CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Cold: new evidence suggests Michael Powell lied under oath

Feb 20, 2019, 2:05 AM | Updated: 10:18 am
Josh and Michael Powell...
Michael and Josh Powell have long been suspects in the 2009 disappearance of Josh's wife, Susan Powell. (Photos: Facebook; KSL TV)
(Photos: Facebook; KSL TV)

On June 6, 2010, about six months after Susan Powell disappeared, someone calling herself “Molly Hunt” made a post on the “Friends and Family of Susan Powell” Facebook group, writing:

“I feel so heartwarmed by seeing the support I see from you Susan’s friends!”

Molly signed her posts with Xs, Os, and heart emoticons, and on her page, she listed her favorite things as Twilight, little dogs, and “my soap operas.”

She was also very interested in joining a private, closed-off group related to Susan Powell’s disappearance. Right from the second day, she immediately started asking for access, apparently very interested in being able to see what people were saying about Susan, her disappearance or the man police suspected was behind it: her husband, Josh Powell.

The woman who’d created and administered the Friends and Family group, Susan’s friend Kiirsi Hellewell, exchanged personal messages with Molly, never suspecting whom she was really talking to.

Molly Hunt was Josh and Michael Powell.

As police would later learn through a wiretap on Josh Powell’s phone, he and his brother had opened the account to monitor Facebook activity related to Susan Powell’s disappearance.

This week, however, investigative reporter Dave Cawley of the podcast Cold repaid them in kind. Cawley successfully guessed the password to the Molly Hunt account and discovered evidence that Michael Powell lied under oath.

Michael Powell under scrutiny

Molly Hunt Facebook Account

The “Molly Hunt” profile created by Josh and Michael Powell.

On October 20, 2012, Michael Powell sat for a civil deposition.

Michael had become embroiled in a lawuit over $3.5 million in life insurance covering Josh, Susan, Charlie and Braden Powell.

Two months before killing himself and the boys, Josh had changed the beneficiaries on his policies. He wanted every penny to go to his siblings, with 93 percent of any eventual payout going directly to Michael.

Just before the murder-suicide, Josh mailed his youngest brother letters. They granted Michael full rights to Josh’s property, including items previously confiscated by police, as well as the rights to his story.

At the time, investigators were beginning to suspect that Michael Powell might have knowledge of his sister-in-law’s fate.

Ditching the Taurus

On Dec. 22, 2009 – 15 days after Susan disappeared – Michael sold his Ford Taurus to a salvage yard in Oregon for a hundred dollars. Police believed he’d hoped the car would be destroyed.

That was not the case. In September 2011, police recovered the car. They had a cadaver dog to check the vehicle. It showed particular interest in the trunk.

Police seized the car. When they later searched it, they found hair in the trunk’s carpet.

michael powell deposition

West Valley police recovered Michael Powell’s 1997 Ford Taurus from the Lindell Auto lot in September, 2011. Photo: West Valley City, Utah police

The DNA profile developed from that hair did not match Susan Powell’s profile. The lead detective on the case, Ellis Maxwell, said he was skeptical that Susan was ever herself in the trunk.

“I never thought that [Michael] was involved deeply with Josh,” Maxwell said later. “I assumed that he would have some information Josh shared with him.”

However, a number of people – including some of Maxwell’s colleagues – still suspect that Michael might have helped Josh dispose of Susan’s body.

Deposing Michael Powell

Michael didn’t reveal much in his deposition. He kept his answers simple and didn’t say anything that Det. Maxwell thought he could use.

Now, however, Cawley has uncovered evidence that suggests Michael lied under oath. In hacking the Molly Hunt account, Cawley found possible evidence that Michael committed perjury.

During the deposition, Michael told the court he “almost never” uses Facebook. And when asked, he said he wasn’t sure if he was registered under “Michael Powell” or another name.

He neglected to mention, of course, that he and his brother had set up the fake Molly Hunt account to spy on Susan’s friends. Looking over the account’s records, Cawley found records showing that, on several occasions, someone had logged into the account from the University of Minnesota, where Michael Powell was pursuing his Ph.D.

Cold: Episode 15

Hear Cawley himself explain the full story behind the deposition, Molly Hunt, and Michael Powell’s strange role in the case in episode 15 of Cold.

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Cold: new evidence suggests Michael Powell lied under oath