When Susan Powell disappeared in December 2009, nearly everyone suspected that her husband, Josh Powell, was behind it.
Josh’s family, however, had a different theory. They insisted that Susan had run away in the night with a secret lover. Josh’s father, Steven, even met with the FBI to try to convince them that Susan had fled America with a man named Steven Koecher.
The audio from Steven Powell’s FBI interview, for the first time ever, has been shared with the world on the podcast Cold. It reveals some incredible insights into the mystery of Susan Powell’s disappearance and the strange, twisted mind of Steven, the man obsessed with own son’s wife.
The disappearance of Steven Koecher
Steven Koecher was last seen on Dec. 13, 2009, six days after Susan Powell disappeared.
He was spotted in Henderson, Nevada; more than a hundred miles from his home in St. George, Utah. No one could explain why he’d driven across state lines to visit a suburb that had no apparent connection to anything in his life, but he was there.
He parked his car outside of a retirement community, got out, and started walking. There were Christmas gifts for family members and resumes for employers inside, signs he family says prove he’d planned on coming back to the car. Koecher, however, never returned.
A surveillance camera caught one last glimpse of him, walking calmly down the sidewalks of a Henderson suburb. Then he just disappeared. Like Susan, he hasn’t been seen since to this day.
This was no coincidence, Steven Powell believed. Koecher, he said, must have been Susan’s secret lover. The two had run off together, he told the police, and, using Susan’s cosmetology skills to disguise their faces, fled the country.
There wasn’t a lot of evidence to back it up. There is nothing to suggest that Susan and Koecher had ever met, and even less to suggest that their disappearances from homes more than 300 miles apart are connected in any way.
Still, Steven was convinced they’d run off together. They were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he reasoned, and so they had something that tied them together – even if it was something they shared with more than half of the people in their state.
From that one fact, he’d concocted a whole fantasy. There was a statewide conspiracy led by the church to take his grandkids out of his home, Steven told the FBI, that was blinding people from what he insisted was the truth. Susan was with Koecher, hiding in Brazil, and — in the fantasies he described in explicit detail in his journals –- lounging on a nude beach.
Steven Powell speaks to the FBI
The FBI didn’t give much credence to Steven’s story. They investigated it to see if there was any chance it could be true, but even during the first interview, they warned him outright that their lead suspect was his son Josh.
“Josh is going to be arrested and charged with this crime,” Agent Russ Johnson told Steven. “You need to be aware that that’s coming.”
Steven needed to be careful, they told him. He needed to make sure that, when the police came to get Josh, he didn’t do anything to obstruct the investigation.
“If –,” Johnson began; then, correcting himself: “– when he gets arrested for this, those grandkids are going to need people that they know and love around them.”
Steven didn’t manage to convince the police that Susan had run away from home, but the interview led the police down a new path that uncovered a dark, hidden side to the story.
In a footer attached to Steven’s e-mail, they found a link to some of the more than 50 love songs Steven had written for his daughter-in-law, all with gushing titles like “I Can Love You In A Secret Way” or “Susan with the Sunlight Hair.”
From there, the depth of Steven’s obsession slowly unraveled. He kept stashes of her undergarments in his closet, filled his journals with strange fantasies about her, and even cut out pictures of her face and pasted them onto pornography.
It was a disturbing glimpse into the man whose unwanted advances had created one of the earliest and biggest wedges in Josh and Susan’s marriage.
You can hear Steven Powell’s FBI interview and learn about its aftermath in episode 9 of Cold.
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