LOCAL NEWS

Parents Of Susan Powell Endure Day Of Graphic Court Testimony

Feb 19, 2020, 6:29 AM | Updated: 8:36 am

TACOMA, Wash. – The parents of missing West Valley City mother Susan Powell walked out of a courtroom on Tuesday as one of their attorneys recited a graphic testimony, going blow-by-blow of the deaths of their grandsons.

The dramatic moment came during opening arguments in a long-awaited jury trial between Chuck and Judy Cox, and the state of Washington. Attorney Ted Buck was describing the day on Feb. 5, 2012 that Josh Powell murdered his children, Charlie and Braden Powell and killed himself.

“The fear, the betrayal, the pain, the confusion,” Buck said. “As the house burned, the boys continued to suffer.”

The murder-suicide

Josh Powell was the lone suspect in the disappearance and presumed murder of his wife, Susan Powell, at the time of the murder-suicide. Yet, he had never been arrested or charged with a crime in connection with Susan’s disappearance.

Weeks after Susan Powell’s disappearance on Dec. 7, 2009, Josh Powell relocated from West Valley City, Utah to South Hill, Washington, with the couple’s two sons. At that time he moved in with his father, Steve Powell.

Josh Powell and his sons were still living with Steve Powell when, on Aug. 25, 2011, Pierce County sheriff’s deputies and West Valley City police served a search warrant at the Powell family home. The warrant affidavit made clear they were seeking evidence related to the disappearance of Susan Powell. However, in the process of searching the home they located Steve Powell’s cache of voyeur videos and child pornography.

Deputies arrested Steve Powell less than a month later. At that time, deputies took Charlie and Braden Powell into protective custody. The boys were subsequently placed in the care of the Coxes, though Josh Powell was allowed to have supervised visits with his sons. It was during one of those visits at a home Josh Powell had rented in the community of Graham, Washington, that he took their lives by attacking each in turn with a hatchet before setting fire to the house.

The state, Buck said, had “delivered the boys without precaution to a place where Josh had complete control.”

Opening statements

In court, Buck stood before a large photo of the Powell brothers as he explained to the jury in his testimony why the Coxes believe Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services was negligent in its handling of the dependency case involving Charlie and Braden.

He highlighted three areas of perceived fault: the failure to conduct a domestic violence assessment on Josh Powell, disregarding safety concerns surrounding the supervised visitation at Powell’s home and the handling of court-ordered psychological evaluations of Powell.

Assistant Washington Attorney General Lori Ann Nicolavo pushed back on all three claims during her opening statement to the jury.

“There was no current domestic violence in the home because Josh did not have a domestic partner,” Nicolavo said.

She also told the jurors that social workers were barred from accessing information surrounding the investigation into Susan Powell’s disappearance by a court secrecy order in Utah. Police might have had “gut feelings” or beliefs that Josh Powell would harm the children, but that alone did not give social workers legal authority to prevent Powell from having visitation, Nicolavo said.

“You’ll see who was responsible and I submit to you there’s only one answer,” Nicolavo said. “That answer is Josh Powell.”

The stakes

The lawsuit, which the Coxes originally filed in 2013, could potentially result in a multi-million dollar judgement against the state of Washington. Buck told the jurors witnesses will testify during the weeks-long trial that Charlie and Braden Powell were alive and conscious for several minutes after their father initially attacked and incapacitated them.

Buck told the jury in his testimony against Josh Powell he hoped they would award five million dollars for every minute that each of the boys suffered. He offered a ballpark figure of $85 million.

“That’s the only way that we can hold the state accountable for its complete failure to care for these boys,” Buck said.

The attorneys defending the state did not address damages directly in their opening statements. Nicolavo, the assistant attorney general, instead urged the jurors to keep and open mind, sift through the evidence logically and not allow their opinions to be “clouded by the facts” of the brutal murders.

“When you’re looking at whether or not the department was at fault, test that evidence,” Nicolavo said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Follow @KSL_AlexCabrero...
Alex Cabrero

3 vacant house fires spark in one week in SLC’s Ballpark neighborhood

Community frustrated after three fires broke out at the same row of vacant homes in Salt Lake City's Ballpark neighborhood in just the past week.
1 day ago
...
Shara Park

Memorial set up for woman killed in Provo hit and run

Yellow ribbons lined a Holladay neighborhood Friday in support of a family who lost a loved one in a hit and run crash in Provo.
1 day ago
FILE...
Michael Locklear

With so many kids sick, some Utah pharmacies run out of liquid Tylenol, ibuprofen

As parents deal with sick children, some are also facing another challenge. Some common medications can be hard to find, including liquid Tylenol and ibuprofen.
1 day ago
...
Mike Anderson

Hardware WMA sleigh rides return after two-year hiatus

For the first time in two years, sleigh rides up the Blacksmith Fork Canyon are back — where families can see herds of elk and get a winter meal.
1 day ago
Shop small to support local businesses...
Tamara Vaifanua

How shopping small this holiday season makes a big impact at local stores

There’s a big push this holiday season to shop small, as in small business. The locally owned, Tutoring Toy, right off Foothill Boulevard in Salt Lake City, has a lot to offer.
1 day ago
FILE: Attorney General of Utah Sean Reyes arrives onstage to pre-record his address to the Republic...
Bridger Beal-Cvetko

Qatar paid for Utah AG Sean Reyes’ trip to see U.S. World Cup match

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spent the Thanksgiving weekend in Qatar, after the Middle Eastern country's government paid for his airfare, lodging and tickets to see the United States and England
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Parents Of Susan Powell Endure Day Of Graphic Court Testimony