Susan Marie Powell (formerly Cox) was born on the 16th October 1981, in Alamogordo, New Mexico. She met her future husband, Joshua Powell, during a dinner party at his Tacoma apartment in November 2000. Both Susan and Joshua were members of the Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Church, and they were both classmates on the LDS Institute of Religion course.
Joshua and Susan started a relationship, and the pair got married in the Portland Oregon Temple in April 2001.
Joshua had a bachelors degree in business and worked for several different companies over the years, whilst Susan, a trained cosmetologist, worked for Wells Fargo Investments after they had relocated to West Valley City, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.
Susan and Joshua went on together to have two sons: Charles Powell, born in 2005, and Braden Powell, born in 2007.
For a brief period after their wedding, Susan and Joshua lived with Joshua’s father, Steven Powell, in South Hill, Washington. During this period, Steven became obsessed with Susan and would follow Susan around the house with a camcorder, use a small mirror to spy on her whilst she used the bathroom, steal her underwear from the laundry, and would even read her journals.
In 2003, Steven expressed his emotions towards Susan, who was stunned by what she was hearing. Susan obviously rejected him, and Susan and Joshua moved out of state thereafter.
Susan’s journals and emails indicated that there were issues between Susan and Joshua. Joshua refused to attend Church services with his family, and he kept in contact with his father, Steven, despite making Susan feel uncomfortable.
Susan’s friends also say that Joshua was “extremely controlling” towards his wife, and by 2007 he had to declare bankruptcy, declaring over $200,000 in debts.
In 2008, Susan recorded a video surveying property damage that she said Joshua had caused. Susan also wrote a secret will, that included the statements: “I want it documented that there is extreme turmoil in our marriage.” and “If I die, it may not be an accident, even if it looks like one.”
On the morning of December 6th, 2009, Susan, Joshua and their sons attended a Church service. That afternoon, a neighbour visited the family and left around 5pm. This was the last time anyone outside of the family saw Susan.
On December 7th, 2009, the whole Powell family was reported missing after Joshua’s mother, Terrica, heard that the boys had not been dropped off at daycare that morning. After failing to get in contact with Susan or Joshua, Terrica called the police.
The police broke into the house, suspecting that the family may have fallen victim to carbon monoxide poisoning, but instead they found the house empty. Officers noticed that two fans were blowing at a wet spot on the couch. Susan’s purse, wallet, and identification were all found at the house as well. Susan’s mobile phone was later discovered in the family’s only vehicle, a minivan, that Joshua had been using.
At around 5pm that afternoon, Joshua returned home with his two sons. He was taken by the police for questioning. He told police that he had left Susan sleeping at home just before midnight and that he had taken his two sons out on a camping trip to Simpson Springs in Western Utah.
Police found it very odd that Joshua would take his young sons out camping in blizzard conditions, and when police visited Simpson Springs, they found no evidence of the campsite Joshua had described.
Police also found it suspicious that Joshua would take his sons out camping after midnight when he started work in just a few hours, to which Joshua said that he thought it was Sunday rather than a Monday.
Officers spoke to their eldest son, Charles, who confirmed that they had gone on a camping trip. However, Charles told officers that his mum Susan had gone with them, but didn’t return. This contradicts Joshua’s story of Susan being left at home sleeping.
Weeks after Susan’s disappearance, one of Charles’s teachers claimed that Charles had said his mother was dead. To add to this, Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox claimed that several months after the disappearance, and whilst at daycare, Braden had drawn a picture of a van with three people inside of it and told daycare workers that “mummy was in the trunk.”
Police did search the Powell residence on December 9th, 2009. They found traces of Susan’s blood on the floor, life insurance policies on Susan for $1.5 million, and a handwritten letter from Susan in which she expressed fear for her life and her safety.
Police spoke to the media and said that they plan on speaking to Joshua again, and subpoenaed all media footage (aired and unaired) of Joshua. On December 14th, 2009, Joshua retained an attorney in connection with the investigation, and police say that he became very uncooperative.
A few days after this, Joshua took his two sons to Puyallup to stay with his father, Steven, for the holidays.
On December 24th, 2009, Joshua was named a person of interest in Susan’s case.
On January 6th, 2010, Joshua returned with his brother, Micheal, to pack the families belongings indicating that he was permanently moving to Puyallup.
In Puyallup, Joshua lived with his two sons, his father, Steven, his two brothers Micheal and Johnathon, and his sister Alina.
Soon after the move, the website SusanPowell.org was launched, and it called itself the “official website of Susan Powell.” The site’s anonymous entries defended Joshua as the victim of a smear campaign by Susan’s family, his estranged sister Jennifer, and the LDS Church. Entries also claim that Susan’s disappearance was linked to the disappearance of Steven Koecher and that the pair ran off together to Brazil. It is widely believed that Joshua and his father, Steven, wrote these posts.
In late 2010, both Joshua and Steven made claims that Susan abandoned her family due to mental illness and ran off with another man. Susan’s family rejected these claims, saying they are “unsupported” by any evidence.
After learning that Steven had become obsessed with Susan, police seized Steven’s computer and found 4,500 images of Susan taken without her knowledge, including images of specific body parts.
Joshua’s brother, Micheal, also came under scrutiny when police learnt that he sold his broken-down Ford Taurus to a wrecking yard in Portland, Oregon, shortly after Susan’s disappearance. When police found the car, sniffer dogs indicated that a decomposing human body had been in the trunk, yet DNA tests on the car turned out to be inconclusive.
On September 22nd, 2010, Steven Powell was arrested on charges of child pornography and voyeurism, after police found that he had secretly recorded footage and taken images of several young girls, including Susan. The day after, Chuck Cox (Susan’s father), filed for custody of the two boys.
A Washington Court granted Chuck Cox temporary custody of the boys and stated that if Joshua wanted to regain custody he would have to move out of Steven’s home.
Joshua did rent out a house in South Hill, Washington, but authorities later learnt that Joshua had never actually moved into the house, and just rented it to make the courts happy.
In late 2011, Joshua underwent a series of court-ordered evaluations in Washington. The evaluations determined that Joshua had adequate parenting skills, a steady employment history, and no criminal convictions or a history of domestic abuse. However, they did note that there were issues regarding the ongoing criminal investigation, Joshua’s failure to admit to personal shortcomings, his overbearing behaviour with his sons, and his persistent defensiveness and paranoia (which has been attributed to the police and the media attention, with the conjunction of underlying narcissistic traits.)
The recommendation based on the evaluations was to let Joshua have visitation with his sons several times a week, supervised by a social worker.
In the last week of January 2012, Utah police discovered over 400 images of simulated child pornography, incest, and bestiality on a computer that was seized from the Powell family home. The computer was purchased second-hand by Susan, and the pornographic images had been cached when viewed by the previous owner.
Utah authorities mislead the court and accused Joshua of having viewed the images, and whilst the images were not illegal due to being hand-drawn or in a 3D cartoon format, they did cause “great concern” to the person who oversaw Joshua’s evaluations.
Joshua was recommended to receive a more thorough psychosexual evaluation and polygraph test, but there were no changes to his visitation schedule with his sons.
On the 5th February 2012, social worker Elizabeth Griffin Hall called 911 after taking Charles and Braden to a supervised visit to Joshua’s home. She reported that Joshua grabbed the boys, and would not let her come through the door.
Not long after the 911 call was placed, the house exploded, killing Joshua, Charles, and Braden.
After a brief investigation, authorities confirmed that the explosion had been deliberately planned. The official cause of death for all three boys was carbon monoxide poisoning, though the corner noted that Charles and Braden had significant chopping injuries to the head and neck.
After recovering a hatchet close to Joshua’s body, police believe that he had attacked the boys with the hatchet before becoming overwhelmed by the smoke and fumes. The fire investigation also found two five-gallon cans of gasoline on the premises, along with evidence that gasoline had been spread throughout the house.
Friends and relatives of Joshua told police that they had received an email from him just minutes before the incident saying goodbye. Some of them, including his local Bishop, including instructions for finding his money and shutting off his utilities. Records show that days before, Joshua had withdrawn $7,000 from his bank account and donated his children’s toys and books to charity. He had also named his brother Micheal the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
Upon being told the news, Steven, Joshua’s father, who was in prison “didn’t seem very upset by the news, but was angry towards the authorities who notified him.” Two weeks later, Steven invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions regarding Susan’s disappearance.
A year after Joshua and the boys’ death, Micheal Powell jumped off a parking garage in Minneapolis, Minnesota, killing himself. Since his death, Utah authorities have said that they believe Micheal and Joshua were accomplices in the murder of Susan.
Steven Powell died of natural causes in July 2018.
As of 2022, Susan Powell remains a missing person. West Valley City police closed their active investigation into her disappearance. Considering the fate of her husband and sons, it is widely believed that Susan was murdered by Joshua. Her body has never been found.
Unsolved, Missing, Murder, Missing Person, USA, True Crime, Mystery