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Professor: Husband is innocent until proven guilty



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WEST VALLEY CITY -- With each day that passes, the likelihood that Susan Powell will be found alive dwindles. With very few leads in the case, police, family, friends and the public are frustrated. But a criminal law professor warns Josh Powell is still innocent until proven guilty.

Police have stayed tight lipped about the case, and Josh Powell is not speaking out on the advice of his attorney. But University of Utah criminal law professor Daniel Medwed hopes the public will resist the tendency to jump to conclusions.

It's been more than two weeks since 28-year-old Susan Powell vanished -- seemingly without a trace.

Medwed said, "I know the public is eager for an arrest to occur."

Her husband, Josh Powell, is the only person of interest, and now he has taken the couple's two children to Washington state indefinitely. Few details about the case have come from police, but Medwed believes it's a strategy.

He said, "It seems like the police department here is really being careful in terms of dotting its I's and crossing its T's to make sure that it actually has probable cause to make the arrest."

Medwed said police have not named Josh a suspect; when there is really no technical difference between a person of interest and a suspect.

But if they name him a "suspect," Medwed said it implied an arrest was coming soon, and police may be waiting for more direct evidence to link him to Susan's disappearance.

He said police could arrest Josh based on circumstantial evidence, some of which includes:>

  • A wet spot found on the carpet with fans
  • A rental car with hundreds of miles logged
  • The couple's history of financial problems
  • News of a pre-paid cell phone Josh purchased
  • And his improbable alibi of a camping trip the night Susan disappeared.

"The behavior is odd -- whether she was abducted by somebody else or whether he played a role in her death -- taking your toddlers out in the middle of the night to go camping in December in Utah is aberrant behavior," Medwed said.

But he said Josh Powell was innocent until proven guilty, and he encouraged the public to reserve judgment. He said, "I think it's a natural assumption, Jennifer, but I think it's one we should try to resist."

There is now over $10,000 worth of rewards being offered for new information about the case.

For Christmas, Susan's family is requesting good deeds be done in her honor.

Police look at e-mails in Powell case

Friends say they've turned e-mails from missing West Valley City woman Susan Powell over to police.

The friends, who wished to remain anonymous, tell the Deseret News the e-mails were sent last summer, when the Powell's marriage was at its worst.

They say the e-mails outline Susan's fears of what her husband might do to her or their children. According to one friend, Susan Powell said she was afraid her husband might kidnap her two boys, divorce her or worse.

One friend also says Susan talked about leaving a note at work to say she would never commit suicide.

A separate report says she told some of her friends that she had set up a separate bank account and wrote a will.

Police are not confirming those reports.

Susan Powell was last seen on Dec. 7, when Josh Powell said he left their suburban home in West Valley City about 12:30 a.m. to take their two boys, ages 2 and 4, camping in freezing conditions. She was reported missing the same day when she failed to show up for her stockbroker job and her children were not dropped off at day care.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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Jennifer Stagg

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