(Sound of seagulls and idling diesel engine)
Dave Cawley: Snowflakes swirled outside the Flying J Travel Center in Lake Point, Utah. They danced on the wind that also buffeted big-rigs on the nearby interstate. Denise worked the register alone. The only other employee on shift at the time was out shoveling snow off of the walks.
Denise: It was around midnight, 12:30 a.m., and I was busier than normal because of the, the storm. It was coming down like crazy.
Dave Cawley: Denise heard someone shout “Hey Charlie” across the store. A few moments later, a man in a leather jacket stepped up to the counter.
Denise: It’s this really tall man carrying a baby. And I said “is there anything else for you tonight?” And I looked down at his stuff and it was rescue tape.
Dave Cawley: A pair of gloved hands dropped a couple other items on the counter: crackers and licorice. Denise glanced up to see a woman standing next to the man, smiling.
Denise: So I looked up and I made eye contact with her and then the dad said “hang on a minute let me buy this stuff and then we’ll go camping.” So quickly, I turned around and looked out the window, cause I knew it was snowing like crazy and I looked over at the RV islands that was just over my right shoulder, and there was nobody there. There was no RVs or anything there. And I thought “camping? In this?” So, I turned a little bit further and I’d seen the silver minivan sitting on pump six.
Dave Cawley: Denise thought the woman looked well-put together, especially for it being nearly 1 a.m. But she also noticed red rings around the woman’s eyes, as if she’d been crying. The toddler in the man’s arms stirred.
Denise: He looked at his mom and I looked at his little nose. He was just such a cute little man. His little nose was all scrunched up. And I says “well he doesn’t look too happy about going camping.” And she did the mom thing, rubbed his little cheeks and smiled and says “yeah, he’s pretty tired.”
Dave Cawley: The mom scooped the boy from the man’s arm and walked over to the door, joining another, slightly older boy who was pushing on the glass, trying to get outside.
(Sound of door opening)
Dave Cawley: Together, they walked out to the minivan. The man paid for the stuff with cash and told Denise to put the change on pump six. Then, he left as well. Denise didn’t think about that encounter again, until two months later when she saw a picture of Josh Powell on the news. She called West Valley police in a state of shock.
Denise: I truly believe I was the last person to see her. I truly do. And that’s very haunting.
Dave Cawley: Denise told police she’d seen Josh and Susan Powell, as well as their boys, together in the Flying J at 12:30 a.m. on December 7th off 2009.
Denise: The did request the video surveillance and, much to my surprise, Flying J only kept their film for ten days and then they would record over it again. So it wasn’t available for them.
Dave Cawley: Denise provided a written statement. She told detectives what the people she’d seen were wearing. The detectives, in turn, asked her why she hadn’t reported this sighting for weeks.
Denise: When they asked me “what took you so long?” that was gut-wrenching. It just made me feel like I was discredited, so to speak, when they asked me that. And that was a horrible feeling. Here, something so tragic has happened and I’m trying to help, ‘cause they were there. They were there. And, and how to I convince them? They’ve got to know that they were there and, and believe that they were there.
Dave Cawley: This is Cold, episode 16: Chasing Leads. I’m Dave Cawley.
Dave Cawley: Denise has harbored some hard feelings for West Valley police over the last nine years.
Denise: I had a lot of anger issues, frustration with them and stuff because I had such valuable information that I felt was discarded. But then, you know, ten years time and you experience other things, I come to realize how difficult it is for them to put anything through the system.
Dave Cawley: Here’s the problem with Denise’s tip: it can’t be verified. Not by any other witnesses, not by surveillance camera footage, not by financial records. By the time Denise reported it, a lot of information had come out in news reports. Police had to ask themselves: were her memories influenced by what she’d seen on TV?
Ellis Maxwell: The more information that gets out, that’s more information now you have to sift through in these tips and these leads and trying to identify “ok, is this credible information or this information that they’ve obtained because of information we’ve released?”
Dave Cawley: By the start of 2013, West Valley police had received more than 800 tips in the Powell case. They ran the gamut, from simple suggestions of where to look for Susan, to detailed psychic conversations with a ghostly figure, to simple but unverifiable stories like Denise’s. People reported sightings of Susan in Georgia, Montana, Hawaii and Alaska.
A woman named Robin claimed to have seen Josh and the boys at the Comfort Inn in Sandy, Utah while working there on the morning of December 7th of 2009. Police went to the hotel and verified there was no record of Josh having stayed there.
A card dealer at the Montego Bay Casino in West Wendover, Nevada claimed Josh was a regular at his table on weekends. A woman named Darlene said she’d flirted with Josh on an elevator at the Imperial Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas, because he smelled nice.
Perhaps the oddest tip of all came from the Duces Wild “gentleman’s club” in South Salt Lake, Utah.
Sherman (from March 8, 2010 KSL TV archive): His erratic, belligerent behavior is what brought attention to him.
Dave Cawley: Police heard from a patron of Duces Wild, one week after Susan’s disappearance. The man, named Sherman, told them on the afternoon of December 7th, he spotted a guy at the club who seemed very drunk.
Jennifer Stagg (from March 8, 2010 KSL TV archive): Sherman was sitting next to the man and asked him if he was ok.
Sherman (from March 8, 2010 KSL TV archive): He kept repeating that he had a really bad day and he had a story to tell. When I asked him to tell the story he says “no you don’t want to her my story, I’ve just had a really bad day.”
Dave Cawley: A few days later, Sherman saw Josh Powell on the news and thought he looked a lot like the man he’d encountered at the club.
Jennifer Stagg (from March 8, 2010 KSL TV archive): Sherman says the man was shouting at the strippers and the bar tender. He tried to take another patron’s drink. The bar’s owner said the man was acting erratically.
Rydell Mitchell (from March 8, 2010 KSL TV archive): Talking to himself, speaking out load, wasn’t really making any sense.
Dave Cawley: A couple of officers went to Duces Wild. Other patrons recounted a story about a man who’d caused a ruckus on December 7th. The bartender told detectives this belligerent customer was not a regular and it seemed like he’d been “on something.” He did look like Josh Powell, but she couldn’t say for sure that it was him.
Jennifer Stagg (from March 8, 2010 KSL TV archive): Police say they aren’t able to confirm it was in fact Josh Powell at Duces Wild, the day his wife Susan was reported missing.
Tom McLaughlan (from March 8, 2010 KSL TV archive): I’m not trying to discredit, uh, the individuals involved. Uh, but uh, sometimes, y’know, the, eyewitness accounts can, can be mistaken, so you can’t rely wholly on that. You try and verify. And at this point, uh, we are not able to verify through, uh, independent means that that was Josh.
Dave Cawley: “Bad day” guy had arrived around 2 p.m. and left the bar at about 4:30 p.m. Josh’s phone records showed he was near his home in West Valley at 3 p.m. and down south at Point of the Mountain a half an hour later. Josh could not possibly have been at Duces Wild.
There was another big problem with the story. Josh didn’t drink. His journals included several references to his not liking alcohol, or even being around others who are drinking.
Josh Powell (from December 13, 2000 audio journal recording): It was starting to wear me down to, to have to be around alcohol in the house and, and cussing.
Dave Cawley: Steve Powell also wrote about the Duces Wild story, once it made the news.
Ken Fall (as Steve Powell from March 10, 2010, journal entry): Even Josh’s detractors came out and said they did not believe the story. Josh has never been to a strip club, even though he does not feel there’s anything wrong with such an activity.
Dave Cawley: Josh’s attorney, Scott Williams, responded to a news story about the Duces Wild tip by saying he had no idea why anybody would make that kind of claim about Josh.
Dave Cawley: A woman called 911 shortly before midnight on December 11th of 2009, just five days into the search for Susan, and told a dispatcher she’d been having an affair with Josh Powell. She said her name was “Kristine.” Through slurred words, she described having met Josh at a comedy club. She said he’d claimed his wife had died of cancer. She’d only realized that wasn’t true when she saw Susan’s face on the news. The call disconnected. Kristine called 911 again, a few times actually.
Dispatch handed the information off to West Valley City police. An officer got “Kristine” on the phone again just before 1 a.m. and thought she sounded drunk. Kristine said she lived in Oregon, even though she was calling from Utah on a phone with a Utah area code. The officer asked Kristine for Josh’s phone number, to test her honesty. She became upset and hung up the phone.
Police traced the number Kristine had called from to an address about 10 blocks to the east of where Josh and Susan lived. A patrol officer went to the house and knocked on the door around 3 a.m. No one answered. Kristine’s tip went cold.
Then, in July of 2010, Detective Ellis Maxwell double-checked Kristine’s number against Josh’s phone records. It did turn up only once, just after midnight on December 12th of 2009, the same night she’d called 911. The phone records showed no one picked up at the Powell house. Kristine had never talked to Josh, at least not on any phone West Valley police knew about.
Ellis kept digging. He learned the phone number “Kristine” had called from actually belonged to a woman named Kourtney.
Ellis Maxwell: She called in relatively early after this made the news and, uh, she left a bogus name and filed these allegations that, y’know, she was having an affair with this guy and y’know that took a little bit of time to track her down.
Dave Cawley: Police made contact with Kourtney in August. She was hesitant to talk.
Ellis Maxwell: And it’s like “eh,” y’know obviously we can’t force people but it kind of doesn’t work like that, right?
Dave Cawley: They convinced Kourtney to come in to the station for a chat. She sat down with the detectives and told her story. Kourtney said she’d met Josh through the phone chat service LiveLinks and that they’d dated for about six to eight months. Also, Josh hadn’t used his real name. He’d gone by John Staley.
Kourtney claimed Josh’d paid her about $800 for sex over the course of their relationship. He’d meet her at the Hunter Library, just around the corner from her house. Then, they’d drive up one of the nearby canyons to make out or have sex. Kourtney even took a drive with the detectives to visit those spots in Millcreek and Butterfield Canyons, on the outskirts of the Salt Lake Valley.
Ellis Maxwell: We did a little field trip and, uh, yeah. Nothing evolved from it.
Dave Cawley: The whole thing smelled fishy. Ellis asked Kourtney to take a lie detector test. She didn’t want to do that. Was Kourtney telling the truth about John Staley? Ellis didn’t think so.
Ellis Maxwell: She never called him, they never had communication, stuff like that. So, y’know, it was put to bed.
Dave Cawley: The Cold team reached out to Kourtney to ask for her side of the story, but she never responded, casting further doubt on her story. But what Kourtney had claimed did lend credence though to an even wilder tale from a man named Andrew Andersen.
Andrew Anderson: You know my background, right?
Dave Cawley: That was the first question Andrew asked me when we sat down to talk about the Powell case. What he meant was he’d done time.
Andrew Anderson: I was just lettin’ you know that that’s the case.
Dave Cawley: Andrew Andersen’s troubles with the law started in 2007, when he was 21, with an arrest for forgery in West Jordan, Utah. Court records show the busts cascaded from there. By 2009, he racked up more arrests for forgery and financial fraud. They resulted in the filing of felony charges in at least 15 separate cases. The other misdemeanors scattered in between were just garnish, like parsley on a plate.
Andersen resolved most of those cases with plea deals. He spent some time in jail, but bounced out on probation before long. He just kept getting into trouble. So in February of 2010, a judge ordered Anderson to prison for up to five years.
Andrew Anderson: When I went to prison, I went to prison for like, checks, credit cards, all that.
Dave Cawley: The Utah Department of Corrections operates two prisons. One at Point of the Mountain, midway between the main population centers of Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. The other in the rural, central Utah town of Gunnison. But many state inmates end up serving their sentences in county jails, because the two prisons are overcrowded. Andersen told me he spent time in a lot of different jails over the course of his sentence.
Andrew Anderson: Washington County sucks. Davis County sucks, it’s alright but it sucks. Uh, Weber County, Cache County they all suck. Salt Lake County sucks.
Dave Cawley: Andrew was in the Box Elder County Jail when, in the summer of 2010, he reached out to U.S. Marshal Derryl Spencer and West Valley police detective Gavin Cook. He described meeting Josh Powell in July of 2009 at a place called Fat Cats in the city of South Salt Lake. He was hanging out there with a few people when a woman named Summer walked in with a guy he didn’t recognize.
Andrew Anderson: Summer was a stripper and she was just using him ‘cause he was paying, just giving money, money, money, money.
Dave Cawley: Summer seemed close, physically, with the guy. They were kissing and hanging onto one another. Andrew told the investigators Summer had met this guy through a phone chat service, possibly LiveLinks or QuestChat. Come to think of it, maybe it was on Craigslist. He wasn’t sure.
Andrew Anderson: He was, like, possessive. Very possessive.
Dave Cawley: Like how, in what way?
Andrew Anderson: Like if she would talk to me or say she went to get a beer or something, he’d be all weird about it. Does that make sense? Like, “why are you talking to that dude?”
Dave Cawley: It didn’t end at Fat Cats.
Andrew Anderson: Well that’s where I first met him and then, y’know I’ve been to Wendover with him and a couple other places, so.
Dave Cawley: The guy didn’t go by the name Josh. He had a different name but Andrew couldn’t remember it. Summer probably had a different name too, for all Andrew knew.
Andrew Anderson: I don’t know if that’s her stripper name or real name or anything. But you know out on the street and the game, all, ‘cause, y’know, she liked to smoke meth and party and do all that stuff. And she was a stripper, not that that makes her any different than anybody else. It was her job.
Dave Cawley: Andrew knew Summer through a mutual acquaintance who’d been on the same ankle monitor jail release program with him.
Andrew Anderson: The people I was hanging out with before are, were like, gutter I guess you want to say it. Out committing crimes, doing all that stuff.
Dave Cawley: Andrew said he was locked up again by December of 2009 when he first saw Josh Powell on the news. He was sure Josh was the possessive guy he’d met that summer day at Fat Cats. He started hearing through the grapevine that Josh and Summer had had an argument. Summer threatened to tell Josh’s wife about their affair. Josh said he’d already killed his wife.
Andrew Anderson: For some reason he spilled beans to her. So… (laughs)
Dave Cawley: The story, as Andrew had heard it, went that Josh had dumped Susan’s body in a mine or buried her at a campground out in the desert. For Ellis this sounded just plausible enough.
Ellis Maxwell: There could be, there could’ve been, still, something there. But it wouldn’t have, it wouldn’t have been information that would have found Susan. This would have been information that you could discredit Josh’s credibility.
Dave Cawley: The idea of Josh having lead a secret double life, spending his money on strippers and gambling trips, caught the imagination of detectives.
Ellis Maxwell: There was a small portion of it that I, I kind of believed, I still kind of believe. Maybe Josh was involved in, y’know, maybe some prostitution and uh, y’know, it’s possible. And y’know we definitely looked at it.
Dave Cawley: But Andrew’s information didn’t exactly come from a position of pure altruism.
Andrew Anderson: I said “well, I can’t do a dang thing sittin’ in here. How can I go find Summer? You get me on the street with a furlough or something, get me out of prison, then I could do it.”
Dave Cawley: Andrew told the investigators Summer was slender, white, blonde and probably in her late 20s or early 30s. She might have worked at Duces Wild, the same strip club where patrons had reported seeing a guy who looked like Josh on the day Susan disappeared. That coincidence was not lost on the police.
Ellis Maxwell: Here we’ve got Duces Wild, we’ve got Kourtney, we’ve got Andrew with this story and it’s like “this is kind of weird.” And, y’know, there very well could be something there.
Dave Cawley: Detectives went to work. They made a list of possible Summers, to compare against a spreadsheet of licensed exotic dancers. Police records also say Andrew suggested they talk to another woman who’d been at Fat Cats that day. Her name was Emily, and she was attending a family reunion in Michigan. Police hopped a plane and went to see Emily.
Andrew Anderson: It looks bad on me even though I didn’t give Emily’s name. They, something, I don’t know, y’know, how her name got brought up and I said “I was hanging out with her at the time. She very well could know her. That’s somewhere to start.”
Dave Cawley: Emily met the investigators at Fayette Historic State Park, on Michigan’s upper peninsula. They asked if she’d ever been to Fat Cats. She said no. They asked if she knew Andrew. Again, she said no. Emily admitted she’d been involved in fraud and forgery. Her memory was bad because she’d spent much of late 2009 strung out on methamphetamine. In fact, she’d been locked up for the first half of 2010. Her trip to Michigan was a probably against the rules of her release.
The police put the screws to Emily and her memory started to come back. Yes, she did know Andrew, but only by his alias.
Ellis Maxwell: His, his moniker name was Cowboy. (Chuckles)
Dave Cawley: Yes, Emily knew Summer. They’d printed checks and ID cards together. Yes, she’d been to Fat Cats and remembered seeing a guy acting weird, aloof and possessive of Summer. He’d drank beer, spent time on a PDA and drove off at the end of the night in a dark-colored SUV. That didn’t sound like the Josh Powell Ellis Maxwell knew. Still, it was a lead.
Ellis Maxwell: Yeah, knowing Josh, you’re thinking “nah, he’s not the type of person that would get involved in prostitution” but being in police work for 20 years, nothing really surprises me anymore.
Dave Cawley: Detectives identified more possible “Summer” candidates. One lived in Moab, a desert resort town in the south-eastern part of Utah. They checked her out, even visiting her apartment in person. She was not the right one. Another possible Summer met with police in mid-August of 2010. She agreed to take a lie detector test, which she passed. Andrew said she wasn’t the right Summer when he later saw her picture.
Andrew Anderson: They were going to St. George. They were going to Moab. They were, Derryl and Maxwell were all over the place, man.
Dave Cawley: That same month, Andrew sent U.S. Marshal Derryl Spencer a letter, asking for help getting moved to a better jail or into a residential drug treatment program. He said it would free him up to spend all his time searching for Summer.
Andrew Anderson: I didn’t like where I was at. So Derryl was helping me get moved around to where I wanted to be at, where the prison had space at better jails, for helping them. And finally he just got me back to the prison where I wanted to be.
Dave Cawley: There was a problem though. Andrew’s story kept shifting. He added new bits, like that Summer was a “featherwood,” or female member of a white supremacist gang. In spite of not being able to positively identify Summer, Andrew did provide information on other cases that seemed to check out.
Toward the end of September, police learned Emily had returned from Michigan. Word was getting around that she, too, was on the hunt for Summer.
Ellis Maxwell (from September 30, 2010 police recording): So this whole time you’ve been out and you’ve been amongst these people. You haven’t obtained any information that we need on this Summer girl?
Emily L. (from September 30, 2010 police recording): I’ve tried.
Ellis Maxwell (from September 30, 2010 police recording): I thought you said you could get it.
Dave Cawley: At the end of September, Emily showed up at West Valley police headquarters for an interview.
Emily L. (from September 30, 2010 police recording): When I first ran into these guys, they came up and saw me they’re like “do you know so and-so, do you know so-and-so, have you ever been here or here or here” and I’m like “no.” And I honestly didn’t think I had. And then when they started like, jogging my memory, mentioning different places, times, people, I was kind of like “well, that could be.” Y’know what I mean? And I wasn’t lying.
Dave Cawley: She’d agreed to undergo a lie detector test.
Steve O’Camb (from September 30, 2010 police recording): Do you know Summer?
Emily L. (from September 30, 2010 police recording): No.
Steve O’Camb (from September 30, 2010 police recording): Is this the month of September.
Emily L. (from September 30, 2010 police recording): Yes.
Steve O’Camb (from September 30, 2010 police recording): Have you ever talked to Summer about the murdered wife?
Emily L. (from September 30, 2010 police recording): No.
Dave Cawley: So, police decided to put Andrew and Emily together in the same room.
Andrew Anderson: I was in Davis County Jail and all of the sudden Emily showed up there one day.
Dave Cawley: The police left Andrew and Emily alone for a bit then split the two up and asked each what they’d talked about. Andrew and Emily gave two different accounts of their conversation. What’s more, Emily admitted to having used meth that very morning. In her purse, the police reported finding another person’s checkbook, credit cards and I.D. The police arrested her and handed her over to a probation officer, who had just obtained an arrest warrant.
A week later, the police also gave Andrew through a lie detector test. They asked if he actually believed it was Josh Powell he had seen at Fat Cats back in July of 2009. Andrew said yes. The test did not reveal any signs of deception.
Andrew Anderson: They gave me lie detector test after lie detector test and I passed them all.
Dave Cawley: Andrew kept writing letters. On April 25th of 2011, he sent a letter to detectives Gavin Cook and Ellis Maxwell. He said he’d been in touch with people who knew where Summer was hiding. She had agreed to talk, in exchange for full immunity and half a million dollars in cash.
Andrew’s story continued to evolve. He claimed Susan had got wind of Josh spending time on chat lines and going out in public with prostitutes. Enraged, she’d planned to leave with the boys. Josh had used his supposed connections in the criminal underworld to keep that from happening. Andrew felt frustrated. He he’d given police information, but seemed to get nothing in return.
Andrew Anderson: In all honesty I was just, I wanted to help ‘em out but I was also trying to help myself out. Because I was given an 18 month sentence, that’s what my max was supposed to be and I did five-plus years on it.
Dave Cawley: In July of 2011, Andrew told police he’d found out who’d put out the “hit” on Josh. He dangled that carrot in an effort to keep from being moved to the prison in Gunnison. At the start of August, Andrew provided a list of possible Summer associates, people who might know where to find her. He also told detectives Susan’s body could be in some mountains south of Interstate 80 in Utah’s West Desert. But the specific directions he gave didn’t make any sense.
By December, as Josh was fighting for custody of his boys in Washington state, Andrew landed just where he didn’t want to be: in Gunnison. He didn’t give up trying to work a deal. On the two-year anniversary of Susan’s disappearance, he begged for help getting out. In a letter, he claimed to have given police information about Steve Powell possessing child pornography, before the August, 2011 search warrant raid at Steve’s house.
Andrew Anderson: I gave them all that information and Steven Powell got put away for child pornography, all that stuff. And Josh Powell, I said go look on Josh Powell’s computer right now and you’ll have plenty to arrest him.
Dave Cawley: That’s a claim not backed up by the facts. I asked Andersen to explain that. He stood by his claim that his tip prompted the raid.
Andrew Anderson: I liked Maxwell a lot but as soon as Maxwell got that information about Steve Powell, they were up there arresting him.
Dave Cawley: So I asked Ellis if Andrew’s tips in any way contributed.
Ellis Maxwell: There wasn’t anything that, uh, Andrew shared with us that benefited the investigation. Nothing.
Dave Cawley: Still, a detective drove out to meet with Andrew in January of 2012. Andrew’s story changed again. He no longer said Susan’s remains were in Utah.
Andrew Anderson: Susan Powell’s in Idaho, dude. Between Idaho and Washington. That’s where she’s at.
Dave Cawley: Andrew offered yet more names of people who might help find Summer. Some of the people he suggested were incarcerated, others were living on the streets. Tracking them down was not easy, but police did. None had any useful information. One complained that Andrew was “nuts.”
Ellis Maxwell: That’s a, that’s a really good example of depleting your resources and burning up valuable time.
Dave Cawley: Around the start of February of 2012, right around the time Josh killed the boys, police in the city of South Salt Lake served a search warrant at house frequented by one of the people Andrew had named. West Valley detectives caught wind of it. They compared notes with their colleagues in South Salt Lake. At last, they were able to come up with a likely identity for “Summer.”
They took her picture to the prison in Gunnison and showed it to Andrew. He said she was not the right Summer. Enough was enough. Ellis confronted Andrew.
Ellis Maxwell: I, I, I believe I specifically asked him what he wanted out of this. What was he looking for because information he was sharing with us, uh, y’know, wasn’t taking us anywhere. We weren’t gaining any ground. We weren’t getting any evidence. We weren’t getting any information.
Dave Cawley: Ellis wanted to know why Andrew hadn’t come forward with all of the information at the beginning. He asked why Andrew, of all people, would be the source. Andrew did not have good answers.
Ellis Maxwell: Andrew Andersen. Yeah he, he burned up a lot of our time. Umm, and y’know, we had some very frank conversations with him, uh, through that time frame, uh, and eventually, uh, we shut the door.
Dave Cawley: The most Ellis could say was that someone who looked like Josh might have been at Fat Cats in July of 2009 with a blonde woman who went by the name Summer. Or maybe it was all bogus.
Ellis Maxwell: Y’know, it’s kind of ironic that you end up with three leads that are out of the Salt Lake Valley here that involve Josh and, uh, sexual activity. And I think that uh, you’ve got to put a little more weight into that, into those leads because it’s not your traditional lead of, like well for example the Flying J allegations there. Y’know, there was, there was that. That was it.
Dave Cawley: As for Andrew, his trouble with the law continued. Prison records show he was released on parole at the end of 2013. Finally, he could hunt down Summer and get her to talk.
Andrew Anderson: Well the last time I heard from her was 2012, 2013. She’d write me letters and stuff like that. Yeah. Then all of the sudden they stopped, so…. (Laughs)
Dave Cawley: In 2014, Andrew was accused of passing forged checks. It resulted in his parole being revoked for half a year. He got out again at the end of 2015.
Andrew Anderson: Word on the street when I got out, and I tried to relate it to Derryl, was that she overdosed on heroin. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But I’ve not seen her around.
Dave Cawley: Then, in 2017, Andrew was accused of stealing his own brother’s identity in order to rent an apartment. He cut a plea deal and got off with time served. When I talked to Andrew in June of 2018, he told me he was done looking for Summer.
Andrew Anderson: The only ways to do it is to start going to strip clubs and uh, hanging out with escorts and strippers again. And that, I don’t like that so, I’m far beyond that.
Dave Cawley: Andrew expressed a lot of anger over how everything had played out and called West Valley police “idiots.”
Andrew Anderson: It’s just frustrating, man. It really is and I know West Valley feels, or should at least have guilt about and know that they screwed up pretty dang bad.
Dave Cawley: But how much time and effort did the investigators spend on a lead that went nowhere?
Ellis Maxwell: I think they were spun off from information they received from the media and that’s why it’s important for us to have those records sealed. I can only imagine if we didn’t keep those records sealed and all the information in those affidavits was released, we would have probably ended up with thousands of more tips and leads that we would have had’ve, y’know, wasted resources on for nothing.
Dave Cawley: Ellis said they couldn’t ignore Andrew’s tip, just because it came from an inmate.
Ellis Maxwell: It was likely. I mean, it was something that we definitely had to explore and you know what if we would’ve, if we would’ve found some evidence there to, to support any of those or all three of them, ok now we’ve got, y’know, we’ve got a motive. Right? I mean, outside of that, our motive is what? He doesn’t want to go to church? We probably spent a little bit more time on that than what we should have but at the end of the day, y’know, it’s not going to hurt our investigation. You do what you’ve gotta do.
Dave Cawley: West Valley police were never able to develop solid information to back up any claims of infidelity involving Josh. They even went so far as asking Steve about Summer or Kourtney while he was in prison after Josh killed Charlie and Braden.
Ken Fall (as Steve Powell from July 31, 2012, journal entry): We could not talk Josh into dating. His only concern, his whole life, was his boys.
Dave Cawley: Questions of infidelity in Josh and Susan’s marriage, weren’t just reserved for Josh. West Valley police also had to determine if Susan might have been unfaithful. Three days before Susan disappeared, she typed an email to a male coworker at Wells Fargo Investments.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from December 4, 2009 email): I’ve dreamed about at least 5 coworkers since I’ve come here. Some dreams are G, some are PG-13 and one rate X. … It was hard to look at that person for about a month afterwards.
Dave Cawley: Co-workers were not the only ones who crept into Susan’s dreams. Mel Gibson made frequent guest appearances. Most of the dreams were innocuous, but she tended to share with the people who showed up in them, anyway.
Linda Bagley: I really didn’t feel like she realized how much she was turning somebody on, that what she was saying was not maybe the, ‘cause she was just an open book. It didn’t matter if you were a guy or a girl. So when you’re TMI and it’s a guy, it’s going to have a different effect than if you’re TMI and it’s a girl. (Laughs)
Dave Cawley: That’s Linda Bagley, one of Susan’s closest work friends. Linda saw it clearly: Susan had admirers. The attention caused problems.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from September 22, 2009 email): I even had a coworker pat my rear while here. I retired those jeans from work that very day.
Dave Cawley: Susan wrote that email in September of 2009. She was always very clear about her commitment to her marriage. Some of her admirers chose not to hear that.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from September 28, 2009 email): They got the wrong idea, both here and when I was at Fidelity. I’m learning guys don’t differentiate married or not so you don’t do date like things like going out to lunch.
Ellis Maxwell: She wore her heart and her emotions on her shoulder. She would, uh, if she genuinely cared about you or felt comfortable with you or trusted you — whether if you’re a coworker or a member in her ward or, uh, just a neighbor — she would, she would talk openly with people. Y’know, other people — I won’t single out males — but they may pick up that vibe as being something different, right? “Ah, they’re delivering a message that they’re interested,” right?
Dave Cawley: Ellis Maxwell and the rest of the West Valley major crimes team obtained a year’s worth of Susan’s work emails in March of 2010. There were thousands of messages. They had to create a spreadsheet just to keep track of all of the people in those conversations. Several men stood out from the crowd.
Ellis Maxwell: We weren’t just focusing on Josh we were looking at everything—
Dave Cawley: Yeah.
Ellis Maxwell: —and everybody.
Dave Cawley: Ellis knew he had to talk to these coworkers.
Ellis Maxwell: And y’know, that’s part of investigative work as well is recognizing that and saying “gosh, do I really think this person’s involved? No. Does it look like it? Could there be a probable chance? Maybe.” You’ve got to prove and disprove.
Dave Cawley: The big scandal of 2009 at Susan’s office was the divorce of a woman she worked with and that woman’s subsequent marriage to a coworker. The office romance prompted all kinds of office gossip. For Susan, it led to some reflection about her own thoughts of divorcing Josh.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from April 13, 2009 email): If I was separated from Josh, I wouldn’t already be dating. I’d be hanging out with the girls, dealing with lawyers, trying to get and keep custody of my kids.
Dave Cawley: The guy who she sent that email to had joked that Susan and Josh could deal with their marital troubles by buying a copy of the Kama Sutra. Susan’s friend and coworker Amber Hardman told there was zero chance of Susan having an affair.
Amber Hardman: She liked that guys were flirting with her but she said she would never act on it and I believe her. She spent most of her lunch breaks and breaks with me. We’d hang out and walk around the building or go exercise in the exercise room so, I mean, I know she wasn’t spending her extra time at work with these people.
Dave Cawley: Susan’s email exchanges with male coworkers always seemed to return to the topic of her marriage.
Ellis Maxwell: She would make it very clear that she was only interested in Josh. Y’know, though she would share, y’know, her thoughts and her stories and everything else, y’know, it would be followed with, y’know, how much she cared about Josh and their relationship.
Dave Cawley: And yet, one guy in particular caused police concern. His name was Ryan.
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): It’s like I told a friend, I’m like “if they’re talking to me there at the bottom of the barrel again.” (Laughs)
Gavin Cook (from June 9, 2010 police recording): Well, we’re just making sure we didn’t miss anything.
Dave Cawley: Ryan and Susan were former coworkers. When they’d worked together, he sometimes gave her rides home. West Valley detectives interviewed Ryan, more than once.
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): I don’t know, she always referred to me as her sugar daddy because I’d always bring chocolate at work. She was really cool.
Dave Cawley: Susan and Ryan’s friendship had progressed to a point where she privately called him her “back burner husband.”
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): Yeah we, we got along great at work. She was a sweetheart. She was just, she was just uh, yeah, she was great. Umm… (pause) I don’t know. One thing that always struck me are her boundaries. She would tell me things that my wife should tell me.
Dave Cawley: Ryan, like Susan, was married. Privately, Susan figured if they ever both ended up divorced, he was an option.
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): We kept in touch via email and she’s like “do I come across as a flirt?” And I’m like “yes, I think you do more than you know.” (Laughs)
Dave Cawley: Ryan got along with Josh as well as anyone could, but he didn’t respect him much. He knew Josh was a realtor.
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): I would call Josh and ask real estate advice. And then I’d do the exact opposite of what he’d tell me. And I sold my house, go figure.
Dave Cawley: Susan and Ryan fell out of touch for awhile after she gave birth to Braden. Then, in October of 2008, he sent her an email out of the blue. It said, “I miss you.”
I should mention here that I contacted Ryan and asked him to do an interview. He declined. I’m not using his last name out of consideration for his privacy.
Susan responded to Ryan’s 2008 email with a long message all about her troubles with Josh. She also mentioned her dreams.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from October 25, 2008 email to Ryan B.): Still having my dreams but lately only the old “jerk ex boyfriend” from junior high and high school appears. Although there has been the intermittent male coworker over here appearing. Just think, that could be you.
Dave Cawley: Ryan told Susan he’d had several dreams about her as well. One, he said, would’ve made her blush. He explained he had a cell phone his wife couldn’t access and said she could call him any time, for any reason. Susan gave Ryan her cell phone number as well.
In another email, Ryan called Susan “my dear.” In a follow-up message, he said she had the right to be happy.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from an October 28, 2008 email to Ryan B.): So are you going to make me happy? Problem is, I still love the guy I married. I just don’t know if I’ll ever get that back.
Dave Cawley: Ryan replied that he didn’t want to interfere with what Susan had going, but said “I have always thought you were beautiful.” Susan continued to vent about Josh’s laziness. In April of 2009, she teased Ryan about possibly taking over.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from April 11, 2009 email to Ryan B.): So you are saying I’d have to marry you in order to get some work done around the house? Too bad the plural marriage thing is frowned upon now. Maybe services in exchange for the handy work I can’t get Josh to do? Too bad I have a conscience and morals and stuff… dang that.
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): She’d told me that Josh never, ever wanted sex. That, and I told her, generally that’s because he’s looking at porn or he’s cheating on you. (Laughs)
Gavin Cook (from June 9, 2010 police recording): What was her response?
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): Oh no, no, I don’t think that.” But I told her, Generally when a guy doesn’t want it, umm, it’s one of those two factors.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from April 11, 2009 email to Ryan B.): Oh if only I had my chocolate daddy to goof off with and influence my naughty dreams. Oh by the way, I did have another one, but sorry, you weren’t the male coworker I dreamed about. … So now you have competition.
Dave Cawley: There was more.
Kristen Sorenson (as Susan Powell from April 11, 2009 email to Ryan B.): Josh stayed out late Thursday night for a computer geek thing, and I asked him how long he thought it’d be, like 6, 9 or midnight and he said “have your boyfriend gone by 9.” And so I said to obviously nobody in the room, “oh did you hear that Ryan? He says we have until 9.”
Dave Cawley: You can just imagine what detectives thought when they first read all of those emails.
Ellis Maxwell: Definitely with that coworker, y’know, he needed to be, uh, talked with and, and ran through a CVSA.
Dave Cawley: Ryan agreed to come in an take the lie detector test at the end of June of 2010.
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): I, I, I don’t think she would be capable of cheating on Josh because, her faith.
Dave Cawley: Ryan spoke candidly. He denied knowing what’d happened to Susan.
Ryan B. (from June 9, 2010 police recording): If she ran off, she would’ve taken the kids. I mean, at the risk of her life, she would have taken the kids.
Dave Cawley: The test showed he was telling the truth.
Dave Cawley: No discussion of leads in the Susan Powell investigation is complete without addressing Steve Powell’s theory about Susan running off with Steven Koecher.
Ellis Maxwell: It’s hilarious. It was comical, umm, and how that evolved and developed, I don’t know if it was a combination of Josh and Steve collaborating and going “Look, Josh…”
Dave Cawley: I mentioned this back in episode 9, when describing Steve’s February, 2010 interview with the FBI. He suggested to a pair of special agents that Susan had slipped away to Brazil.
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): I mean, y’know, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to send this stuff on to the FBI because the FBI has access to passport records, I mean, I assume you do. I don’t know. Maybe you guys don’t have any easier time than the rest of us trying to get information but Josh says she didn’t have a passport and I say she did.
Dave Cawley: Steven Koecher was 30 years old when he vanished from the area of Henderson, Nevada on December 13, 2009. That’s about a week after Susan was last seen at her home in West Valley City, Utah, more than 400 miles from Henderson. A home surveillance camera captured video of Koecher walking away from his car at a cul-desac in the Sun City Anthem retirement community.
Like Susan, Koecher was a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’d served a two-year mission for the church in north-eastern Brazil, speaking Portuguese. After his mission, he’d bounced around several jobs in the Salt Lake City area.
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): Even though he lived in St. George, he didn’t move there until April of, of last year. And before that he worked in Salt Lake City. At one place he was two blocks from where she worked. Y’know?
Russ Johnson (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): Ok.
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): He worked at the Salt Lake Tribune, she worked at Fidelity Investments.
Dave Cawley: It’s not clear what brought Koecher to the outskirts of Las Vegas, but some have speculated it might have been a job opportunity. Steve Powell had a different take.
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): Goes down to this area, arranges for a boat, y’know, probably in Boulder City and on the 13th he comes down here, abandons his car in Henderson. Don’t ask me why Henderson and don’t ask me why he abandoned his car. Why didn’t he just — oh no, I mean, God, stupid — I mean, obviously he was trying to make it look like a disappearance, y’know, like the Susan Powell disappearance.
Dave Cawley: Ellis said the coincidence of two people disappearing around the same time deserved attention.
Ellis Maxwell: The Koecher thing, yeah. Steppin’ outside the box looking in, y’know, some people could be like “now this is, this is weird, this is just odd that these two people go missing and there’s a period of time there that it was, y’know, could be very likely.”
Dave Cawley: Steve’s theory was based on a perception of Koecher that was detached from reality. He wrote this in one of many journal entries about the theory.
Ken Fall (as Steve Powell from May 17, 2010 journal entry): Susan has always been attracted to “bad boys.” I sort of visualize Steven Koecher as a “ne’er do well” who carries around a guitar and a skateboard, and who has a college degree by virtue of his parents’ affluence.
Dave Cawley: Steve suggested Koecher might have disguised himself by growing a beard and mustache and putting on a hat. Susan, he said, had probably adopted a “black-haired Latin look” and told the special agents to seek evidence at cosmetology supply stores in Brazil.
Russ Johnson (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): You think they hooked up in West Valley somehow.
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): I think so.
Russ Johnson (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): Ok.
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): I really do.
Russ Johnson (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): Alright.
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): I think so. That’s my surmise.
Gary France (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): Did you run this all by Josh? This theory?
Steve Powell (from February 24, 2010 FBI interview recording): Yeah and again, Josh’s attitude is “hmm, sounds pretty plausible to me.”
Dave Cawley: Josh was only humoring his father. He didn’t buy the Koecher theory at all. Steve conceded as much in his journal.
Ken Fall (as Steve Powell from May 15, 2010 journal entry): Josh had a hard time thinking she would run off with another man. Michael kept reminding me that I’d feel pretty bad if I touted such a theory and later found out she had been raped and tortured for weeks or months. Michael and Josh don’t talk about Steven Koecher much.
Dave Cawley: In August of 2010, Steve wrote that one of his nephews had drawn his attention to the website Reddit, where he saw several interesting AMA or “ask me anything” threads.
One came from a Redditor using the handle Missing-Inaction, who on August 19th of 2010 posted an AMA thread with the title “I faked my own suicide and left the country.” Missing-Inaction claimed to be a man in his late 20s who suffered from depression and fled his life in the U.S., ending up in Peru. Steve supposed Missing-Inaction might actually be Susan. He dismissed the obvious problem that Missing-Inaction was a man.
Ken Fall (as Steve Powell from August 29, 2010 journal entry): I spent so much time last weekend and yesterday reading everything MIA said, most of it in context with the questions posed to her, I have begun to hope I am hearing from Susan finally.
Dave Cawley: Steve took interest in another AMA session as well, where a Redditor described life in Fortaleza, Brazil. That’s exactly where Steve believed Koecher had gone with Susan.
Ken Fall (as Steve Powell from August 29, 2010 journal entry): The person writing, who calls himself Slavishmuffin — I’ll refer to him as SM — Coincidentally Susan’s initials are SMP, or SMK if she has married Koecher, which I also think is a strong possibility, for Susan Marie. So it wouldn’t be too unusual for Koecher to come up with a handle that uses her initials.
Dave Cawley: Steve was really stretching here. The theory continued to grow more elaborate and nonsensical. In an August 2nd, 2011, journal entry Steve wrote:
Ken Fall (as Steve Powell from August 2, 2011 journal entry): Josh found out today that a flight plan is not required for small planes. Susan would have known that tidbit, since her father Chuck Cox works for the FAA. I suggested months ago that investigators check flights out of Lake Havasu and since Steven Koecher was in that area the day before he disappeared. And of course I believe Susan is with him. It also occurred to me today … that maybe Chuck Cox himself picked Susan and Koecher up at one of those airports.
Dave Cawley: Ellis Maxwell contacted police in St. George, Wendover and Henderson, all cities tied to the Koecher case. The agencies compared notes. They created a timeline that showed Koecher was in St. George — 300 miles away from West Valley — on the day of Susan’s disappearance.
Ellis Maxwell: So yeah, kudos to Steve bringing that up. Great, thank you. Y’know, I ran that lead down with some of my peers and again, y’know, I wasn’t expecting to find anything but I was hopeful, y’know. Maybe, maybe there is a chance that Mr. Koecher and her eloped but, umm, no. Nothing came of it.
Dave Cawley: Just to be sure, they compared phone records and found no contacts between Koecher’s number and Susan’s.
Ellis Maxwell: But it was, uh, it was, it was definitely helpful because that could’ve been another red herring and now it’s been put to bed and we can focus on Josh.
Dave Cawley: On the next episode of Cold.
Wayne Pyle (From May 20, 2013 KSL TV archive): We are announcing the end of the active phase for the search for Susan.