PUYALLUP, Wash. — Almost two years to the day that his wife went missing, Josh Powell filed a declaration in court as part of an ongoing custody battle over the couple's two children alleging harm and "ongoing trauma."
"By being with the Coxes, my sons are caught in the middle of a very hostile war of words and emotions," Powell wrote in a signed declaration filed in a Pierce County court Wednesday.
He called the Cox family's treatment of his children "reckless," indicative of "an irrational vendetta against me," and said it is "sapping my sons' happiness and sense of security."
By being with the Coxes, my sons are caught in the middle of a very hostile war of words and emotions.
In September, a Washington judge gave temporary custody of Josh and Susan Cox Powell's two sons, ages 4 and 6, to Susan's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox. The decision came following the arrest of Josh Powell's father, Stephen Powell, on voyeurism and child porn charges and in light of the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Susan Powell.
The boys had been living with Josh Powell at his father's home in Washington since Jan. 2010. Susan Powell was last seen at the family's home on Dec. 6, 2009. Josh Powell has been named a person of interest in her disappearance because police say he has not cooperated with them.
There has been no secret made of the contention between the two families, which came to a head in August when a judge issued a restraining order that required Josh Powell and Chuck Cox to stay at least 500 feet away from each other.
Now, Josh Powell is alleging that his father-in-law is releasing sensitive medical information about the children to the public, using the children to try and obtain information and photos from Josh Powell and is turning the boys against him, even going so far as to teach them to call Josh Powell "Josh" as opposed to "Daddy."
Josh Powell is alleging that his father-in-law is releasing sensitive medical information about the children to the public, using the children to try and obtain information and photos from Josh Powell and is turning the boys against him, even going so far as to teach them to call Josh Powell "Josh" as opposed to "Daddy."
"As their natural father, I am the most important person in my sons' lives and they are acting out because they feel attacked as the Coxes make diligent efforts to destroy our bonds with one another," Josh Powell wrote.
He said the negative attitude he believes is in the Cox home is causing stress in the lives of his children. He wrote that his 6-year-old has been complaining of nightmares and that the boys are "apparently angry" because they can't live with him.
"My sons' exposure to the Coxes' ongoing attitude and behavior is causing the boys a great deal of unnecessary trauma," the declaration states.
But Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's own sister, says his claims are absurd.
"The idea that the boys are being mistreated in the Cox home is silly," Graves said. "I've personally been out there twice now since they were removed from my dad's home — from Josh's home, from his custody — and the difference that I see is actually remarkable, the improvement that I see in them."
Graves most recently visited her nephews over the Thanksgiving holiday and says the boys are blossoming.
"There was so much crap going on in (the Powell) house. That will be revealed, I suppose at a different time," Graves said. "I can't really talk about the details. That would be violating what I'm not supposed to talk about with the boys."
In the documents, Josh Powell also writes that his in- laws are trying to suppress information that is in his wife's childhood journals by way of a lawsuit and protective order. He states that they took these measures "because of the Coxes' own embarrassment over the experiences Susan describes while she was living in their household as a child."
"But Susan's journals should be reviewed because they are relevant to whether my sons are emotionally, sexually and physically safe in the Cox house," he wrote. "As a child, my wife suffered all manner of abuse by her parents and she has never healed from the scars."
He said the Coxes have manipulated the media and are trying to "totally control a media message" about him and his wife. This message, Josh Powell states, is harming his children and conceals the abuse Susan supposedly underwent that led to "anorexia, drug experimentation, and almost a complete lack of self-esteem …"
Josh Powell says he is a fit parent and has always been "a loving and devoted father." He asked the court to place the children with a neutral caretaker and stay all legal proceedings on the Coxes' third party action, which Josh Powell writes is secondary to an ongoing dependency action involving him and his sons.
Chuck and Judy Cox have been advised by the court to not speak publicly about the case, but attorney Ann Bremner, who is representing them in connection with the journal issue, said the couple has been providing "a safe and loving home for the boys."
"Chuck and Judy have abided by the court's directive that they not speak publicly about the children and are doing what's in the best interest of the children," she said Wednesday.