COLD: Inside The Mind Of Steven Powell

Nov 21, 2018, 2:46 PM | Updated: Nov 28, 2018, 3:59 pm

On the outside, Steven Powell looked like any other proud dad. With a camcorder constantly in hand, he recorded his kids’ important moments. He filmed graduations and weddings, family trips and even everyday activities.

However, it’s what he also filmed that sent him to prison and revealed to detectives investigating Susan’s disappearance that he was deeply obsessed with his daughter-in-law.

“He was a voyeur,” Detective Gary Sanders with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office in Washington said to us as we sorted through evidence collected in a search of Steven’s home. “He just loved watching people. Women and stuff. Particularly Susan. He had that infatuation with her and he videotaped her when she was not knowing.”

Investigators knew something was off from the very beginning of their interaction with Steven Powell. Sanders told us the first time he interviewed Steven he was struck by where the conversation went.

“He starts talking about Susan and his electricity between them,” he said. “He just went off and not the normal ‘Oh yeah, my daughter-in-law went missing and I’m helping and I want to know where she is,’ and stuff like that. He went into his relationship with her. It went a totally different route.”

It would be years before police knew how deep his obsession really went.

After Susan disappeared, her husband, Josh, along with Steven, tried to sell the story that Susan was unstable, suicidal and likely ran off with another man. They both went on national TV, describing Susan as “flirtatious” and “sexual.”

Their proof, they said, was in Susan’s childhood journals, which Josh had taken with him when he moved into Steven’s house in Washington.

“That opened the door for us,” Sanders said, speaking of Josh and Steven’s plan to release Susan’s journal entries to the public. “Here they thought they were doing a great thing and publicly blasting Susan, but that gave us the piece that we needed. That gave us the search warrant that got us into the house.”

Police were able to collect those journals when they served that search warrant on Steven’s house looking for evidence in her disappearance.

They collected a lot more, too.

“There were 20-25 detectives there,” Sanders said, “and we all went, ‘Wow.'”

Locked inside filing cabinets in Steven’s bedroom, investigators found his stash of Susan’s things: her underwear, nail clippings, hygiene products and more. They found doctored photos of Susan and boxes and boxes of videotapes, labeled with things like “SP – Washing Face & Brushing Teeth” and “Susan on Stool – Pantyhose.”

For years, Steven took videos of Susan when she knew he was filming, and he took more when she didn’t. At family events, he repeatedly focused his lens on Susan’s body. He stalked her, hiding in parking lots and taking video of her through the windows of his van. He also took video of himself, watching his videos of Susan.

“He did a lot of looping where he’d play it over and over again, just for his own pleasure,” Sanders said.

It’s clear what may have started as a secret attraction turned into infatuation and eventually obsession. Through it all, Steven Powell tried to convince himself that she loved him back.

During our three-year investigation into the Susan Powell case files, we found one tape that could prove Steven’s allegations — that he and Susan were in love — were a lie.

A video tape that kept rolling after he thought he’d stopped it, Steven sat in his car with Susan and confessed his love for her. Her reaction says it all.

Subscribe to COLD to hear Susan’s response to her father-in-law and more.

KSL 5 TV Live

COLD Podcast

law enforcement gathered around a possible mountain gravesite in brush on a mountain top...

Dan Rascon, Andrew Adams, and Mary Culbertson, KSL TV

No human remains found in possible burial site in 1985 cold case

Wednesday was a day of optimism and hope in a nearly 40-year-old murder mystery case of a woman from Roy, Utah.

4 months ago

law enforcement gathered around a possible mountain gravesite in brush on a mountain top...

Dave Cawley, KSL TV

Police to investigate possible mountain gravesite in 1985 cold case

Police confirmed to KSL5 they plan to excavate a possible gravesite in the mountains near Causey Reservoir on Wednesday in connection with a 1985 cold case.

4 months ago

News paper clippings of  Nancy Perry Baird's murder. (KSLTV)...

Dave Cawley and Keira Fairmont

Blamed on Bundy: COLD podcast challenges popular theory in Nancy Baird cold case

The unsolved 1975 disappearance of Nancy Baird from East Layton, Utah has long been attributed to serial killer Ted Bundy. KSL’S COLD podcast gained exclusive access to case files that point toward other more probable suspects.

7 months ago

FILE: Chuck and Judy Cox. (Pat Reavy/KSL)...

Josh Ellis and Dave Cawley

Appeals court reinstates $98M verdict awarded to Susan Cox Powell’s parents

The $98.5 million verdict a jury awarded to the parents of Susan Cox Powell in 2020 has been reinstated by a Washington appeals court.

8 months ago


Dave Cawley, KSL TV

COLD podcast: Jacket could place missing woman Sheree Warren with suspect the night she disappeared

Ogden police found a gray suede jacket that potentially belonged to a woman who’d been missing for a year-and-a-half named Sheree Warren.

9 months ago

COLD Season 3 podcast....

Dave Cawley

COLD podcast: Witness undermines alibi in Sheree Warren cold case

In the days after Sheree Warren disappeared on Oct. 2, 1985, her boyfriend Cary Hartmann spoke to police and a private investigator about his actions and whereabouts on the night of the disappearance.

9 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

COLD: Inside The Mind Of Steven Powell