Cold season 1, episode 6: Josh in the Wind – Full episode transcript

Dave Cawley: Fumes pumped out of tailpipe of the idling cab. Dirty road slush coated the curbs outside of the West Valley City police headquarters. Josh Powell approached the taxi through the darkness. He opened the passenger door, slumped into the seat and told the driver to take him to Salt Lake City International Airport. It was about 10 p.m. on the night of Tuesday, December 8, 2009.

Josh had just been grilled for nearly four hours by Detective Ellis Maxwell about the disappearance of his wife Susan the day before.

Ellis Maxwell: He left his kids with uh, his mom and sister. When I reached out to them the following, well that evening and that following day, they didn’t know where he was. They hadn’t heard from him.

Dave Cawley: The ride to the airport didn’t take long. When the cab reached the terminal, Josh stepped out again into the sub-freezing cold. Roller wheels of suitcases clattered over the pebble-like pavement as airline passengers scurried through sliding doors to check their bags and board red-eye flights.

(Sound of airport exterior)

Dave Cawley: Josh didn’t have any luggage. He wasn’t headed to an airplane. As the cab pulled away from the curb, he walked over to the parking garage across from the terminals. He approached the Hertz rental car counter and pulled out a credit card. Josh left the airport in a silver Ford Focus. What he did next will probably never be known for sure. But he didn’t go home. Police were still there, serving a search warrant, and Josh knew it.

Ellis Maxwell: When I was in the interview they’d authored a search warrant for the house, a search warrant for the vehicle and then to put the tracker on his minivan. Y’know, there was enough evidence there and suspicion, right? Reasonable suspicion, that we could secure these just based on his lack of statements, his story, Susan not having any criminal history, no, no past of running off an abandoning her family, so you’ve got a lot of stuff like that can support the reasonable suspicion but you don’t have the probable cause to put the guy into jail. And that’s the challenge.

Dave Cawley: This is Cold, episode 6: Josh in the Wind. I’m Dave Cawley.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: On the morning of Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 — day three of the search for Susan — Detective Ellis Maxwell met two colleagues at Salt Lake City International Airport. They weren’t there to look for Josh’s rental car because at that point, they didn’t know he had it. It was coincidence that they were at the airport. They were going to the hangar where the Utah Department of Public Safety kept its helicopters.

(Sound of helicopter taking off)

Dave Cawley: The weather that day was perfect for flying: blue skies, with just a bit of high cloud. The chopper climbed in the brisk winter air, blades thrumming as it cruised south across the Salt Lake Valley. At the tip of the Oquirrh Mountains, the helicopter banked to the right and descended, dropping to follow Utah State Route 73 over Fivemile Pass.

From that point on, the detectives were skimming just 500 feet above the Pony Express Trail, where Josh claimed to have gone camping in the middle of a snowstorm two nights prior. Josh’d said his camp site was off to the side of the trail, about 20 miles from the end of the pavement.

Ellis Maxwell: He claimed he had a fire out there so I was hopeful I could find that black spot where he had this fire to corroborate his story and to get a general idea of where he was at because that West Desert is very vast.

Dave Cawley: The detectives could see tire tracks on the snowpacked trail. But none of them appeared to leave the road.

(Sound of helicopter hovering)

Dave Cawley: Rotor wash kicked up a fine mist of snow as the helicopter’s skids touched the ground at Simpson Springs, the one specific place Josh had mentioned visiting. The detectives checked the old Pony Express station building next to the trail. It was empty. They walked through the campsites, all of which were vacant. They even peeked into the pit toilets. Everything was as it should’ve been. No sign of Susan.

So the chopper lifted off again. They flew all the way out Fish Springs, another 35 miles distant. Still, no suspicious tracks, no signs of a recent campfire. But on the the return flight, they spotted something moving on the ground, just a few miles away from Simpson Springs.

Ellis Maxwell: But is what we found is this sheepherder and this sheep camp. … And we landed the helicopter and we approached the individual and he did corroborate that Josh was out there. Uh, we didn’t ask him any leading questions and he said that, y’know, he did see a, a blue minivan and occupied by a white male and he didn’t know if there, he couldn’t see that there was anybody else in there. And uh, so we did support and corroborate that he was out there.

Dave Cawley: Ellis had no reason to doubt it. Josh had actually made a point of mentioning the sheep during his interviews.

Josh Powell (from December 8, 2009 police interview recording): Had a bunch of sheep that we saw, apparently they were herding. The dog was herding them. Some kind of a big dog. Had to wait for those to get off the road, which was pretty cool.

Ellis Maxwell: He wanted me to know that he saw the sheepherder and these sheep interrupted his travel. Right? And he was kind of stuck on it for a minute. And I took that two ways. One, I took it like “ok, this guy’s got some ADHD issues or something.” Like, he gets stuck on something and he’s on it, right? Or, y’know, stepping outside of the box in that situation, it’s like wait, he wanted me to know that.

Dave Cawley: But why would Josh want to give away such a detail?

Ellis Maxwell: That’s his truth, right? He wanted us to verify that he was out there.

Dave Cawley: Meantime, back in West Valley, Ellis’ supervisors were taking stock of the case. They met with the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and talked about what they’d seized from the house on Tuesday night. It became clear there were other pieces of possible evidence that’d been left behind, like most of everything that’d been in the back of Josh’s minivan when he returned from the Pony Express Trail on Monday. The police would have to go back to the house with a second warrant.

The D.A. also went to a judge and received permission to conduct an investigation. Basically, it meant prosecutors gained the power to issue subpoenas, which they used to go after Josh and Susan’s financial, medical and phone records. The court also swore the investigators to secrecy.

Ellis Maxwell: We moved to seal all of these affidavits and, and the subpoenas. Everything that we would collect was sealed under a court order.

Dave Cawley: Ellis told me there was a real risk Josh would find out what they were doing, what they knew, and take steps to cover his tracks. That risk only grew once the news media got wind of the story.

Jennifer Stagg (from December 9, 2009 KSL TV archive): West Valley City police say Josh’s parents called them for help when both he and Susan missed work on Monday. The children didn’t show up to daycare. Officers broke into the home, smashing in the front window…

Dave Cawley: The first reports about Susan’s disappearance appeared late Tuesday. The story gained real traction on Wednesday. West Valley police Captain Tom McLaughlan told reporters they had no suspects.

Nineveh Dinha (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): Is he a suspect?

Tom McLaughlan (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): No, he is not a suspect.

Nineveh Dinha (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): Is he a person of interest?

Tom McLaughlan (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): We have many people we are interested in.

Dave Cawley: But the secret warrant affidavits and subpoenas told a very different story. Josh was absolutely a suspect.

That afternoon, West Valley detectives returned to the Powell family home with their new search warrant. They streamed through the front door, shouting “police” and ordering anybody who might be inside to identify themselves. There was no need. The house was empty. They took Josh’s generator, gas can, humidifier, folding saw, circular saw, razor box cutter, two sleds, the tote of camping supplies and hand tools, the nitrile gloves — all the rest of the stuff that’d been in the minivan on Monday. They took more digital media, too — hard drives, a thumb drive, an SD card — as well as Susan’s checkbook.

But where was Josh while all of this was happening? He hadn’t talked to the police since late the night before. His sister, Jennifer Graves, wondered when he might arrive at her house to pick up his sons. He’d left them in her care when he went to meet with police on Tuesday morning, more than 24 hours before.

Jennifer Graves: And so I just continued to expect a phone call letting us know that he was coming or just him showing up. Honestly, I was dreading it. I really didn’t want him to come back and take the boys. I wanted the boys to stay here with us and, and felt like that was the safest place for them.

Dave Cawley: But Josh hadn’t gone to Jennifer’s house after leaving the police station and renting the car on Tuesday night.

Jennifer Graves: It was finally the next day that Josh said something about driving past our house at like 1:30 in the morning or something, and saying “well I didn’t want to bother you guys and, you know, and get you up.” And my light was on. I was not sleeping. And it would have been obvious because my room is on the front of the house. So if he’d actually really, in fact, driven by, he would’ve known.

Dave Cawley: Josh’s disappearing act concerned Ellis. He called Josh’s mom, Terrica, at about 4 on Wednesday afternoon to ask if she’d heard from him and she said no.

Ellis Maxwell: Eventually he establishes contact with Terrica and she calls me and I get his new phone number. I call him and he’s in Tremonton, Utah and it’s a fight with him over the phone to get him to come back to the police department.

Dave Cawley: Tremonton, Utah sits 80 miles north of West Valley City, right on the fastest route between West Valley and Josh’s dad’s house in South Hill, Washington. 

While in Tremonton, Josh activated a new cell phone. That was roughly 18 hours after leaving the airport with the rental car on Tuesday night. To this day, no one can say where he was or what he was doing during those 18 hours. Josh told Jennifer he’d driven laps around Salt Lake City, getting off and on the freeways at random. And in fact, Josh was still on the road when Ellis called him, telling him to come pick up his minivan.

Ellis Maxwell: He says he doesn’t trust me, I’m gonna arrest him and so I’ve got to go through this dog and pony show with him and convince him, “look I’m not going to arrest you, I’m not taking you to jail. If you didn’t do anything wrong, why do you have this guilty conscience? Get back here and get your van, otherwise I’m going to tow it.” … And I shared that with him because I know to this point that he doesn’t like to spend money on things that he doesn’t want to spend money on. He’ll spend money on acetylene torches and generators and, and stuff like, bipolar stuff, right? Bipolar purchasing but he was really upset we broke his window. He was more upset that we broke his window into his house than his wife missing.

Dave Cawley: Josh remained reluctant. Phone records would later show he drove past Susan’s work, just as if he were there to pick her up after her shift. Then, he drove past his own work, from which he’d been absent without leave for three straight days. Then, he went home. He called his dad and spent about an hour on the phone with him.

Steve Powell, like his oldest son, had dropped from view after Susan’s disappearance. Phone records showed he’d been in Washington that day. Then he’d called in sick for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Steve worked for Washington Correctional Industries, selling furniture built by inmates. He spent a lot of his time on the road, usually alone, and didn’t have any close friends in the organization. His phone records later revealed he did remain in Washington on those two days, but there was a gap of time during the same period of time Josh was missing with the rental car.

When Josh finished talking to his dad on Wednesday evening, he made his way over to West Valley police headquarters.

Ellis Maxwell: Eventually he does, he shows up, he gets his van on his time. I think it was at like 7 o’clock at night.

Dave Cawley: Mmhmm.

Ellis Maxwell: I was so upset ‘cause it was my daughter’s birthday, right? He would interrupt everybody else’s lives.

Dave Cawley: Ellis gave Josh the keys. Josh locked the minivan’s doors, then went back to his rental car. That’s when Ellis first found out about the Ford Focus.

Ellis Maxwell: And that’s when we learn. Y’know we, we get the plate off the rental car and we follow up with it and “ok, this is gonna be, this is gonna be our break, right?” Nah. And that’s this whole story, man. No breaks. Any time you think you might have something, nada.

Dave Cawley: More on the rental car in just a moment. First, Ellis asked if Josh would be willing to come in and take a CVSA test. That’s an acronym for computer voice stress analyzer, a kind of lie detector. Josh said he’d think about it. The next day, he told Ellis he’d do it. He would come in for the CVSA on Monday, December 14th, exactly one week after Susan’s disappearance.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Josh finally returned home Wednesday evening, only to find TV news crews camped out in his cul-de-sac.

Sandra Yi (from December 9, 2009 KSL TV archive): This afternoon, West Valley police served a search warrant at Susan Powell’s home because that was the last place anyone saw her.

Dave Cawley: He’d only had a few hours sleep since Sunday and was in no shape to face cameras, so he slipped over to the home of his neighbors, Tim and Crystal Peterson. It was an odd choice, because the Petersons were well aware of the troubles in Josh and Susan’s marriage. A few months earlier, Susan had asked Crystal in a Facebook message if Tim might be willing to speak with Josh about his faltering faith.

Kristen Sorensen (as Susan Powell from September 1, 2009 Facebook message to Crystal Peterson): I suggested if he did it through service then my husband would be more willing to listen.

Dave Cawley: She suggested Tim spend some guy time with Josh, helping him rebuild their deck or finish their basement.

Kristen Sorensen (as Susan Powell from September 1, 2009 Facebook message to Crystal Peterson): Everyone else at church has no clue how to interact with Josh and assume he hates the church and I guess it’s not that really, it’s just that it’s not convenient for him to attend it or be encouraging to me and the boys and obviously, very weak faith at the moment.

Dave Cawley: Susan had also confided in Tim. In an email, she’d said she was giving Josh until the end of the year to go back to church. He had until April to obtain a temple recommend. That’s a card that proves Latter-day Saints are following their church’s teachings.

So, it seemed surreal for Tim to find Josh in his living room that Wednesday evening in December.

Tim Peterson: And uh, y’know, he’s rubbing lotion on his hands because his hands are just wind-burnt. And uh, he’s talking about how he had to buy new shoes and “oh, you’re wearing the same shoes that I am.”

Dave Cawley: Josh complained about the missing carpet in his living room and the odd odor left behind from the blood-detecting chemicals. He wondered if the fumes would kill his pet parrot. He didn’t seem at all concerned about where Susan might be.

Tim Peterson: And he wasn’t asking any of those questions at all. He was just sitting there like a turd on my couch.

Dave Cawley: Josh asked Tim for a ride over to police headquarters, so he could pick up his minivan. As they sat in the cab of Tim’s truck, Tim asked Josh what he’d done with Susan. Josh didn’t answer.

Tim Peterson: I asked one more time and I asked about as plain as I possibly could and I said “damn it, Josh, you tell me, where the hell is Susan right now.” And he said “the police will find her.” And that’s when I said “I don’t like you no more. You are my enemy.”

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Susan’s friends, too, were finding it hard to give Josh the benefit of the doubt. They knew too well how poorly he’d treated Susan. Here’s Amber Hardman, one of Susan’s closest work friends.

Amber Hardman: I’d even sit and we’d have conversations and trying to figure out ways she could leave. Like, she was so worried he would track her down no matter what she did. And that would be the first thing she said. “I can’t. No matter where I go, what I do, he will find me.” That was all she could think about. It was like she had no way out and I was like “he doesn’t know where we live. What if you came to our house and we found somewhere for you to go in another state? He would would not know.” She was like “no, he will figure it out. He will find me.”

Dave Cawley: Stories like those only underlined the sense urgency for police. Ellis was starting to grasp the enormity of the task ahead, as he considered an all-out search of the vast West Desert. That job started at sunrise on Thursday. More than 20 investigators rolled into Simpson Springs, bringing with them ATVs and four-wheel-drive trucks. They brought dogs. The department’s lumbering mobile command unit, a huge RV, even braved the icy Pony Express Trail road.

They fanned out from Simpson Springs, looking for the spot where Josh’d made camp on Sunday night. A few of them drove 30 miles farther down the Pony Express Trail to the Dugway Geode Beds. That’s a popular rockhounding site Josh, Susan and the boys had visited earlier in the year. That is where they found nothing.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Josh was getting a crash course in dealing with the media. Trucks and SUVs wrapped in TV station logos stalked the streets. KUTV reporter Chris Jones even ambushed Josh as he stopped by his sister Jennifer’s house in West Jordan on Thursday. In the video, Josh looked frazzled and sleep-deprived. He struggled to answer basic questions.

While Josh was avoiding the news cameras, Susan’s friends were doing their best to fill the void. Kiirsi Hellewell found herself thrust into the spotlight.

Kiirsi Hellewell: I mean, I was so surprised the first, the first day that someone knocked on my door and was sitting there with a camera. I was like “what in the world, who sent you here?” “Oh, well Susan’s neighbors said that you were a good one to talk to because you knew what was going on.” And that was the start of it.

Dave Cawley: People began to bombard Kiirsi as Susan’s story spread through the news. They called, texted and sent her messages on Facebook, hungry for information.

Kiirsi Hellewell: So yeah, somebody said to me within the first couple days “you guys need to have a candlelight vigil. It’s super important that you get the media involved and you plan events that they will come to to keep her name out there to get as many people looking for her as possible.” And I was completely clueless, I had no idea.

Dave Cawley: Kiirsi rose to the task, helping organize a vigil on Thursday night at West Valley City’s Centennial Park.

(Sound of crowd at vigil)

Kiirsi Hellewell: And I was like “ok, what do you do at a candlelight vigil? I’ve never been to one, I don’t know. I don’t know how to plan this.” And so we’d planned it and Josh showed up at it, but he didn’t talk to us. He didn’t talk to me. So I just caught a glimpse of him in the crowd and the kids. He kept them away from me.

Dave Cawley: Josh’s arrival caused the crowd to buzz like a plucked guitar string. JoVanna Owings, the last person besides Josh to have seen Susan alive, could sense it.

JoVanna Owings: The other people there weren’t as inclusive of him. Just because, I believe, by that point they were starting to suspect that he knew more than he was saying about Susan’s disappearance.

Dave Cawley: Dax Guzman, a neighbor who Josh’d hired to help rebuild his deck, sensed it as well.

Dax Guzman: The way people were looking at him, y’know, people knew. Y’know, just because you can’t prove something doesn’t mean you don’t know it.

Dave Cawley: Josh’s brother Michael was with him, having apparently come down from Washington. Debbie Caldwell, the daycare provider who’d first sounded the alarm about the family’s disappearance on Monday, noticed neither Josh nor Michael had bothered to put gloves on Charlie or Braden’s hands.

Debbie Caldwell: When I was talking to Charlie and putting gloves on his hands and he seen me talking to Charlie and he hurried and ran over and scooped him up—

Kiirsi Hellewell: So he couldn’t talk to you and tell you anything.

Debbie Caldwell: —so he couldn’t talk to me and tell me anything. And, and he said, umm, “we’re not going to be coming, coming back to daycare because, uh y’know, with everything that’s going on.” And I said “well Josh, you have to work. Why would that make a difference?” And he says “well, my family’s going to have to take care of the boys.” It was very odd.

Dave Cawley: Reporters gave chase as Josh moved through the crowd.

Jennifer Stagg (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): Can you just tell us anything at all?

Dave Cawley: They tried to ask him questions, but he mostly ignored them.

Jennifer Stagg (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): Josh, you said that you had gone camping. Is that right?

Josh Powell (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): (Sniffles)

Jennifer Stagg (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): A lot of people just want to know, y’know, what you know about her disappearance. Can you tell us?

Josh Powell (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): Umm, I think I’m gonna take off.

Dave Cawley: As the vigil wound down, Josh loaded his boys into their carseats. He groused about the news crews who were staking out his house, doing live reports from his front lawn. So Kiirsi suggested he bring the boys to her place instead. The Josh Powell who showed up at Kiirsi’s house that night wasn’t the man she knew. He wasn’t loud, opinionated or overbearing. Instead, he spoke in broken sentences, stumbling over his words. He made odd comments, like saying he expected to see Susan standing at a bus stop.

At one point, Charlie open his mouth and started to say “I hate my daddy because—” Mortified, Kiirsi cut him off. Then, she looked up at Josh. He stood red-faced behind his oldest son, but didn’t say a word.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: The next morning, the GPS beacon Ellis had hidden on Josh’s minivan sent out an alert. It was moving, going west on Interstate 80.

Ellis Maxwell: I think everybody that was involved in the investigation up to that point was somewhat excited? I guess. I mean, ‘cause why’s he going out west? Why, why is he, umm, just out of the clear blue driving out west on I-80?

Dave Cawley: Detectives raced to their cars. Right away, Ellis noticed something odd.

Ellis Maxwell: He would clean himself.

Dave Cawley: (Laughs) He’s not talking about soap. This is counterespionage lingo.

Ellis Maxwell: He would be driving down I-80 and he would just take an exit. So he would get off say at Clive. Then he’d turn around and go back the other way, take the exit, get off, go around. I mean he would get on and off the freeway to see if someone was tailing him.

Dave Cawley: What Josh didn’t know is that West Valley police had called in help from the DEA, which put an airplane in the sky to watch him from above. The detectives kept their distance as Josh drove out past the last fringes of the city.

Ellis Maxwell: From there all the way out to Wendover, Nevada, it’s straight salt flats. There’s nothing out there. There are exits here and there but there’s really nothing to go visit.

Dave Cawley: Josh’s minivan cruised across the salt flats, past the famous Bonneville Speedway race course and into the casino town of West Wendover, Nevada.

(Sound of Wendover casino interior)

Dave Cawley: He drove to the far side of the casino town and parked outside of a Smith’s grocery store. It didn’t make sense… but maybe he was there to use a payphone or a burner cell phone the police didn’t know about. He stayed there for about 20 minutes, then returned to the freeway and headed back east.

(Sound of high-speed traffic on Interstate 80)

Dave Cawley: After about eastbound 30 miles, Josh took an exit at Clive. It’s a desolate spot, far from anywhere. The minivan rolled to a stop in a quarry on the north side of the interstate. Josh stayed there for the better part of two hours.

Ellis Maxwell: I think he personally did it to see if we were gonna follow him, if we had eyes on him. I think it was kind of one of his things to say “ok, let’s see what the cops do and if they are going to follow me.”

Dave Cawley: After Josh finally left, a detective managed to get a glimpse into the minivan. It appeared that Josh wasn’t alone, that maybe someone was with him, in the front passenger seat. The question was, who? It wasn’t clear.

The detectives monitored Josh’s movements as he drove all the way back to Salt Lake City and to the office of defense attorney Scott Williams. They broke off their tail and raced to the gravel pit.

Ellis Maxwell: That was a little exciting. As soon as he left, y’know, obviously we sent some guys over to kind of check it out. There was fresh snow on the ground so we could see where he’d walked and stuff like that. And, y’know, we searched that entire area. We used specialized dogs as well.

Dave Cawley: The dogs sniffed around but didn’t find anything. It’s worth noting, about two months later when the weather was warmer the police returned with 9 dogs. Four of them showed interest in a single spot within the Clive gravel pit. It was not a gravesite, but the investigators reasoned it might have been a place where someone had bled. Was that person Susan? They couldn’t say.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: News coverage of the case continued to crescendo. The story went national. Tips flooded the West Valley City police department. Detectives learned about Josh’s spending spree: how he’d dropped hundreds of dollars on an acetylene torch the day before Thanksgiving. They heard from the nursery worker who’d advised Josh not to buy a roll of plastic tree wrap because it wouldn’t help him mend a broken branch. Both purchases were suspicious in retrospect.

As detectives were tailing Josh to and from Wendover on Friday, others chased down these new leads. They went to the airport with the license plate number for the Ford Focus Josh had rented, only to learn it’d been rented out again. The rental company’s paperwork though showed Josh had put 807 miles on the car. Cut that number in half and you have a radius of just over 400 miles. That was the absolute farthest Josh could have driven and come directly back from the parking garage at Salt Lake City International Airport.

If you take a map and draw a circle centered on the airport with that radius, it covers an area of more than half a million square miles. It’s nearly twice the size of the state of Texas. The circle stretched almost from Phoenix, Arizona to Helena, Montana, or from Denver, Colorado to Reno, Nevada. In other words, the area Josh could have visited during his missing 18 hours was immense. But police did have areas of particular focus.

Susan’s work friend Amber Hardman told detectives Josh’d once said he knew where to hide a body, were he ever to commit a murder. His solution was dump it in an abandoned mine. A pair of detectives started probing abandoned mines just nine days into the investigation. Their effort blossomed into an operation that spanned more than year and covered hundreds of sites. You’ll hear much more about those mine searches in the next episode.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: JoVanna Owings spotted Josh at church on Sunday — exactly one week since she became the last person besides him to see Susan alive.

JoVanna Owings: And he had the boys with him.

Dave Cawley: JoVanna told Josh he ought to bring the boys back to daycare, to give them a sense of normalcy.

JoVanna Owings: He said he’d think about it. That’s all he said.

Dave Cawley: Their daycare provider, Debbie Caldwell, was a also member of Susan’s religion.

Debbie Caldwell: It was Sunday and I was at church and we had sung a hymn in church and I simply heard in my head “you will see her again.” But it was more of a spiritual prompting telling me this and I literally just broke down and just started sobbing and they had to go get my husband to bring, bring him in to me. And he’s like “so you know?” I, I knew that at that point in time that she was no longer here. She was a spirit.

Dave Cawley: Susan’s father Chuck Cox arrived in Utah. He met with the West Valley City police department on Sunday.

Keith McCord (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): Jennifer Stagg spoke with him here at the KSL studios tonight. Jenn, how’s he holding up?

Jennifer Stagg (from December 11, 2009 KSL TV archive): Keith and Deanie, Charles Cox is frustrated and heartbroken over Susan’s disappearance. He flew into Salt Lake City tonight from his home in Washington to meet with police and all of Susan’s friends who are praying for her safe return.

Dave Cawley: Linda Bagley and Susan’s other work friends introduced themselves to Chuck at a gathering. They explained how they’d led detectives to Susan’s secret files.

Linda Bagley: Pulled him aside and we talked to him and let him know that we’d got this journal, that she’d had this journal and that uh, it did get to the police and everything. And he seemed to not know about the journal but, so he thanked us and everything but…

Dave Cawley: On Monday, Josh failed to show up for his lie detector appointment with Ellis.

Ellis Maxwell: He wasn’t gonna do it. Uh, his, his lawyer had told him, encouraged him not to.

Dave Cawley: West Valley police had eyes on Josh. Josh went to Debbie’s daycare and picked up all of Charlie and Braden’s things. He told Debbie they wouldn’t be coming back. The next day, Josh called Susan’s chiropractor and cancelled all of her future appointments. Then, he went back to West Valley police headquarters with his new defense attorney, Scott Williams.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Josh had no choice but to return because Ellis had a new warrant. This time, for his blood. While they set up for the blood draw, Williams told Ellis he wanted to make sure police weren’t spreading rumors about his client not being cooperative. Ellis asked Williams about having him take the lie detector test.

Ellis Maxwell (from December 15, 2009 police recording): Yeah, I’m sure I know what your answer is on that but—

Scott Williams (from December 15, 2009 police recording): Yeah, but you’ve got to ask.

Ellis Maxwell (from December 15, 2009 police recording): Absolutely.

Scott Williams (from December 15, 2009 police recording): So we’re still talking. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll meet and it’s an ongoing thing.

Dave Cawley: Josh never did take that test. But the recording of the blood draw was interesting in its own right. It showed that Josh was very, very tense.

David Greco (from December 15, 2009 police recording): You going to be ok? Because your veins are sucking up, like they’re, as soon as I touch them. Are you a little bit nervous?

Scott Williams (from December 15, 2009 police recording): Breathe.

David Greco (from December 15, 2009 police recording): You just need to breathe or relax, ok?

Scott Williams (from December 15, 2009 police recording): Just relax, man.

David Greco (from December 15, 2009 police recording): Just relax.

Scott Williams (from December 15, 2009 police recording): He’s just taking blood. Just like going to the blood bank.

David Greco (from December 15, 2009 police recording): Just relax, there you go.

Dave Cawley: Josh walked out of the police station yet again that day, a free man. The media attention continued to intensify.

Tonya Papanikolas (from December 16, 2009 KSL TV archive): After days of denying Josh Powell was a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, police now say he is. Thanks for joining us…

Dave Cawley: Josh turned to his neighbors, Bernard and Betty Trujillo, who lived a couple of doors away in Sarah Circle. The Trujillos had once been Latter-day Saints, but had changed churches. Josh had at times confided in them about his own conflicted feelings regarding his church. Bernard and Betty’s daughter Wendy had given birth to a daughter around the same time Susan had Charlie.

Wendy Trujillo: And they were kind of close so we would both walk our kids in strollers through the neighborhood after and it was interesting because we seemed to go out near the same time to walk around so we’d pass each other with our strollers and she says “oh, hi.”

Dave Cawley: One night after Susan disappeared, Wendy heard Josh complaining that he hadn’t even had dinner the night before because of the media. She invited Josh and his brother Michael over for dinner with her family. As they ate, Josh thanked Wendy for not judging him, as he felt others in the neighborhood had.

Wendy Trujillo: But I had reminded him, I says “well, y’know there’s a verse in the bible that tells you not to judge.” And I says “‘cause you’re going to be judged by God when you go there and he’s the one that gets to judge you, not us. And he’s the one that’s going to decide what happens with you. He’s your judge.” And he just got this really, looked, swallowed really hard and was like, kind of nodded his head and looked down at the floor. And the whole room got silent and, and my, after he left my dad was like “what did you say to him?” … He was like “that was weird and he looked like something was wrong.”

Dave Cawley: At that moment, Wendy suspected Josh knew something.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Detectives kept busy. They finally got ahold of the rental car. They didn’t find any blood in it, but did see a brown Crayola crayon and a small silver handle, like from a toilet tank, in the trunk. They also spotted a quarter and a small, tan-colored rock beneath the trunk carpet, next to the spare tire. (Laughs) It was unlikely the crayon was a murder weapon, but the investigators took it and the rest as possible evidence.

They served subpoenas at Josh’s work, from which he’d just been fired, and at the Wells Fargo bank branch near Susan’s office. They found Susan’s safe deposit box. It was a goldmine. The box contained Susan’s handwritten will, in which she said if anything ever happened to her, Josh was probably responsible. It also held financial documents, $500 in U.S. Savings Bonds and the DVD Susan had made showing her assets.

Susan Cox Powell (from July 29, 2008 home video): Hope everything works out and we’re all happy and live happily ever after as much as that’s possible.

Dave Cawley: Susan’s divorce prep was proof of her fears. Ellis and the team kept talking to Susan’s coworkers, both past and present. Several shared stories about her recent bout of unexplained nausea. Coworker Amber Hardman said she’d told Susan to get a blood test. It’d been a month since Susan’s blood draw. The police went to the hospital lab, hoping they might still have her sample on hand. But, it had been discarded. Ellis needed a good sample of Susan’s DNA. The only other good place to get it was at the house.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: So, West Valley police went back to the Sarah Circle house early on the afternoon of Thursday, December 17th with yet another warrant, the third for the house. Josh’s younger brother Michael answered the door and said Josh wasn’t home. Ellis said they were coming inside — he didn’t ask — and told Michael he was free to leave. Michael chose to stay. He was babysitting Charlie and Braden. He ushered the boys into a back bedroom, where they remained as the cops poured in, flanked by forensic specialists.

The house looked a lot different than it had 10 days earlier, when Ellis’d first walked through it. Clothing and trash were scattered about, as if the only person who’d been picking up the clutter was no longer around. The police went into the master bath and found Susan’s hairbrush and toothbrush, both items likely to hold her DNA.

A pile of papers and unopened mail sat on the bed in the master bedroom. One of the detectives noticed a Comcast phone bill in Josh’s name at the top of the stack. This was an unexpected break, an opportunity to see who Josh had been speaking with, without having to pry it out of the phone company.

In spite of having been through the house with warrants twice before, they continued to find computers, hard drives and memory cards. They took two laptops from the bedroom and even found Josh’s new cell phone, the one he’d activated in Tremonton.

They found the acetylene torch Josh had bought the day before Thanksgiving on a cart in the garage. They took it. They also took attachments for the Rug Doctor that were tucked away in the basement. They’d apparently been missed during the earlier searches.

The working theory at that point was Josh had somehow poisoned Susan. It would explain her mysterious illness, as well as her drowsiness after eating the pancakes Josh made her for lunch on Sunday, December 6th. Detectives went to the medicine cabinet in the kitchen pantry. It held six full shelves of dietary supplements. Susan was big on homeopathic remedies. She drank probiotic shakes and swallowed handfuls of vitamin capsules every day. The police pulled out papaya enzyme, cod liver oil, omega-3, calcium, magnesium, chlorophyll, vitamins A, C and D, echinacea, black walnut husk, colloidal silver, sage, yarrow, oregano and more. There was even a brown glass bottle with a handwritten label that read “anti-plague.”

But in the middle of all these supplements were two green plastic prescription bottles. One was labeled phenazopyradine and the other cyclobenzaprine. The first bottle was all but empty, with just three pills inside. On the other hand, the cyclobenzabrine bottle contained 32 white, round, 5 milligram tablets.

I reached out to Doctor Barbara Insley Crouch for information about these two drugs. She’s Executive Director of the Utah Poison Control Center. She said it’s hard to draw any conclusions just from knowing Susan had felt nauseous.

Barbara Insley Crouch: That’s a pretty common thing with any medication and you take more than you’re supposed to.

Dave Cawley: Earlier in 2009, both Josh and Susan had dealt with urinary tract infections. That’s where the phenazopyradine, also known as Pyridium, came from. An overdose of phenazopyradine could lead to some interesting symptoms, like red or orange-colored sweat.

The other drug, cyclobenzaprine, goes by the brand name Flexeril. It’s usually prescribed for back pain and is classified as a muscle relaxant. It doesn’t actually relax muscles, though. It’s more of a sedative, meant to get people off their feet. A doctor at Granger Medical Clinic in West Valley had prescribed the cyclobenzaprine to Josh after another driver crashed into the back of his minivan on September 2nd of 2009. Josh had complained of whiplash symptoms.

I asked Dr. Crouch if a large enough dose of cyclobenzaprine could kill a person.

Barbara Insley Crouch: It would require a whole heck of a lot or in combination with something else that depresses the central nervous system and then they sort of were left alone and not found. It’s potential that it could be lethal, I don’t want to say that it’s not a lethal medication.

Dave Cawley: Ultimately, Doctor Crouch said neither medication seemed a likely cause of a fatal overdose.

Barbara Insley Crouch: Most of these situations are not going to put somebody out and immediately cause a fatality. If they were found within a period of time, there’s reasonable care that can be provided to reverse the effects of those medications.

Dave Cawley: After that car crash in September, Josh’d used his neck and back pain to justify buying a massage chair. You might remember I made brief mention of that in episode 3. I didn’t tell you the whole story. What I’m about to explain, has never been reported before. Police didn’t know about it. This is brand new and I believe relevant information uncovered as part of my investigation.

Josh Powell told his auto insurance company, American Family, on the day of that crash that he’d been rear-ended on Bangerter Highway in West Valley City. He snapped some pictures of the damage, which was pretty minor. The tailgate on the minivan was dented, but that was about the worst of it. The airbags didn’t even deploy. He did not report the crash to law enforcement.

Josh went to the clinic, got that prescription for cyclobenzaprine and started seeing a chiropractor for his neck and back pain. For some reason, he didn’t use the same chiropractor Susan was already seeing. Josh billed all of this to his auto insurance, as a personal injury claim connected to the low-speed crash. As such, it didn’t end up on his health insurance, which West Valley police later reviewed.

More than three months went by. Susan disappeared Then, on December 17th of 2009 as police were puzzling over the prescription pill bottles in his house, Josh showed up at Meier and Marsh Professional Therapies in West Valley City. He complained again of pain from the crash. This time though, the pain was in his shoulder. An examination revealed Josh had a rotator cuff strain, possibly even a partial tear .

Doctor Peter Chalmers with University of Utah Health is an expert on shoulder injuries. In fact, it’s his speciality. He said it would have been very unusual to have a low-speed rear-end car crash cause a rotator cuff strain and for that pain not to present for three months.

Peter Chalmers: It’s really, really, really uncommon from that mechanism. In fact, when I see on my schedule a rotator cuff injury and the mechanism is a motor vehicle accident, my first thought is that the motor vehicle accident has caused some whiplash and maybe a pinched nerve in the neck that’s causing some shoulder pain that’s been mis-diagosed as a rotator cuff injury.

Dave Cawley: He said it’s far more likely for rotator cuff injuries in younger people — like Josh — to come from “major traumas.”

Peter Chalmers: And by major traumas I usually mean, y’know like “I crashed my helicopter” or, right “I fell off of a cornice skiing.” It’s less commonly with minor things because in younger individuals the tendon is quite strong.

Dave Cawley: So that raises the question: how did Josh injure his shoulder? Susan weighed about 130 pounds. Josh lived a very sedentary lifestyle and wasn’t in great shape. Might he have overexerted himself, perhaps attempting to lift or drag Susan’s body? And how would he have managed caring for his kids after the injury?

Peter Chalmers: Certainly with someone who has a 2-year-old, I mean that’s someone who wants to be picked up all the time and having a rotator cuff injury can make that really difficult. Because like getting into and out of the bath and getting into and out of the crib and getting into and out of a high chair, that kind of thing is really hard if you have a rotator cuff injury.

Dave Cawley: Josh can sometimes be seen carrying one of the boys with his left arm during the weeks following Susan’s disappearance. But he also left Charlie and Braden with family members, including his older sister Jennifer and younger brother Michael, for extended periods during that same stretch.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know just how bad Josh’s shoulder injury was or if it was even properly diagnosed without more detailed records. I wanted to get those, but medical records are private and protected by federal law, even after a patient’s death. Susan’s dad Chuck Cox has legal authority over Josh’s estate through the trust that Josh and Susan formed in early 2009. His attorney, Anne Bremner, made a request for the records but was told they’d been destroyed after seven years, as allowed by Utah law. If anyone still has a copy, perhaps American Family Insurance kept one, for instance, I would love to see it. I imagine West Valley City police might as well.

On the same day as his visit to the physical therapist, Josh took the power of attorney he’d made Susan sign the prior February to her work. He demanded they transfer the entire balance of her retirement into his direct deposit account. Josh may have lost his wife, but he did not intend to lose her money.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Susan’s neighbor and friend Kiirsi Hellewell couldn’t shake a feeling of dread.

Kiirsi Hellewell: I was just, I don’t, I just felt nauseous all week. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was just constantly eaten up with worry. We were picturing him having left her out in the wilderness somewhere to freeze to death because he didn’t want to kill her something.

Dave Cawley: She kept talking to reporters and funneling information to the West Valley police department, telling them to look at Josh. She also suspected Josh might not have acted alone.

Kiirsi Hellewell: Yeah, and a few days into it, my husband and I were just lying in bed and it was something like 12 or 1 or 2 in the morning and we were just lying there and neither of us had said anything for a long time and I didn’t even know if he was still awake and I was just lying there thinking “oh where is she? Where is she? What could have happened? We’ve got to find her. It’s so cold.” And my husband said out of the blue “what if it’s Josh’s dad? He’s been obsessed with her for so long. What if it’s Josh’s dad? What if he convinced Josh to take her and give her to him? And that would get her out of Josh’s hair and then he’d finally have the wish that he’d wanted for all of these years.”

Dave Cawley: Josh’s own sister Jennifer shared a similar fear. Susan had told Jennifer all about how Steve Powell had confessed his love for her back in 2003. Jennifer told the police her dad was a “slithering snake with a slick tongue” and could not be trusted. She also told Detective Ellis Maxwell she believed her brother was responsible for Susan’s disappearance.

Ellis Maxwell: For me it just kind of summed it up like “this guy’s definitely involved. He’s definitely responsible.”

Dave Cawley: As Ellis was serving the third search warrant at the house and Josh was draining Susan’s retirement, a pair of detectives were in Washington State. Gavin Cook and John LeFavor had gone there to speak with Josh and Susan’s families as well as their old friends. They were especially interested in talking to Steve. He agreed to meet with the detectives at the South Hill Library.

The detectives recorded their conversation.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Basically why we’re here today Steve is to just get an idea of, of, umm, your thoughts, your uh, y’know, relationship with Josh and, and your knowledge of Josh and Susan’s relationship and just kind of build this puzzle—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Yeah.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —and put it together just so we have information.

Dave Cawley: Steve described Josh and Susan’s early marriage struggles. He said he thought Susan was conflicted about her faith. He confessed his own falling away from their religion and claimed Susan being a Latter-day Saint led to her repressing her sexual desires. Steve said there were times he could sense a vibe from Susan, an almost electric current.

Detective Cook pressed for specifics. Steve made reference to 2002, when Josh and Susan were living in his home.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): I mean she just seemed very happy to be around me you know among other things, umm, which always pleased me because I mean she’s the mother of my grandchildren, she’s umm, she’s, she’s a beautiful young lady, y’know. Umm—

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Did she make, ever make ever comments to you specifically or—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): No, not at all.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —was, physically did she touch you or y’know, y’know that way that goes along with those, uh, I mean the dynamics or, or vibes that you were getting?”

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Umm, (pause) umm. Y’know, we actually, umm, well I’m not going to, that one’s a tough one to really talk about. I mean I really umm, umm, I don’t know, I think I’m going to pass on that question—

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —if you don’t mind.

Dave Cawley: So Steve didn’t want to talk about it. But Detective LeFavor circled back a few minutes later.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): There was some talk about a possible, some kind of relationship between you and Susan and so obviously we want, we want to talk about that and see if there’s a possibility whether she, well Gavin was kind of pushing on it, there’s a possibility that she may have left for another, another man that we don’t know about or that there’s a relationship between you and Susan that there’s some kind of possibility of her leaving Utah and coming up here to spend time with you—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Yeah I’d, I’d love that. Seriously, y’know John. Uh, I loved her dearly as a daughter. I loved her dearly as a woman. I mean she’s, she’s beautiful and yeah. She, she, I, I, I was conflicted about her too. I will admit that.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Uh huh.

Dave Cawley: Steve could help but admit his sexual desire for Susan, his missing daughter-in-law. Once that was in the open, he gushed. It was as if a dam had burst.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): I was conflicted about her and, and it was because of all that stuff that started when she moved there, right? I had never had any interest in her. When she moved in with me, that’s when that kind of thing started. She started that whole thing with the, y’know, “feel my legs” and sitting there on the chair like that, y’know, with her, y’know what I mean? And it was a pretty constant barrage. I mean, pretty constant. Umm, and uh, and, and it continued and it, and it got, it peaked and that’s when, I’d rather not talk about that— 

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Uh huh.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —but eventually after it peaked, umm, I, y’know I actually uh, I actually confessed to her that I loved her because they were planning on moving to Utah and I did not want her to go to Utah and I hoped that there was enough feeling there that she would stay and, and she got really upset at me. She would not talk to me for months. It was, it was a, it was the worst thing I ever did. It was so troubling. And after those three or four months or whatever it was, then finally when they, when they got ready to actually move, uh, out of state or whatever, I don’t remember all the details, then I went over there to help them move and she finally came out of her room and, and she really didn’t even talk much after that but she, she was at that point friendly but it was a, a, a, it was still obvious to me that the, that the electricity was there, you know what I’m saying? I mean I could see things she was doing. You know what I mean? It’s not like you can ignore things like that. I mean I’m a, I’m a, I’m a male. She’s a female. Y’know. And when she, one job she worked at, she used to introduce me to, they worked at a retirement home, she would introduce me as Josh’s brother of all things, so…

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Well, y’know—

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): (Laughs)

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —we’re all guys.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): We’re all guys.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): We’re all guys here and, and, y’know, I think we can all understand—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Yeah.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —exactly what you’re saying. We’ve probably all been in a similar situation so—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Yeah, yeah. Ok.

Dave Cawley: All of the chatter the police had heard about Steve from Susan’s friends suddenly came into sharp focus. Steve told the detectives Josh was unaware of the chemistry between himself and Susan.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): And again, I don’t mean to embarrass you but, uh, we’ve talked a little bit about the chemistry, the infamous confession—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Yeah.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Was there any sexual contact or any sexual relationship between you and Susan? I’ll, I’m sorry to be blunt, but you know, what other way to ask.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): We never had, we never had actual, y’know, like vaginal sex or anything like that. No.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok. Any kissing or touching or—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Oh yeah.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): There was some of that, yeah.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): What was that, I’m sorry. But—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Well, y’know, umm, y’know, one night she wanted me to, umm, umm, massage her feet and her legs and so on because she was, she’d kind of been standing up a lot that day and I, I, y’know I did it. And uh, y’know I of course moved her feet to my crotch so she could feel—

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Uh huh.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —y’know, what she was doing to me and that went on for about an hour.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): So, that kind of touching and feeling. Umm, and then uh, then she asked me to do her back and I, and I sat behind her, umm, and rubbed myself against her for about an hour or two. That went on for about an hour.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): She got up at one point and I, I don’t know what she was doing but uh, I also handled her, her breasts and so on. I went under her shirt and handled her breasts.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Was she, she’s not opposed to this, then?

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Nuh uh.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok.

Dave Cawley: Steve said Susan did once ask him what he was doing putting his hands on her. He’d pulled away, but told the detectives he should have ignored her comment, since she hadn’t actually said the word “no.”

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): During this back-and-forth did she reciprocate, did she touch you with her hands?

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): No, no—

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok. She just let you—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —no. She just let me enjoy her, y’know, curves, her curves and whatever. Y’know, that was about it.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok. Did you guys kiss, or did you kiss her?

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): No.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Ok.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): No.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Was this was a single time?

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): That was, that kind, that was of the peak of our, that was a single time and uh, after that, that was some other things, umm, that were just tamer than that. Let’s put it this way, tamer than that. And a lot of it had to do with, y’know, my taking pictures of her. Clothed, clothed.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Uh huh.

Dave Cawley: Steve told the detectives he’d encouraged Josh to move back to Washington after Susan disappeared 10 days earlier. He’d suggested Josh sell the Sarah Circle house. The detectives though were more interested in Steve’s house.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): I think it would be irresponsible if we didn’t at least ask your permission to double check with you to make sure Susan isn’t with you, you know what I mean?

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Umm, John, she is not with me—

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Oh, I understand.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —y’know, and I think if you talk to my friends they know that I’m—

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Right.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —practically despondent about—

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Uh huh.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —her, her disappearance.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Right.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Worried sick. No she’s, I would love, John, I’d love, if she were with me, I would not do this to my son. If she were with me, uh, it wouldn’t happen. I would have said “she’s with me.” Y’know?

Dave Cawley: Steve’s word wasn’t going to do it. They wanted permission to take a look inside his home themselves.

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): We, we, we go to the house, we, we look, verify that she’s not there and that allows us to close this door—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Let’s go. Let’s just do that. That makes sense to me. I mean, I—

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): You’ve been great, very cooperative, very cooperative. I think that would be very beneficial to us and I think that, again I don’t want you to think that we think that’s what happened because I don’t, I don’t think that that’s the case. Ok? You need a minute?

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): (Sobbing)

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Just, just so you understand…

Dave Cawley: In case you can’t tell, Steve is crying here.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): I just don’t…

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): No, you’re fine. You’re fine. This is emotional—

John LeFavor (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): We don’t mean to stir up old feelings here. That’s not our intentions.

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): —‘cause I’m still wishing she was there.

Dave Cawley: Between sobs, Steve said he wished that Susan were at his house. He invited — practically urged — the detectives to go search. Cook and LeFavor were, it seemed, surprised by the candor.

Gavin Cook (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): I just, I, I’m almost putting myself in your shoes. Umm, and I’ll be frank with you. Uh, you’re in love with Susan and I think you have been for awhile. And I think when you feel that way toward somebody, you would do anything to help them, no matter where they’re at or what might have happened to ‘em. I mean, you have feelings that are deep for her and I can feel that from you. Umm, and I, I can appreciate that. Umm, and those feelings, uh, might be able to help us. I mean—

Steve Powell (from December 17, 2009 police interview recording): Yeah, if they can help you, if there’s something I can do, I will help.

Dave Cawley: They had one last favor to ask: could Steve please ride over to the house with them, not in his own minivan. They didn’t want to give him a chance to call ahead, warning Susan or someone else from the family to get her out sight. But it didn’t matter. Susan wasn’t there.

On the next episode of Cold…

Amber Hardman: Josh was like “if it was me, have you ever been out to the West Desert? There’s mines everywhere. Nobody’s gonna find anything out there.”