Bonus Ep: 10 Years

By DAVE CAWLEY

 

The last time anyone saw Susan Powell alive, at least the last time that can be proven, was Dec. 6, 2009. Ten years have now passed since that date.

This photo is one of the last known pictures of Susan Powell. In it, she poses with her husband Josh, their children, Charlie and Braden, as well as neighborhood friends John and Kiirsi Hellewell and their children at a church Christmas party on Dec. 5, 2009. Photo: Unknown

In that time, Susan’s story has spread across the globe. Network and cable news shows have aired hours-long specials about the investigation into her disappearance, as well as the criminal probe that focused on her husband, Josh Powell.

An Unwelcome Anniversary

For Susan’s friends and family members, the anniversary marks a milestone they’d hoped to never reach. Susan, who Josh is widely believed to have murdered, has never been found. The manner of her death has not been determined. Questions persist about the circumstances of that snowy night a decade past.

 

Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, sat down for a special interview with Cold, marking 10 years since their daughter vanished.

Judy and Chuck Cox hold a picture of their missing daughter, Susan Powell, at their home in South Hill, Wash. on Feb. 1, 2010. Susan’s coworker Amber Hardman had taken the picture of Susan a few months before her disappearance on Dec. 7, 2009. The picture of Susan is © Hardman Photography/Polaris. Photo: Pat Reavy, Deseret News

Nothing’s really changed from our point of view because our daughter’s still missing, our children are still dead, our grandchildren are still dead,” Chuck Cox said. “Evil has been exposed, but our response to it is the same. It’s beyond our control.”

 

The interview was also the first time Susan’s mother, Judy Cox, shared her perspective with Cold on the record.

 

“It took me a long time to be willing to get in front of cameras or answer questions, because it hurts,” Judy said.

Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, speak with Cold host Dave Cawley about how their lives have changed in the 10 years since their daughter disappeared. Video: Josh Syzmanik, KSL

“Every time there’s a body found, every time there’s a you know cadaver found somewhere, we wait here,” Chuck said. “You kind of start wondering, ‘Well is this the one? Is our wait going to be over? Will we be able to put whatever’s left to her to rest with her children?’”

Family Annihilation

The Coxes also reflected on the legacy of abuse in the Powell family, passed down by Josh’s father, Steve Powell.

 

“Steve taught [Josh] to be who he was. And Steve’s parents affected him,” Chuck said. “It’s just a sad waste of a life, a waste of time, and the tragedy that his time in life, Steve ruined his family. But is he a victim? And who’s going to judge that? I’m not going to judge that.”

Steve Powell, who recorded music under the pseudonym Steve Chantrey, wrote more than 50 love songs about his daughter-in-law, Susan. After Susan disappeared in December 2009, her husband Josh Powell recorded lyrics for one of his dad’s songs. Video: Dave Cawley, KSL

Judy described visiting Steve’s home one time when Josh and Susan were vacationing in Washington. Susan had left their sons, Charlie and Braden, with Josh at Steve’s home while she went to spend time with her family. However, Susan had forgotten something and returned to the Powell house to retrieve it.

 

“We’re going up the stairs to the second floor,” Judy said. “As soon as I got to the top of the stairs, she looked at me, she goes, ‘Do you feel it?’ I go ‘What? I feel uncomfortable. I am not exactly happy to be here.’ She goes ‘You feel the evil?’”

 

When police served a search warrant at Steve Powell’s home on Aug. 25, 2011 in search of Susan’s childhood journals, one detective described the scene as a “house of horrors.” Investigators uncovered Steve’s collection of voyeur videos, many focused on Susan, as well as more than 2,000 pages of journal entries about his daughter-in-law. Most of them were explicit.

“I want people to know this story so it doesn't happen to them.”

Judy Cox

Susan had spent years during her marriage to Josh attempting to counter the negative influence of his father.

 

“The only reason she stuck around as long as she did is because she was trying to follow every everything that [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] taught, and she was not giving up on him,” Chuck said. “She kept investing time and energy and love and stuff to try and bring him back and save him and all that when he was a lost case from the beginning.”

 

Josh lost custody of his sons as a result of Steve’s arrest, due to the fact they had all been living under the same roof since December of 2009. However, during a court-authorized visit with the boys on Feb. 5, 2012, Josh bludgeoned Charlie and Braden and set fire to a home he had rented. All three died in the fire.

Hope Survives

In spite of their heartbreak, both Chuck and Judy described an ongoing belief that Susan will one day be found.

 

“My official answer is, she’s alive until we find her,” Chuck said.

 

The Coxes revealed their portion of a multi-million-dollar life insurance settlement distributed years after the deaths of Josh, Charlie and Braden is being held in reserve until Susan’s fate is known for certain.

 

“It’s hers,” Judy said. “Some people may think we got rich, but we didn’t. I mean, the courts took care of that.”

Chalk outlines of Susan, Charlie and Braden Powell’s feet adorn the concrete sidewalk outside the Powell family’s home in West Valley City, Utah on July 29, 2008. Photo: Josh Powell personal files

In the mean time, the Coxes find comfort in their faith, as well as in the knowledge that sharing their daughter’s story can help highlight the dangers of domestic abuse.

 

“[Susan] wanted to help [Josh]. She wanted to be a mom and have children and have a happy life and all that. And I think everybody still wants that, and everybody still looking for that,” Chuck said. “By sharing those experiences, talking about this and doing this, we’re helping a lot of people who are in different situations that may be similar but are different. 

Hear Chuck and Judy Cox's interview with Dave Cawley in a bonus episode of Cold: 10 Years.