Search for Susan Cox Powell at Oregon property ends

Posted at 7:06 PM, May 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-16 12:22:35-04

SALEM, Oregon -- Police have concluded a search for Susan Cox Powell that began earlier this week at a rural property in Oregon.

Investigators gathered at the property on Tuesday, focusing in a heavily wooded area. FOX 13 observed numerous cadaver dogs searching the property in an effort to pick up the scent of human remains.

Susan Cox Powell's father, Chuck Cox, was also here to observe the dig effort. Cox told FOX 13's Scott McKane that he had received a tip about the area earlier this year that he had passed on to West Valley City police.

"This could be a place where they could have dumped Susan's body," he said.

West Valley City police had a search warrant for the property, but refused to divulge its contents.

"We are looking for anything that might lead us to find Susan," deputy West Valley City Police Chief Mike Powell said.

Asked if it is possibly where Susan Cox Powell may be buried, he told FOX 13's Ben Winslow: "Every tip we follow up on is a possibility of finding more evidence or even an additional tip to lead us to where Susan is."

Cox said this latest lead appears to fit in with what detectives have previously told him about the progress of the missing persons case.

"Josh said he went south, I'm going to look north. But where north?" Cox said. "He said he went southwest, but this is northwest and a far distance from anywhere in Utah and even around where he lived. It's an opportune spot."

Cox said relatives of Steven Powell, Josh Powell's father, had lived on the property at one time.

"He was aware of this place," Cox said of his son-in-law.

The site, nearly 800 miles away from Salt Lake City, does not seem to match up with a mysterious trip Josh Powell took in a rental car shortly after his wife vanished in 2009. At that time, police noted, Powell apparently took an 800-mile round trip.

Cox said detectives told him they were exhausting leads in the case.

"They were straightforward with me that if this doesn't come through, they do not have any really good leads right now beyond this," Cox told FOX 13. "This is probably it as far as leads go."

Mike Powell said they have chased many leads in the three-and-a-half-year-old case.

"We have left no stone unturned. We have done everything that we can possibly think of. Every tip that has been sent in, every lead that has been given to us, every little bit of information has been looked at closely with great detail," he told FOX 13. "We have done everything we possibly can to follow up on those and conduct any additional investigation that may lead us to knowing and discovering where Susan is."

Susan Cox Powell disappeared from her West Valley City home on December 6, 2009. Her husband, Josh Powell, has always been considered a "person of interest" in her disappearance.

In search warrants unsealed by a Utah court, police revealed that in interviews conducted shortly after Susan's disappearance, they learned the couple had marital problems and that she feared Josh would "destroy her" if she divorced him. Inside a safe-deposit box, police wrote in search warrants that they had recovered a sealed, handwritten letter entitled "Last Will & Testament of Susan Powell."

Susan had suggested that if she were to die, it may not be an accident, police said at the time.

In court documents filed in Washington, police there characterized Josh Powell as the "prime suspect" in Susan's kidnapping and murder. Those documents revealed police had questioned Josh Powell twice shortly after this wife's disappearance.

While Josh Powell insisted he was innocent, police said there were "inconsistencies" with his statement. He had told police he had taken the couple's two children, Charlie and Braden (ages 2 and 4, respectively), camping near Simpson Springs in Utah's West Desert the night she disappeared.

Police claimed that when they looked at Josh Powell's cell phone, the SIM cards had been removed. Police also found Susan's cell phone in his possession, along with a generator, blankets, a gas can, tarps and a shovel.

A couple days after Susan was reported missing, police said that Josh Powell rented a car (police had seized the family's minivan) and put more than 800 miles on the vehicle in two days. Where exactly he went has been unknown, but police claimed in search warrants that Josh activated a cell phone near Tremonton, Utah, at the time.

The Washington state search warrant claimed that family friends told police that Josh had made comments about how to "kill someone, dispose of the body and not get caught and that Utah's West Desert is full of mine shafts, tunnels that are very unstable so that a person can be disposed of an no one would search for the body."

Police also claimed in court documents that Susan's children had spoken about their mother, referencing her disappearance. Charlie Powell reportedly told investigators his mommy went camping with them and she did not come back with them and he did not know why.

Police claimed that several weeks later, Charlie told a primary teacher "with no emotion and no hesitation, 'my mom is dead.' "

Police have conducted numerous searches for Susan Cox Powell over the years. They searched the area around Simpson Springs, as well as an area near Ely, Nevada.

In September 2011, police searched a site near Topaz Mountain in Millard County, where cadaver dogs hit on what might have been human remains. After days of searching that site in September 2011, police abruptly left and refused to say if they found anything.

An August 2011 search by West Valley City police of a home Powell was living at in Puyallup, Wash., for evidence related to Susan's disappearance led to the arrest of Josh's father, Steven Powell. He was accused of surreptitiously taking photographs of neighbor children.

Among the thousands of images police claim they found in the home were pictures of Susan Cox Powell that prosecutors alleged were taken without her knowledge. Police also seized Steven's diaries, that detailed an infatuation he had with his son's wife.

It was the arrest of Steven Powell that led to Josh losing custody of the couple's children. He was then involved in a custody battle with Susan's parents.

On February 5, 2012, Josh Powell killed himself and their children, Charlie and Braden, in an explosion and fire at a home he rented in Graham, Wash. A social worker had dropped off the children for court-ordered visitation. She told authorities Josh Powell grabbed the children and slammed the door in her face shortly before the home exploded and was consumed by fire.

Steven Powell was ultimately tried on voyeurism charges and convicted. He is scheduled to be released from prison as soon as the end of this month. The two neighbor girls Powell is accused of photographing have filed a civil lawsuit against him.

Susan's family is also considering a series of lawsuits against Washington child welfare authorities over the deaths of Charlie and Braden.

Susan's family has also been involved in a long-running legal dispute with Josh's family over the payout of life insurance premiums. Josh Powell had named his brother, Michael, as the one to inherit the bulk of a multi-million dollar policy for Josh, Charlie and Braden.

Michael Powell had been a defender of his brother and father, creating a website that accused the police of overlooking leads in the case and Susan's family of mistreating Charlie and Braden.

Michael Powell, 30, committed suicide in February 2013 by jumping from a building in downtown Minneapolis, where he lived.