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Year-end review: Powell case took unusual turns in 2011

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Dec. 26, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.


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WEST VALLEY CITY -- As 2011 comes to a close, KSL Newsradio is looking back on the stories that left the biggest impact on our state. This year, there were dramatic twists and turns in the search for missing West Valley mother, Susan Powell.

Early December, Susan Powell's friends marked the two year anniversary of her disappearance. Her sister-in-law, Jennifer Graves, honored Powell by getting donations for The Christmas Box charity.

"I never thought we would get to this point and not be done when we began this whole process," she said.

Graves and many others thought the search for Susan Powell could be coming to a close after West Valley police said they had an announcement coming out of Ely, Nevada.

West Valley Police Sgt. Mike Powell said, "We are here to follow up on investigative information that has led us to this area."

Powell couldn't give any details of why they searched at the Topaz Mountains, or what exactly they were looking for. But, Lt. Bill Merritt says cadaver dogs picked up on something.

"They are smelling something, and it is human decomposition," he said. "It could be coming from blood. It could be coming from tissue. It could be coming from bones. It could be any variety of different sources, but it is human decomposition." Josh Powell, the only person of interest in his wife's disappearance, said the search was the best news he'd heard in two years.

"Susan is my wife. I will always love her," he said. Josh Powell maintains that his wife may have run away with a missing St. George man, Steven Koecher. It's a theory investigators aren't buying. Officials say Powell has not been cooperative in the investigation, which is a claim Powell denies.

"We've learned through experience that they say what they want to say and that's all they say, and it's usually a lot of nothing," Powell said.

No bones or human tissues were found. But, the Topaz Mountains weren't the only place cops searched. They also searched the Washington home of Steven Powell, Susan's father-in-law. For nine hours, they removed computers, as well as bags and boxes, which the Powell family said contained Susan Powell's childhood journals. This search led to probably the biggest twist in the story. Powell's father-in-law, Steven, admitted he had a romantic obsession with Susan, and that she initiated their romantic relationship.

"It was very sexually charged," he said. "There were definitely some things that were probably inappropriate for a married woman and her father-in-law."

Steven Powell admitted some embarrassing videos had been taken from the home. He was later arrested for voyeurism and child porn possession. Investigators say he had thousands of pictures of young girls in varying stages of undress. He also reportedly had videos of girls and women without their knowledge, including his daughter-in-law, Susan.

Meanwhile, Susan's friends and loved ones are still waiting for the day when investigators say she has been found.

"I would tell her I love her and I miss her a lot," Jennifer Graves said.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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