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Tribune readers invited to re-examine Susan Powell case

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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune reporters Melinda Rogers (left), Brooke Adams (middle), and Nate Carlisle (right) have been covering the Susan Powell case since the West Valley City woman disappeared from her home in 2009. They will be reviewing tip submissions to the Tribune's new "Where is Susan?" web page.

By brooke adams

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 28 2012 08:52PM
Updated Feb 1, 2013 04:41PM

It may be that the mystery of what happened to Susan Powell will never be unraveled, leaving only an endless number of possibilities about why and how and who was involved when the young mother vanished from her West Valley City home more than two years ago.

Such mysteries happen, sad to say, with alarming frequency in Utah and elsewhere. Boys, girls, men and women disappear without a trace, triggering widespread public searches that sometimes uncover unthinkable acts and heart-rending tragedies — and other times never fill the gap in the story, never turn up answers.

And so The Salt Lake Tribune believes it is worthwhile for both us and our readers to go back to the beginning to re-examine those first days when Susan’s disappearance became public. It is worth engaging in an ongoing, interactive discussion with readers to rethink what we’ve learned since then. We understand that police have far more evidence in their closely guarded case, but as yet no answer.

It’s worth asking, as we do on our newly launched Web page, "Where is Susan?"

Today, of course, we know more about the circumstances that surrounded Susan Powell’s life in December 2009 — the money problems, the troubled marriage, the secret preparations she made to leave her husband, Josh, if their relationship didn’t improve. We know — because she herself told numerous friends and family and left a hand-written letter presciently stored in a bank box — that Susan felt threatened by her husband and feared something might happen to her that would look like an accident but, in fact, would be murder.

We also know now the unusual trajectory this particular case would follow, with each new turn more unimaginable than the last, from the public fight over Susan’s personal journals to the revelations Susan’s father-in-law was so obsessed with her that he crafted songs with her in mind, surreptitiously filmed her in her underwear and pasted her face over images of other nude women.

But few twists were more shocking than what happened in February, when Josh Powell — perhaps feeling backed into a corner by an ongoing battle with Susan’s parents over custody of sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5 — killed himself and the boys in a fire set at his rented Washington home. In that selfish move, Josh Powell made sure that if he could not have the boys, no one would.

With that act, Josh Powell also may have ensured there would be no answer, ever, to the question of what happened to Susan. That’s an ending no one, from Susan’s family and friends to the thousands of strangers who made the cause their own, wants to accept.

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