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‘This could be the breakthrough’ in Susan Cox Powell missing persons case

Posted at 10:07 PM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 00:07:46-04

WEST VALLEY CITY -- A computer encrypted by Josh Powell may hold answers in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Cox Powell, and a private investigator tells FOX 13 they are closer to finally cracking it.

"This is the most hopeful lead we've had yet in the process of trying to find Susan," Rose Winquist, an investigator helping Susan's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, said in an interview Wednesday.

Susan Cox Powell and her sons, Charlie and Braden. (submitted photo)

Utah-based Decipher Forensics has been trying to decrypt Josh Powell's personal computer, which was seized by police in the midst of the high-profile missing persons investigation.

"No one, especially in 2009, would put that kind of encryption on their computer unless they were trying to hide something," Winquist said.

After several years of trying, Winquist said they have made progress.

"We have broken through one level of the encryption. That's hugely significant," she told FOX 13.

However, the computer still has a heavier level of encryption with more work still to do.

Susan Cox Powell vanished from her West Valley City home in 2009. Her husband, Josh, was initially declared a "person of interest" in her disappearance and ultimately, a suspect. After years of scrutiny, he killed himself and the couple's children in an explosion in 2012.

Susan has never been found.

File Photo: Josh Powell

While investigating the missing persons case, West Valley City police seized Josh Powell's electronics, which were encrypted to such a level authorities could not crack it. When police declared the case cold several years ago, Winquist said the Cox family requested a copy of the hard drive.

Finally decrypting it could give them access to Internet search history, emails and other things. Winquist said she hoped it might help the Cox family finally get some answers about what happened to her.

"I think Chuck and Judy are very hopeful that this could be the breakthrough we all are hoping for," she said.

West Valley City police have declared the case "cold,"  but a detective remains assigned to it and occasionally receives tips, said department spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku.

Susan Cox Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, with her sons Charlie and Braden. (Photo provided to FOX 13)

"The case is still being actively investigated," she said.

Even with Josh Powell dead, Vainuku said police would like to see what is on that hard drive.

"We'd like to find some information that maybe implicates someone, shows some involvement by someone," she told FOX 13. "Particularly what we'd really like to find on that hard drive is any information that leads us to a body."

Winquist said she welcomes resources to keep working on decryption and tips to help in the ongoing investigation into Susan Cox Powell's disappearance. She can be reached here.