Ep 1: To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before

Josh Powell struggled to connect with girls.

He chased a lot of romantic interests as a young man but met with repeated rejection. He had a habit of unnerving the women he pursued.

Josh had only two serious relationships in his adult life: his marriage to Susan Cox in 2001 and his relationship with a young woman named Catherine in 1998.

Yet little has been known about Catherine’s story before now.

Those two relationships bore some striking similarities. Catherine and Susan were each 19 when they started dating Josh. Both were active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and met Josh at church-related events.

Both soon found themselves trapped by a partner who controlled their personal lives, drained their bank accounts and seemed repulsed by physical affection.

Catherine’s relationship with Josh differed from Susan’s in one critical way: she escaped.

Imagine Catherine’s surprise, then, when she saw her ex-boyfriend’s face on the TV news 10 years later, in December of 2009.

Catherine describes learning of Susan Powell’s disappearance on the news

The Forgotten Ex

I first became aware of Catherine while reading a report prepared by Dr. James Manley, a forensic psychiatrist from Tacoma, Wash. He interviewed Josh in late 2011, as part of an evaluation of Josh’s parenting capacity.

At the time, Josh was the sole suspect in the disappearance and presumed murder of Susan.

He’d lost custody of his sons after police served a search warrant at the home he shared with his father, Steve Powell, in South Hill, Wash. The investigators had located a large cache of voyeur videos created by Steve, calling into question the environment inside the Powell family home.

During the evaluation, Dr. Manley asked Josh about his past relationships. Josh said he’d had one serious girlfriend before getting married. He’d met Catherine at a church function in 1998. They were together for about 16 months.

Susan Powell Case Files Cold Podcast
An excerpt from Forensic Psychologist James Manley’s report on Josh Powell, detailing his past relationship with “Catherine.”

Washington State released Manley’s report after Josh killed himself and his sons, Charlie and Braden, on Feb. 5, 2012. It did not include Catherine’s last name or any other identifying details.

Josh’s Journals

Police in West Valley City, Utah seized a large number of computers and hard drives during their investigation into Susan Powell’s disappearance. Detectives and FBI agents had sifted through terabytes of information, flagging files of interest.

Those files included Josh’s text and audio journals.

Susan Powell Case Files Cold Podcast
A short reference to Josh Powell’s journals discovered among hundreds of pages of West Valley City, Utah police reports from the Susan Powell investigation.

In 2017, I requested copies of those journals under Utah’s public records law, the Government Records Access and Management Act. In response, West Valley City provided a DVD containing more than 3,500 files.

I reviewed each and every one.

The “journals” were not well organized. They were not in bound books. Instead, Josh appeared to have documented his days on individual scraps of paper. He’d later created digital copies of those notes using a flatbed scanner.

Other times, he’d spoken his journal entries into a handheld audio recorder, then used a computer program to covert those recordings to text.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t reach any girls anywhere, that for some reason or another they won’t give me even a chance to go out with them.

Josh Powell audio journal, Dec. 13, 2000

There were unexplained gaps in some of the written journals. Entries from 1998 and 1999 included blank lines where Josh had used correction fluid to white-out references to a specific person.

Based on the time and context, I suspected this was Catherine.

Breadcrumbs to Catherine

Susan Powell Case Files Cold Podcast
A letter from Josh Powell to a friend, July 6, 1998.

A couple of weeks later, Josh again mentioned bringing Catherine to the wedding in an email.

“I have been planning to come on a Greyhound,” Josh wrote. “I have been spending a lot of unbudgeted money lately on Catherine.”

The clincher though came in a brief, handwritten journal entry from the weekend before Thanksgiving, 1999.

Susan Powell Case Files Cold Podcast
Josh Powell’s handwritten journal from Nov. 20, 1999, referencing a meeting with a woman named Catherine Terry and her fiancé.

The next day, Josh added a bit more.

Susan Powell Case Files Cold Podcast
Josh Powell’s handwritten journal from Nov. 21, 1999 describing a meeting with Catherine Terry in Seattle.

Catherine now had a last name.

The Social Network

I typed “Catherine Terry” into Google. The results included references to a woman named Catherine Everett.

Turning to Facebook, I pulled up the page “Friends and Family of Susan Powell.”

Susan’s neighbor Kiirsi Hellewell created the page in the days immediately following her disappearance in December of 2009. It quickly grew to include tens of thousands of members.

I ran a search in the group for the name Catherine Everett. The results included two posts from a woman named Catherine Terry Everett.

Susan Powell Case Files Cold Podcast
Two posts made to the “Friends and Family of Susan Powell” Facebook group by Catherine Everett in 2009 and 2010.

Switching over to Facebook Messenger, I typed out a brief message.

“I’m a reporter with KSL. For the last couple of years, I’ve been researching and writing an investigative podcast about Josh and Susan Powell. As part of that, I’ve obtained files from Josh’s computers dating back to the mid 1990s. I know you had a relationship with Josh back then. You are mentioned in some of these files,” I wrote. “Can we speak? I’m hoping you can help me understand a few things about who Josh was before he met Susan.”

About 30 minutes later, my phone rang.

It was Catherine.

Listen to Catherine’s story in Episode 1 of Cold: To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.