Judge rules search of Steven Powell’s home was legal

Posted at 10:40 AM, Apr 24, 2012

TACOMA -- A judge has ruled a police search of Steven Powell's Washington state home for diaries in the missing persons case of Susan Cox Powell was legal.

The search led police to find what they claim were thousands of images of children and women in states of undress, including Susan. Steven Powell, 61, is facing voyeurism and child pornography-related charges. He is now scheduled to go on trial May 7.

Prosecutors argued on Monday that the search was legitimate. Defense attorneys for Powell argued that it was a "fishing expedition." In his ruling, Judge Ronald Culpepper said there was enough probable cause to justify a warrant because Steven Powell had gone on national TV and suggested Susan's diaries could be a clue to her disappearance.

Both Steven and Josh Powell had floated a theory that Susan had run off with another man. She disappeared from her West Valley City home back in 2009. Police investigating her disappearance have said Josh Powell is a "person of interest" in her disappearance. In court documents, prosecutors referred to him as a "prime suspect" in her kidnapping or murder.

“Officers carefully played by the rules when they searched Steven Powell’s home, and we are pleased the judge agreed the search was lawful,” Pierce Co. prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a statement Tuesday.

Steven Powell faces 14 counts of voyeurism and a single count of possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, a class C felony in Washington. Each count carries a potential sentence up to 5 years in prison, if convicted.

"Every step in this process reduces Steve's options," said Chuck Cox, Susan Cox Powell's father. "And as those are reduced, hopefully it will motivate him to tell us where Susan really is."

Josh Powell killed himself and the couple's children in an explosion and fire at a Graham, Wash., home on Feb. 5. Steven Powell has said in court documents he will not cooperate with law enforcement investigating Susan's disappearance.

One of his daughters, Jennifer Graves, is planning to testify against Steven Powell at trial. She is on the witness list, alongside a number of West Valley City police detectives working the missing person's case.

Graves told FOX 13 she believes her father has some knowledge of Susan's whereabouts.

"Now whether he helped plan it or whether he was told afterwards, or whether he planned and executed the dirty deed, I don't know," she said Tuesday. "But I know he knows now."

Click the hyperlink to see the court case witness list.