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WEST VALLEY CITY — The bad blood between friends of Susan Cox Powell and the father of the missing woman's husband — and between members of husband Josh Powell's own family — continued to boil Monday.
Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's sister who has been estranged from the family since January of 2010, and at least two of Susan Powell's Utah neighbors, say Susan had told them about unwanted advances she had allegedly received from Steve Powell, Josh's father.
Susan Powell was last seen Dec. 6, 2009. Since the West Valley mother of two has disappeared, a cloud of suspicion has surrounded the activities of Josh Powell, her husband, whom police call a person of interest because he refuses to cooperate with them.
Over the weekend, West Valley police searched abandoned mine shafts outside of Ely, Nev., for clues into her disappearance. While that was happening, Chuck Cox, Susan Powell's father, held a honk-and-wave campaign in their hometown of Puyallup, Wash., to remind people that his daughter was still missing.
It's not true. I never made any advances toward her. I know Susan has said a few things like that. But you'd have to understand Susan, and you'd have to understand that Susan and I had a very close relationship right up until the last time I saw her, which was February 2009.
As Cox was standing on a street corner holding a sign with Susan's picture, Steve Powell showed up while reporters were present and got into a tense argument with Cox.
The incident came on the heels of Josh Powell filing a restraining order against Cox and Steve Powell wanting to publish his daughter-in-law's diaries from her teen years because he says they show that she was "sexually open."
Monday, Debbie Caldwell, who cared for the Powell children for 19 months leading up to Susan's disappearance, said the confrontation in Washington over the weekend was the last straw.
"Now is a time to say, 'enough is enough,'" she said.
Even though they said they had known the information for awhile and had already given it to police, Caldwell and others are now going public with allegations that Steve Powell made advances on Susan Cox Powell.
Caldwell said Susan told her before she disappeared that she refused to sleep in the same home as her father-in-law and she did not want her children staying in his house.
Steve Powell has denied the allegations.
"It's not true. I never made any advances toward her," he told KUTV. "I know Susan has said a few things like that. But you'd have to understand Susan, and you'd have to understand that Susan and I had a very close relationship right up until the last time I saw her, which was February 2009."
She really, really despised (Steve Powell). She did not like him at all, did not want to be around him. She called him 'evil' many times.
–Michele Oreno, Susan's friend
Josh Powell said Monday his missing wife had a "flirtatious" personality and she was "very open about her sexuality."
But Graves defended Susan Powell Monday, saying it was her father who made advances on Susan.
Before Susan and Josh Powell moved to Utah, Susan was riding in a car with Steve one day. According to Graves, Susan told her that Steve Powell "said something along the lines of, 'Why don't we just share? Josh and I can just share you.' It totally freaked her out."
It was because of that incident, and other small incidents, that Susan and Josh moved to Utah, Graves said. She said her brother was initially angry at his father when he learned of the alleged incident, but later smoothed things over with Steve Powell.
But Susan Powell never trusted her father-in-law, Graves said. "She was totally freaked out about my dad."
Michele Oreno, a friend and neighbor of Susan Powell, recalled a time when Susan and Josh came over for dinner and ended up getting into a heated argument. During the argument she mentioned advances Steve Powell allegedly made on her, she said.
"She really, really despised him. She did not like him at all, did not want to be around him," Oreno said. "She called him 'evil' many times."
Oreno claimed Susan Powell told her that Steven Powell tried to kiss her in a romantic way and tried other inappropriate actions.
"She said if he ever came to Utah he was not to set foot in their home. She would not have her home destroyed by him," Oreno recalled.
Alina Powell, who is Josh's sister and Steve's daughter, also disputed the claims of the advances and harshly scolded her estranged sister.
"Susan has been incredibly flirtatious with my father, but he has never made any advance on her. He has always been very welcoming of her in the family," Alina Powell said. "She was like a daughter to him. She was the daughter that Jennifer Graves never was."
Any hugging or kissing that happened was the type of hugs that Alina's father would give her, she said, adding that Steve Powell never "crossed the boundary."