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Remembering Susan Powell’s Sons Seven Years After Their Murder

PUYALLUP, Wash. – In a story filled with twists and turns, it was the turn no one saw coming. Josh Powell, who had recently lost custody of his two sons, Charlie (7) and Braden (5), set his home on fire killing himself and the boys.

It happened February 5, 2012 just minutes after the boys had arrived with a social worker for a supervised visit with their dad. As Charlie and Braden ran ahead of Elizabeth Hall, she says Josh opened the door for the kids and then slammed the door in her face, locking her out of the home.

Hall called 911 but before police could arrive the house burst into flames. Firefighters would later find the bodies just feet inside the front door.

To some, it felt like a tragedy, but not to Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.

“This was the murder of two little children. Let’s not dress it up. Let’s call it what it is,” he said at the time. “This was something evil. This was something completely wrong.”

Susan Powell’s father, Chuck Cox, who had been given custody of the boys only days before, was in church services when he got the news. He drove to the home to see for himself if the reports were true.

“There was smoke coming out of it and then I knew what they would be looking at,” Cox said. “I knew what the first responders were looking at. I knew the situation. I had just been to an aircraft accident probably about 8 months earlier where it hit and house and it was not fun going to that site. And I really didn’t want to see the site where my grandchildren were either.”

In the seven years since, Cox has looked back on that day and wondered what he could have done differently that would have saved the boys from their father’s actions.

“There was nothing, really, I could think that I could have done differently,” he told Cold podcast host Dave Cawley, “Short of breaking the law and taking the boys and running somewhere.”

A judge had ordered Josh Powell be granted supervised visitation rights with his sons. Eventually, the Coxes filed suit against the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services for its handling of the boys’ case. That lawsuit, originally thrown out by a lower court, was reinstated by an appeals court in early 2019 and is moving forward.

Today, Charlie and Braden Powell would be 14 and 12 years old.

You can hear more about the legal proceedings that led up to the day the boys were killed in this week’s episode of Cold, available now wherever you get podcasts, at or on the KSLTV app.


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