TACOMA, WA — Steve Powell, the father of a man who killed his young sons and himself, died at a Tacoma hospital early Monday morning, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Powell is reported to have expired from heart-related issues.
Powell was also the father-in-law of Susan Cox Powell, who has been missing since 2009.
Susan Powell was last seen alive at church on Sunday, December 9, 2009. After she disappeared, police found her keys, wallet, and cell phone at the family residence in West Valley City, Utah.
Her body was never found, and she was presumed legally dead five years after she vanished. Her husband Josh was never arrested or charged in connection with Susan’s disappearance, but police considered him a person of interest in the case.
Josh claimed he left Susan sleeping at home when he packed up the kids just after midnight and took them camping. But Susan’s friends and family did not believe Josh’s claims, and immediately asked why he would take the children out camping in freezing weather in the middle of the night.
Detectives later found emails in which Susan wrote to friends about stress at home, largely due to finances and Josh turning increasingly abusive.
In July 2008, Susan chillingly sent out video messages hoping to document her home life “if anything happens to me or my family.” She also locked a note in a safe-deposit box that stated, “If I die, it may not be an accident, even if it looks like one.”In February 2012, Josh Powell killed his two sons, seven-year-old Charlie and five-year-old Braden, and himself while police in Utah were investigating him in connection with Susan’s disappearance.
After a social worker in Tacoma arrived at Josh’s home with the boys during what was meant to be a supervised visit, Josh set off an explosion that killed himself and the boys instantly. The murder-suicide was a tragic ending to a long custody battle between Josh and Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox.
In 2015, a Utah judge supported Susan’s parents and ruled that her father had the right to cut Josh Powell’s mother and sister from a trust that was set to receive $2 million in life-insurance proceeds following Susan’s death.
As if the tragedies and legal issues with this family weren’t already enough, incredibly, in August of 2015, Steve Powell was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of voyeurism and possession of child pornography after taking pictures of young neighbor girls using the bathroom. He was released in July 2017, and was forced to register as a level-two sex offender.
Pierce County sheriff’s office spokesman Ed Troyer said, “We found many pictures of young girls as young as, we believe, seven years old in explicit positions. They’re pictures he shouldn’t have taken, pictures of girls in showers, on toilets, in the bath. He’s basically a peeping Tom with high-end camera equipment.”
During the investigation of Steve Powell, police found “creepy” images of his daughter-in-law Susan in his possession, but nothing specifically criminal. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, they were images of Powell masturbating to Susan’s photo and images of naked women onto which Susan’s head had been pasted. Steve Powell had also reportedly made sexual comments about his daughter-in-law, and even suggested to his son Josh that the two men share her.
According to Troyer, Steve Powell was always arrogant and uncooperative with the police. He and other investigators believe that Powell very likely had knowledge of the location of his daughter’s body, and were hoping for a death-bed confession from the hospital. While that wasn’t forthcoming, authorities are hoping to be able to search his possessions one more time, in case anything can be found related to the disappearance or murder of Susan.
While reporting on Steve Powell’s death, news station KIRO 7 anchor Steve Raible stated, “No one is mourning Steven Powell.” Another KIRO 7 reporter, Graham Johnson, who has been covering the Powell family for years, said that when the Sheriff’s Department told the news stations that Powell had died of heart issues, “police and reporters wondered aloud if he even had a heart.”
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Main photo: Steve Powell [Pierce County Sheriff’s Office]