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

(KSL TV)...
Tamara Vaifanua, KSL TV

Tooele Food Pantry struggling to keep up with demand

Rising inflation has forced many people to turn to the Tooele Food Pantry to eat. But with fewer food donations from different places, it’s tough keeping up with demand.
9 hours ago
The front page of "Kid News" (Credit: KSL TV)...
Peter Rosen, KSL TV

Meet the editor-in-chief of ‘Kid News’

Mei, 7, wanted a job when she was 4, so her mom guided her to write her own news stories under "Kid News."
1 day ago
The aftermath of the explosion (Credit: Pleasant Grove Fire Department)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Propane explosion causes minor power outage in Pleasant Grove

A propane tank exploded in a shed, igniting power poles and knocking out power to several Pleasant Grove homes on Sunday.
1 day ago
File - Generic Highway...
Mike Anderson, KSL TV

UHP urges cautious driving as deadly trend continues

2022 is well on track to beat out 2021, which was already the deadliest year that Utah’s had on its roads in over two decades.
1 day ago
...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Suspect arrested for robbery at Salt Lake airport

One man is in police custody after hitting a woman and attempting to steal her bag at the Salt Lake International Airport on Saturday afternoon, according to police.
1 day ago
Traffic backed up to one line in the Farmington fatal crash. (Credit: UDOT)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Reckless driving appears to be the cause in Saturday’s fatal crash

One motorcyclist passed away after hitting the back of a car on Interstate-15 Saturday night, according to UHP.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Make Money Online Easily...

4 Ways that You Can Make Money Online Easily in Just a Few Clicks

Here are 4 ways that you can make money online easily in no time at all! Some are as simple as just a few clicks away.
tips to winterize your home...
Bonneville Digital SLC

Tips to Winterize Your Home | The Top 5 Ways You Can Prepare for the Cold Utah Winter Ahead

Before the snow hits, here are the top 5 tips to winterize your home to prepare for the cold Utah winter this year.
Parents Of Susan Powell Endure Day Of Graphic Court Testimony