CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Det. Ellis Maxwell, lead investigator on the Susan Powell case, talks about the day she disappeared

Dec 5, 2018, 8:24 AM | Updated: 1:26 pm
Susan Powell Journal...
Det. Ellis Maxwell, lead investigator on the Susan Powell case, speaks with KSL Newsradio's Dave Cawley on "Cold". (Photo; West Valley City Police)
(Photo; West Valley City Police)

WEST VALLEY CITY — Det. Ellis Maxwell was called to the home of Josh and Susan Powell on Dec. 7, 2009.

Their friends were in a panic. Susan hadn’t shown up at the daycare that morning to drop off their children, Charlie and Braden, and when they went to check on her, the house was empty.

The doors were locked. The blinds on every window had been pulled down. And no matter how hard they pounded on the door, no one answered.

Police had to smash a window to get inside, but the only things moving inside were two box fans, their blades spinning as they pointed at a couch that appeared to have just been cleaned.

Susan Powell would never be seen again. The only other trace anyone would ever find of her would be on the couch: a streak of her blood the cleaning had failed to remove.

Det. Ellis Maxwell talks about the Susan Powell case

Det. Ellis Maxwell on Susan Powell's disappearance.

The couch in the Powell household as photographed on Dec. 9, 2009, labeled with evidence tags. (Photo: West Valley City Police)

It would be hard to find anyone who knows more about the disappearance of Susan Powell than Det. Maxwell. He was the lead investigator on the case; the man West Valley City sent to the Powell house the day the Powell family was reported missing, when it became clear it might be a job for more than just patrol officers.

It’s a job that’s left him with some difficult questions.

From the very start, the police and the media alike publicly talked about Susan’s husband, Josh Powell, as a person of interest in her case. And yet, despite all the suspicion, Powell was never arrested or charged in the case.

Then, a little over two years after Susan disappeared, on Feb. 5, 2012, Josh Powell killed himself and their two sons, an event that, in the minds of many, changed Susan’s fate from a mystery to a certainty. An overwhelming majority became convinced that Josh had killed her, and opinion pieces filled the press with titles demanding: “Why weren’t charges filed against Josh Powell?”

That question is explored in the KSL podcast “Cold,” a multi-part investigation into the disappearance of Susan Powell. Today, in its fourth episode, host Dave Cawley has been able to sit down with Det. Maxwell himself and talk about everything he saw and that went through his mind on the day he visited Susan Powell’s home.

With details never shared with the public before, Det. Maxwell has explained why Josh’s behavior that day made him a suspect and why, despite an overwhelming suspicion that something was wrong, he simply didn’t enough evidence to press charges.

You can hear the interview, including actual audio from Josh Powell’s questioning on Dec. 7, on Cold.

Listen to Cold on the KSL Newsradio website or on Apple Podcasts.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online: udvc.org.

Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:

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Det. Ellis Maxwell, lead investigator on the Susan Powell case, talks about the day she disappeared