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Timeline: The Susan Cox Powell tragedy

By Wendy Leonard | Posted - Feb. 5, 2012 at 6:28 p.m.

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Over the last two years, the Powell and Cox families have undergone tragedy after tragedy. It is a story full of twists, turns, and bizarre revelations. This is a timeline of events to help those following the story sort out the details.


Afternoon, Sunday, Dec. 6 — Neighbor eats dinner with Josh Powell, Susan Cox Powell and the couple's two children following church services.

12:30 a.m., Monday, Dec. 7 — Josh Powell reports last seeing his wife as she goes to bed and he leaves with children for late-night camping trip in the west desert near Tooele.

Monday, Dec. 7 — Police respond to the couple's West Valley home, 6254 W. Sarah Circle, after Susan failed to show up at work and drop their kids off at daycare.

5 p.m. Dec. 7 — Josh returns home with the boys, is informed the family was feared missing and meets with police.

Dec. 8 — Josh calls Susan's father, Chuck Cox, reports that Susan is still missing and that he is about to be interviewed by police again.

Dec. 9 — Police serve a search warrant on the Powell residence and remove boxes, bags and a computer.

Dec. 10 — Law officers search the Simpson Springs area, but find nothing.

Dec. 10 — Family and friends of Susan — including Josh and their sons — attend a candlelight vigil.

Dec. 11 —Police report that snow hampers their search efforts in the Simpson Springs area of Tooele County. A second candlelight vigil is held.

More Coverage of the Powell tragedy

Dec. 12 — Josh Powell, Chuck Cox and other family members gather outside the LDS Church’s Hunter Central Stake Center to pray, sing hymns and start a 24-hour fast in hopes of Susan Cox Powell's safe return. A tearful Josh Powell does not speak. Chuck Cox says he is concerned about the focus on his son-in-law.

Dec. 14 — Josh Powell hires Utah defense attorney Scott C. Williams and skips a third interview with West Valley City Police. Police confirm that two fans were blowing on a wet spot on the living room floor when they entered the Powells' home on Dec. 7.

Dec. 15 — Josh Powell provides a DNA sample to police.

Dec. 16 — Police label Josh Powell a "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance after an interview.

Dec. 18 — Josh Powell and his sons travel to Puyallup, Wash., to stay in the home of his father, Steven Powell, for the holidays.


Jan. 4, 2010 — Family and friends of Susan launch a social media campaign to spread word of the woman’s disappearance on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Jan. 6 — Josh Powell and his brother, Michael, arrive at the Powell’s West Valley City home to pack the family’s belongings. Friends say Josh Powell, who has been fired from his job, may be unable to keep the home and is moving to Puyallup.

Jan. 27 — Neighbors decorate the Powell home in West Valley City with dozens of purple ribbons, hearts and signs to bring renewed attention to Susan’s case.

Jan. 28 — Josh Powell returns to West Valley City to make home repairs to his property, in order to rent it.

Jan. 29 — West Valley City police serve a search warrant on Josh Powell and seize the blue minivan he drove the night his wife disappeared.

Feb. 15 — Susan's family launches a foundation in the woman's name, allege that Susan was in an "adversarial relationship" with her husband.

April 10 — Volunteers search for Susan in the Simpson Springs area but turn up nothing.

Aug. 25 — West Valley City police say detectives have spent at least 6,850 man hours searching for Susan, at a cost of more than $150,000. Five of the department’s 28 detectives are assigned full time to investigate Powell’s disappearance.

Sept. 10 — Chuck Cox and Ed Smart appear together in Utah as part of an effort to raise awareness for kidnapped children and promote legislation that would require that DNA samples be taken from people arrested on suspicion of a felony.

Dec. 4 — Josh and his father, Steve, propose a theory on their website - — that Susan ran off with another missing person, Utahn Steven Koecher.


July 15, 2011 — Steven Powell says he will post portions of Susan Cox Powell’s childhood journals online.

Aug. 19 — West Valley City police report a break in the case and conduct a two-day search of abandoned mine shafts in Ely, Nev. Few other details are released.

Aug. 25 — Thirteen West Valley City investigators, with 10 from the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, serve a search warrant on the Puyallup, Wash., home of Josh Powell and his father, Steven Powell. Boxes of videos, photographs and various computer equipment, as well as Susan's childhood diaries, were taken as evidence from the home.

Aug. 26 — A Washington judge grants a temporary restraining order prohibiting Steven Powell and anyone in his home, including Josh Powell, from publishing or distributing any of Susan Cox Powell's diaries.

Sept. 13 — Investigators conduct an 10-day grid search, using cadaver dogs, near Topaz Mountain in Juab County. Details of the search are not released.

Sept. 22 — Washington police arrest and charge 61-year-old Steven Powell with 14 counts of voyeurism and possession of child pornography, based on evidence seized from his home during August search. A judge orders the sons of Josh and Susan Cox Powell to be removed from the home and placed in protective custody.

Sept. 23 — Steven Powell pleads not guilty to charges, but remains in jail. A Washington judge rules that Susan Cox Powell's childhood diaries cannot be released to the public. Josh Powell files a 22-page response to the order. Chuck Cox files petition for custody of the young boys.

Sept. 28 — A Washington judge grants custody of the sons of Josh and Susan Cox Powell to the boy's maternal grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox. Order cites safety concerns. Judge also orders Josh Powell to undergo a psychological evaluation and attend parenting classes.

Oct. 15 — Friends and family members of Susan Cox Powell hold a 30th birthday celebration in West Valley City for the missing woman, hoping to keep the case in the public eye.

Oct. 27 — Steven Powell's trial is delayed until March 2012. He remains in jail.

Dec. 6 — Friends and family of Susan Cox Powell hold charity event in Utah, marking two years since her disappearance.

Dec. 7 — Josh Powell files declaration in Washington court as part of ongoing custody battle for his two children. He says the boys are in the middle of a "very hostile war."

Jan. 30, 2012 — Josh Powell's brother, Michael Powell, launches a website accusing the Coxes of "maiming" one of the boys, alleging that the children are in danger.

Feb. 1 — A Washington judge orders Josh Powell to undergo a psychosexual evaluation, including a polygraph test. The order comes during a hearing about the custody status of Josh and Susan Cox Powell's two young boys, now ages 4 and 7.

Feb. 5 - Josh Powell sent an e-mail to his attorney Sunday with a simple message: “I’m sorry, goodbye.” Minutes later he accepted his sons into his home, kept the social worker who delivered them at bay, and ignited an explosion that killed himself and his two boys.

Wendy Leonard

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