sit idle. Dealing with this [media interviews] repeatedly. I was just going to go in and get my kids."

Q. How are the boys doing?

"They’ve been doing good, as far as I can tell."

Q. How about you?

"People have been really helpful and supportive, so it’s been really hard, but you just have to keep going."

Q. What can you tell us about that night?

"A lot of times, I just go camping with my boys — not anything big, I just go overnight and we do ‘smores and stuff like that. And so I just went with the boys. I was planning to do some ‘smores in the morning. And never did. And then when we got home — well, on the way home I found out that people were worried about us and people were missing."

Q. Was it unusual for you to not call into work?

"No, it’s not usual. You know, I was somehow thinking that it was Sunday. I didn’t go to church. And I just missed a day. Drove to come back Sunday."

Q. So you got confused on what day it was?

"Yeah."

Q. Had Susan ever left before? Do you have any idea where she could be?

"No. She’ll leave during the day, but she’s never left overnight."

Q. Does she have enemies that you can think of?

"I can’t think of anyone."

Q. Is there anything you want to say to address that [the likelihood that police would consider him a person of interest]?

"I didn’t do anything. I don’t know where she’s at. I don’t even know where to start looking."

Q. What have you told the boys about their mom?

"I haven’t told them anything. I mean, they’ve overheard stuff, but I haven’t. By the time it all started, I was already, you know, it was already late and I went to bed."

Q. Did Susan stay home because she wasn’t feeling well?

"She wasn’t not feeling well. She was feeling well. She just went to bed."

Q. At 5 o’clock?

"No, she went to bed that night.

Q. And what time did you go camping would you say?

"You know, I got out to a pretty late start.

Q. 9ish?

"No, it was later."

"Basically, I’m just trying to figure out what I can do and both try to find her and take care of life in general."

Q. Where did you guys camp?

"We went down South to the, to some trails down there. We actually just went down to the Pony Express Trail."

Steve Powell made these comments in emails sent to The Salt Lake Tribune in June 2010:

"Some credible insiders involved in the investigation have stated to us that they believe she is alive and may have left of her own accord."

"They [Susan’s sons] are very happy and well-adjusted, although they miss their mother. They know their mommy and their daddy both love them."

• In this The Salt Lake Tribune interview, conducted over two days and published on Nov. 5, 2010, Josh Powell claimed Susan was "extremely unstable" and may have had a mental illness that drove her to leave him and their sons. He claimed Susan was likely still alive. Some of his comments:

Q. How would you go about finding Susan?

"She can’t come back with them [her parents] treating her this way. They want her to be perfect, a saint with no fallibility. She knows she will be chewed up like hamburger [by family and the public] when she comes back."

Powell blamed the Cox family for what he said was Susan’s decision to run away. He said the family had expectations for Susan that were too high.

"She doesn’t have as much strength as they like to think she has."

Powell complimented his wife, saying she succeeded despite the expectations he claimed the Coxes had for her.

Susan was a "good person and a good wife and a good mother."

Powell said he had stayed quiet since the days just after Susan’s disappearance because his critics did not deserve a response.

"They [his critics] underestimate my discipline."

Steve Powell made the following comments to The Salt Lake Tribune during the Nov. 4, 2010, interview:

"Susan’s very sexually motivated, and she’s very financially motivated. We believe she’s alive, we believe she left with somebody. We don’t know if she’s still with that somebody."

"She’s absconded. We don’t believe she was abducted. We don’t believe she was murdered."

Steve Powell said he had only told his grandsons their mother was missing. He didn’t know what to say about her whereabouts.

"All I know is she’s gone and they [their sons] want her back."

• The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed Josh Powell again on Aug. 19, 2011, as police searched the desert near Ely, Nevada, for Susan:

Powell said he was trying to carry on despite the suspicions placed on him.

"I would like a resolution. I thought it would be a, frankly, I got the impression they were talking about going down there and looking in a hotel or an apartment or something."

"I’ve stayed focused as much as I can to take care of my sons. It’s been hard. People have behaved in some very unacceptable ways, a lot of relationships have been destroyed."

As for what happened to his wife, Powell said:

"Frankly it’s just not something I want to speculate on."

In that same Aug. 19, 2011 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Steve Powell reiterated his belief that his daughter-in-law left of her own accord — and most likely with Steven Koecher, a St. George resident who disappeared around the same time as Susan:

"We thought they had them [Susan and Steven Koecher] down there and they were just going down to pick them up. We believe she’s alive, we believe she left with somebody, we’re not sure if she’s still with that somebody, but I don’t know, she probably is."

On Aug, 20, 2011, Chuck Cox, Susan’s father, held a honk-and-wave at a street corner near the Powell’s subdivision in Puyallup, Wash., to publicize his daughter’s disappearance. Steve Powell confronted Cox there and made these comments to media at the scene as Chuck Cox listened:

"The only thing they’ve [police] told us is they believe she’s alive. They’ve told us that, and Josh had nothing to do with her disappearance. That’s what they’ve told us."

"We think that their investigation into that [Steve Koecher’s disappearance] probably had something to do with their conclusion that she’s alive."

"I told Josh at the time I said, they know she’s alive. They wouldn’t say they believe she’s alive, they know she’s alive."

Hattie Kauffman’s interview with Josh Powell aired Aug. 25, 2011, on CBS News’ "The Early Show":

Q. Did you have anything to do with her disappearance?

"No."

Q. Did you kill your wife?

"I have never even hurt her. People who know me know that I could never hurt Susan."

Q. In retrospect, do you think about how bad it looks that you left the house at midnight with the two boys?

"We’ve gone out and done things like that before. Sometimes we go out looking for rocks."

Q. Were you looking for rocks that night? Was that a rock hunting trip?

"We just were playing."

Q. One report said it was a blizzard. Nobody goes camping in a blizzard.

"Yeah. Maybe in the days that followed."

Q. But she didn’t take her purse, her cell phone, or her kids. People say it just doesn’t make sense.

"A lot of things don’t make sense. At first, I had no idea what to think."

Q. What do you tell them about her?

"We still look at videos, we look at photos. These boys love their mommy. Frankly, including this boy."

"I tell them that we don’t know where she is, what else can I tell them?"

• Josh Powell made these comments in an interview with Abbie Boudreau that aired on ABC News on Aug. 25, 2011:

Q. Did you kill your wife?

"No."

Q. Did you have anything to do with the disappearance of your wife?

"No. Nothing."

Q. What is the truth?

"People who know me know that I’m a good dad, I work hard, I put my sons first, I was a good husband, I took care of my family."

Q. Do you still love her?

[Looks down, teary-eyed] "Yeah. I guess you could say that I still love her."

Q. Why take your two young sons camping after midnight?

"We just go out and do things that are fun."

"People who know me know that time is hard for me to keep track of. I tend to be spontaneous, I do things on the spur of the moment."

Q. Why not call work the next morning?

"To be honest, Saturday was a blur. I was convinced it was still Saturday."

Q. What do Susan’s journals tell you about her growing up?

"Susan was very emotionally abused as a child. Her mother has a very angry personality. Her father is very manipulative."

[On claims she was unstable] "She has walked out the front door, in her underwear, and started walking down the street. At the time when all this stuff was happening it was mortifying to me. I tried to protect her from doing things that I thought might embarrass her or our family in that respect."

Q. Has she ever been unfaithful to you?

"Never that I know of."

Q. Then why would she run off?

"She was a very sexual person."

Q. You think she’s still out there, alive.

"At times. It’s a roller coaster."

Q. What would you want to tell her if she’s watching this?

"That I miss her. That I love her. That she’s got two boys who love her."

ABC News also aired its interview with Steve Powell on Aug. 25, 2011:

"I had a relationship with her that was probably a little beyond the pale. Father-in-law, daughter in-law, flirting with each other, maybe some sexual touching or whatever."

Q. What kind of things are we talking about?

"When she was living at my house, she would regularly come into my office after taking a shower or things like that. [Susan would say] ‘Smell my hair, I just shampooed it, it smells nice.’ And she would bend over my lap to let me smell her hair. Or, she would come in and say, ‘I just waxed my legs, feel my thighs, how smooth they are.’"

"One day we were at an animal park with the boys. I was holding Braden in my arms. Susan came over to take him from me. Instead of just reaching out and grabbing him, she pressed her breast against my hands, tightly. Susan interacted that way with me, and don’t ask me why she started doing it."

"Really, I am 30 years older than she is. In fact, when Josh actually became aware of it, I said, ‘Well Josh, it really was Susan who came on to me.’ As he really thought about it and, you know, especially over the next few months, he sort of started watching Susan a little more carefully, it became clear that’s kinda of the way she interacts with the opposite sex."

Q. Do you think a part of you starting falling in love with Susan?

"Yeah, I would say so. And there is no question in my mind that the feelings were mutual."

On August 25, 2011, police searched Steve Powell’s home in Puyallup, Wash. That evening, Steve Powell talked to media outside his home and made these comments about his interactions with Susan:

"She initiated the relationship that we had . . . it was very sexually charged, there were definitely some things that were probably inappropriate for a married woman and her father-in-law."

"It was definitely a romantic obsession. Susan is a beautiful woman and when a beautiful woman comes on to you like that, it’s really hard to resist that kind of a thing. I mean, maybe it’s just me, probably inappropriate, but I admit those things were going on."

• During a two-day custody hearing for his sons on Sept. 27-28, 2011, Josh Powell denied being uncooperative with police and said he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance from their West Valley City, Utah, home:

"I did not harm her. I did not have anything to do with her disappearance. ... And I love my wife Susan."

"I support any effort to find my wife from anyone who is willing."

"I love my wife, I know my wife loves my children. I want my wife back as much as anyone else wants her back."

• As he fought to regain custody of his sons, Josh Powell made the following statements about Susan in court documents filed Feb. 1, 2012 — four days before he killed himself and his two sons in a house fire:

"I miss my wife and so do many other people. It has created a very difficult circumstance for our entire family."

"The Cox family believes that increased media may find their daughter, my wife. I believe the truth is the only hope for her, but it disagrees with the popular message people are driving."

"I believed in the sacrifices I made in trying to find my wife and in my risks by being in the public, but I now see it added to the conflict and did not have the intended benefit for my wife. I have consistently stated the truth and I never intended any negativity, but some people have claimed it was negative because they have been looking for something different in me and in the situation."

"I know my own heart is free of any guilt regardless of what people claim."

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