Is the Powell Act coming to Utah?

Posted at 11:11 PM, Jun 06, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-07 01:11:51-04

SALT LAKE CITY – One Utah lawmaker is creating legislation modeled after Washington’s Powell Act.

Washington state’s legislation came about after Charlie and Braden Powell were killed while visiting their father Josh, who was the sole person of interest in his wife Susan’s disappearance.

The law would allow a judge to decide whether to revoke custody to a parent if he or she is a person of interest in the other parent’s disappearance or death.

“These are sacred rights and I respect that. But in these unusual situations where one parent is suspected of murdering the other parent, I think that we ought to have a trigger mechanism where a judge could step in and maybe protect the children while the investigation or trial unfolds,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, R- Davis County, who is proposing the legislation.

Pelle von Schwedler Wall welcomes the new legislation. His mother Uta von Schwedler was found dead in her bathtub, and her death was ruled suspicious in 2011. John Wall, her ex-husband, was arrested in April of this year.

Pelle says he had to jump several hurdles to get custody of his younger siblings.

“It would have helped me as I moved to protect my siblings and take action in the juvenile court system here in Utah to protect my siblings. The legislation as I understand it would certainly have aided in that quest,” he said.

Weiler says the law pending in Washington goes too far because it makes the removal of children mandatory. His law would make the responsibility of deciding child custody to a judge’s discretion.