Additional Thoughts on Susan Powell

Note: Related to missing persons, I am working on two drafts on the Brianna Maitland disappearance, and another featuring a guest blogger on the Ray Gricar case.

In the meantime, several announcements have been made on the missing mother in Utah, Susan Powell, that I wanted to discuss.

Ms. Powell was reportedly last seen by her husband, Josh Powell, on December 7, 2009, when he told authorities that he took their two young sons on a frigid early morning camping trip.


Last week, I mentioned how police investigating the Susan Powell disappearance are still trying to determine where Josh Powell drove his rental car while the family's mini-van was being examined by forensic specialists. I think agency administrators have to be really kicking themselves for not having Mr. Powell under close watch.

I had a few additional observations regarding the case:

1) Josh Powell's Initial Comments

John Kays wrote an interesting analysis on the story. He points to this brief interview that a Fox 13 (Salt Lake City) reporter conducts with Mr. Powell, as revealing with respect to the husband's responses and body language.

This segment was recorded shortly after Mr. Powell's wife was reported missing, not long after the alleged camping trip, and likely prior to any legal advice that the husband was provided.


Evidently, detectives were interested in this video as well, since they requested copies for their investigation.

2. Family & Friends Launch Social Networking Blitz

On Monday, friends and family of the missing woman will use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to flood the Internet with pictures of Susan and other information on the case. The goal is to raise awareness about Ms. Powell's disappearance, and hopefully provide authorities with new information pertaining to the case.

If they are not doing so, I think this would be an excellent opportunity for law enforcement to partner with this effort so that any tips can be sent directly to investigators as opposed to being forwarded second or third-hand.

Also for police, I think they would be grateful for information as to the whereabouts of Josh Powell during the morning/day of Susan's disappearance or while the family van was being examined.

3. Sealed Search Warrants

Apparently, three of the search warrants served in the case are "sealed."

Sealing a warrant is not unusual in a high profile investigation like this. Detectives can request that a judge seal a warrant to prevent the defendant or anyone else from knowing what items are being sought or other related case information (in contrast, when an unsealed search warrant is used, the defendant is informed of what police are looking for).

To seal a search warrant, investigators simply need to convince a judge that to broadcast the contents of the search would jeopardize their case.

In the Powell investigation, it is believed that one warrant was to draw blood and take other biological samples from Josh Powell. The other two warrants involved searching the family's van and home.

What is in those warrants?

Only police, the DA, the judge, and a few court personnel know, but the representatives of the Salt Lake City Tribune filed a motion in hopes of granting disclosure.

I do not blame media officials for wanting a look at the search warrants (it would help sell newspapers), but I don't expect the effort to be successful.

In addition, I believe police need this form of protection to advance the investigation.

For instance, a search warrant is sealed, but a newspaper reporter is provided access to the contents of the warrant by the courts. The reporter publishes a comprehensive article that police are looking for specific receipts--documents that were not located during their search. The suspect is then tipped-off as to items that need to be destroyed or hidden.

My prayers are with the Powell family for Susan's safe return.


Anonymous said...

I am curious if child protective services are involved? I am concerned about a person who would take a two year old and four year old out on a camping trip at midnight when the temperatures were below freezing. I hope someone is looking into this for the sake of those children.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I have no objection to men being teary-eyed at the loss of their wife. Nevertheless, this person's words, as you reported, seem unnecessarily vague.
he also doesn't seem consistent in emotions across the spectrum. I suppose some people are not used to being interviewed, but oh, yuck.

Ann T.
P.S. I wrote 3 diff comments about your pet and I couldn't finish them out. I hope it goes well and I am sorry for your upcoming loss.

Natalie said...

This is definitely going to be an interesting case to follow, but my heart breaks for those children if the end result follows suit with statistics at this point.

angelcel said...

I've just had a look at the interview with Josh Powell and I see why it has raised questions. He seems vague and a little evasive. (I'm reminded of when adults corner and question a naughty child). A camping trip overnight, in the snow, with very young children also seems a little foolhardy to me. However, I do know that everyone reacts differently to stress and I don't live in Utah so I have no idea what is considered 'normal' around there.

I pray that Susan Powell will turn up safe and well.

Sue said...

There is something I tell my children when they try to give me a 'cover up' story; "People can just tell when you are lying to them."

Obviously, raised suspicions are just that, suspicions. Yet... If so many of us are scratching our heads over an impromptu "camping trip," it doesn't take much to follow them up with investigation.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I heard about this story on the national news. So sad. We just never know what people will do.

Javajune said...

It seems so obvious that MR. Powell is involved and must be so frustrating for Susan's family. It is so unfortunate that the police can't put this case together. I know there is a lot of technical stuff going on behind the scenes that we just don't understand.
My best friend from 7th grade's stepdad killed a teenage girl but got off because of mis-filed paper work. He was convicted 20 years later on a cold case murder of another young woman. No one will ever know how many girls he killed between during those years of freedom. This fact still haunts me today. Keep up the good work and happy new year!

terri said...

I don't know. I don't necessarily think Mr. Powell seems suspicious in this video. Having a spouse turn up missing is so out of the norm for all of us. Who WOULD know how to behave in such circumstances? That being said, it's still hard not to believe he is involved. There is just too much that has yet to be explained.

Stephanie Faris said...

It is an interesting case. I just hope we keep being updated. I hate when something like this happens and then a week later it's forgotten and you never hear any more about it. I'm assuming the next step will be his arrest...

blackgata said...

I wonder if it wouldn't be more helpful to post flyers with Joshua Powell's picture across the state of Utah. Perhaps gas station employees, motel clerks, fast-food places might recognize him and his whereabouts could be tracked. Since he has not been forthcoming with his exact whereabouts this might actually generate some useful tips. The snow covered Utah desert is not an easy place to search this time of year.

Nikole Hahn said...

So sad...I agree with anonymous, but not with the temps. Why in the world would you go camping at midnight? It's not easy to watch the kids AND set up a tent. Um...a little suspicious. I watched the video (I don't have sound at work), and the body language was wierd in the beginning of it--he didn't look the reporter in the eye.

Pia said...

haven't heard of this in the news. love to know what happens in the end. but i feel sad for those people involved.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comments all.

@ Anonymous: Good question. My guess is that protective services are investigating in a confidential manner.

@ Ann T, Terri, and AC: Good observation. With just examining the video and comparing it to nothing, one can read anything into the man's conduct. I think it is important that authorities have this tape to be used later if necessary.

@ JavaJ: Sorry to hear about that situation--it must have been beyond frustrating for all those involved.

@ Blackgata: Excellent suggestion. I think law enforcement should creatively use technology and old-fashioned work to develop info about the husband's whereabouts--since police have stated multiple times that they are compiling this data.

James (SeattleDad) said...

I don't have TV so I don't see a lot of this type of coverage. It is just so sad to read about these types of situations.

BobKat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BobKat said...

So little news about Susan Powell, but what I can find I've been following at work. You add a significant source of information Slam and I thank you.

This case reminds me oddly of the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, wife of police Sargent, Drew Peterson. Plenty on the web about that case! For a guy whose wife is missing, and a law enforcement officer (I think former now), to stick to the story that she ran off with another man, and despite national news coverage she hasn't phoned anyone to say she's fine, his attitude seems very much non nonchalant.

The same seems to be Susan Powell's husband... who likes to take random, midnight camping trips with his kids in the ridged cold desert. Conveniently, all traces of where he was obliterated.

It is good to hear the family is using the internet to publicize Stacy's disappearance.

Is it normal for law enforcement to put the obvious pieces together? Can evidence of a crime be so lacking? What of the fans drying a wet-spot in the living room.? Perhaps if police didn't take months or years to solve these cases, more of us would be less prone to physical injury and possibly death.

January 6, 2010 9:50 PM

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Elisabeth Hirsch said...

So interesting going back to read this, now. :(