Auto shop owner talks unexpected Susan Powell connection

Feb 6, 2019, 11:30 AM
susan powell michael car search...
A cadaver dog named Tug inspects the car Michael Powell sold to an Oregon auto shop. Photo: West Valley City Police

PENDLETON, Oregon — For the first time, the owner of an auto shop and salvage business in a small Oregon community is talking about his connection to the disappearance of Susan Powell.

Dave Lindell, the owner of Lindell Auto, says he’s the person people in Pendleton come to when their cars break down beyond repair. So it wasn’t unusual when a young man reached out on December 23, 2009, to sell his 1997 Ford Taurus.

“We run an automotive recycling, auto parts scrapping, towing-type business. We do a variety of things with cars, and we sell some used cars,” he told investigative reporter Dave Cawley.

Out of the blue

Lindell didn’t remember the specifics, but he believed the owner reported some problems with the transmission, while noting the Taurus looked a little nicer than the usual junkers he picked up.

“I don’t remember the circumstances, except a fellow called me up out of the blue, which happens on a regular basis, and said, ‘I want to sell a car.’ I says, ‘Yeah, we buy cars.’ And he came out,” Lindell recalled.

lindell auto susan powell

Michael Powell sold his car to Dave Lindell for $100 at Lindell Auto on Dec. 23, 2009. Photo: Dave Cawley

Police records obtained by Cold show he offered Michael Powell, the younger brother of Josh Powell, a lowball $100 for his Taurus, which Michael accepted. Lindell later remembered being surprised that Powell accepted that initial offer.

“Time went by. We sold a few parts off the car,” Lindell said.

Then, in September of 2011, the same day Josh Powell’s father, Steven, was arrested and charged with voyeurism and child pornography in the state of Washington, Lindell was surprised to hear from Utah police. They wanted to know if he had bought a car from Michael Powell.

Piecing the puzzle together

Now retired, Ellis Maxwell served as the lead detective on the Susan Powell investigation.

“An intel analyst of ours at West Valley, phenomenal intel analyst – she came across this information and got it right to us, and we followed up on it right away,” Maxwell said of the tip that led investigators to Pendleton.

“I remember at the time thinking it was kind of odd, because I have a neighbor right behind me that has a car shop, named Mike Powell. Michael Powell is his real name. And we do business with him on a daily basis,” Lindell said. “And he looked at me, kind of, ‘So you know Michael Powell?’ I remember him saying that. I says, ‘Well, my neighbor. Mike Powell.’”

The confusion was sorted out once Lindell looked up the record of the transaction using the VIN number provided by police for the car in question.

“I went back by the VIN number, pulled the file on the car, and I could see where the paperwork had come from and what it was,” Lindell said. “And I started to put the picture together in my head that this was to do with THAT Michael Powell.”

In the nick of time

In fact, the timing was somewhat perfect. Lindell had shortly before filed the necessary paperwork with the state of Oregon to have the car scrapped, a process that would include crushing it into an unrecognizable cube.

“If they’d come, probably another three months later, it wouldn’t have been there,” Lindell remembered.

West Valley City Police Detective Dave Greco told Lindell he wanted to bring in a cadaver dog to search his car lot. Later, Maxwell would remember that the police were a little nervous about the challenges that would pose. In particular, because many junked cars have been in collisions that involve serious injuries, Maxwell and his team worried about multiple cars attracting the attention of a cadaver dog.

Looking for Susan Powell

Cadaver dogs are trained to recognize a myriad of smells beyond what most people would define as a dead body – including blood, tissue and bone in addition to the multiple stages of body decomposition. Cars that have been in a nasty accident could potentially confuse the cadaver dog.

“So you’re gonna have blood and stuff like that in those vehicles,” Maxwell explained.

Fortunately, the cadaver dog West Valley City brought in, named Tug, was not confused.

“And this dog went directly, didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop at any other vehicles, went directly to Michael Powell’s vehicle,” Maxwell said.

cadaver dog susan powell

A cadaver dog named Tug
showed particular interest in the trunk of Michael Powell’s car on Sept. 20, 2011. Photo: West Valley City, Utah police

Greco informed Lindell police would need to take the car as evidence.

“I had to figure out what was going on, so I called our police chief and says, ‘So, can they just take this car?’ And he said, ‘Yep. You gotta give them that car,’” Lindell said.

A break in the case

For Maxwell, the indication of the cadaver dog seemed to be a major development.

“We thought it was a huge break,” he said.

Police tore out the car’s rear seats and the carpet from its trunk. They collected strands of hair and swabbed the seats and carpet for DNA, which they sent off, along with the hair, to the Utah state crime lab.

But as with so many developments in the Susan Powell investigation, the discovery of her brother-in-law’s car became more complicated.

“When that was done and we had a full DNA profile, the lab called me,” Maxwell remembered. “I was excited, I was nervous, but then again, I was skeptical. I mean, again, because – is this going to be another swift kick in the guts?”

The DNA did not match Susan Powell’s profile.

Cold: Episode 13

The discovery of Michael Powell’s car was just one piece in a larger puzzle that police were putting together in the fall of 2011.

Subscribe to hear more about the brewing custody dispute between Josh Powell and his in-laws, Chuck and Judy Cox, as well as the opinion of a forensic psychologist who evaluated Josh Powell on behalf of the state of Washington in that case.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Crime, Police + Courts

police at ogden high school pictured after utah school shooting hoax...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

A former SLCPD officer discusses how police respond to copycat situations

Copycat situations are common following a school shooting such as the one that occurred in Tenneesse earlier this week. A former SLCPD talks to KSL NewsRadio how police respond.
1 day ago
Theb Utah Highway Patrol says three people died Wednesday afternoon following a two-vehicle crash i...
Samantha Herrera

Three people killed in two-vehicle crash on US-89 in Logan Canyon

US-89 is closed in Logan Canyon due to a crash. The Utah Highway Patrol says three people have died. The UHP says a Kia Rio crossed into oncoming lanes.
1 day ago
ogden high school pictured, it was a victim of a utah school shooting hoax...
Adam Small

Ogden High School community reacts to active shooter hoax

Ogden High School was one of several schools that got a call about an active shooter, leading law enforcement to lock the school down.
1 day ago
child labor...
Elizabeth Weiler

U.S. Department of Labor says Sodalicious violated child labor laws

SALT LAKE CITY — Four different locations of Utah soda and dessert shop Sodalicious went against federal child labor laws, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. By employing 19 minors and having them work long, non-permitted hours, the USDL found Sodalicious in violation.  Sodalicious‘ founding members are Annie and Kevin Auernig with 25 different […]
1 day ago
Granite School District pictured...
Samantha Herrera

Granite School District says it’s prepared in case of an active shooter

Granite School District's chief of staff says he is confident that officers with the school would have a quick and efficient response to an active shooter scenario.
1 day ago
police at ogden high school pictured after utah school shooting hoax...
Samantha Herrera

Multiple Utah schools received fake reports of school shooting, officials say

Several schools in Utah were the victims of fake school shooting reports Wednesday morning. Schools in other states reportedly faced a similar hoax.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...
BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.
Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a new winter activity? Try skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five common causes of Cervical Cancer – and what you can do to lower your risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get ready for fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 easy Christmas dinner ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Auto shop owner talks unexpected Susan Powell connection