Police tactics were used to 'ruffle the feathers' of Powell, attorney says

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PUYALLUP, Wash. — An attorney for the parents of missing Utah woman Susan Cox Powell say police enlisted them to "ruffle the feathers of Josh Powell" throughout their investigation.

One such instance involved an August honk-and-wave that was staged in the neighborhood where Josh Powell was living with his father, Steven Powell. Chuck Cox was standing on a street corner holding a sign with his missing daughter's picture to draw attention to her case. Reporters were present when Steven Powell approached him and the two got into a tense argument.

The incident pushed Josh Powell to file a restraining order against the Coxes. A judge later ordered Chuck Cox and Josh Powell to stay at least 500 feet away from each other at all times.

I think the Cox family is concerned about the million dollar life insurance policy that Josh allegedly took out on his wife a year before she disappeared.

–Steve Downing, Cox family attorney

"Obviously it was a bit odd for all of us to be taking a number of directions from West Valley City police on a number of things they wanted done," Steve Downing, attorney for Chuck and Judy Cox, said Wednesday.

The same weekend as the honk-and-wave confrontation, West Valley police were conducting a search of abandoned mine shafts in the desert near Ely, Nev. Investigators said they had new information in the Powell case that prompted the searches, but have never said what that evidence was.

Downing added that prior to conducting that two-day search, police had received statements from individuals involved with Puyallup's Gem and Mineral Club about a bag of rocks at an exhibition.

"Josh and one of the boys seemed to be particularly interested, almost excessively interested, in a rock from Ely, Nev.," Downing said. The subsequent actions of West Valley police were referred to by Josh Powell as "a circus."


Another specific act also raised questions about Josh Powell's innocence in the Susan Powell disappearance.

"I think the Cox family is concerned about the million dollar life insurance policy that Josh allegedly took out on his wife a year before she disappeared," Downing said.

That information came from West Valley City Police, who on numerous occasions told Chuck and Judy Cox an arrest was imminent, according to Downing, who said that they "were led to believe that an arrest would be made perhaps the first week of September 2011."

The arrest never came, however.

On Tuesday, Texas relatives of Josh and Steven Powell issued a statement pointing fingers at police practices, as well as activities of the media, which they say played a part in Sunday's tragic ending. Josh Powell murdered his children and killed himself after igniting gasoline he'd spread throughout his home. Investigators say the killings were planned and intentional.

Maurice and Patti Leach said they had become disillusioned with the legal system after watching the events of the more than 2-year-old case unfold.

Funeral information
Funeral services for Powell boys
  • Saturday, 11 a.m.
  • Life Center Church
    1717 S. Union Ave.
  • The funeral will be streamed live on ksl.com

"In our hearts and minds, we feel this family tragedy was set into motion from the beginning due in part to the various questionable government agencies' practices, religious bias, the Internet kangaroo courts, and sensationalized news media, all of whom have circumvented the laws that protect all of our rights to due process," they wrote. "Stewardship of the responsibilities that have been entrusted to those organizations and individuals has been completely compromised.

"America, this is not only a tragedy, Sunday was a dark day for all of our families," the statement continues, adding the Leaches will hold the lost Powell family in their hearts forever.

The family stands by Josh Powell's "great deal of restraint, with patience and dignity" in recent custody hearings, which they say came from a fear of losing his sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5. The Leaches said that with Steven Powell in jail, they had been asked by Josh Powell to "offer a safe haven" for the boys "should the need arise. Our answer was absolutely yes."

In a statement Wednesday, Josh's pastor, Tim Atkins, said he talked with Josh just days ago but didn't see Sunday's events coming. "There was no indication of a problem or change in his outlook," Atkins wrote.

"Josh spoke with me during the phone conversation about seeing him Sunday following the Sunday afternoon visit with his sons."

Email: wleonard@ksl.com
Email: syi@ksl.com

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Wendy Leonard and Sandra Yi


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