ALL NEWS

Parents of Susan Powell endure day of graphic court testimony

Feb 19, 2020, 5:13 AM

Powell testimony...

Attorney Ted Buck delivers opening statements to a jury while standing in front of a large photo print of Braden and Charlie Powell on Feb. 18, 2020.

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.

We want to hear from you.

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

All News

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Scot Peterson shown, a school arming school staff is aw...

Curt Gresseth

Lawmaker talks about arming school workers, despite studies saying guards don’t prevent gun violence

Arming school workers will lead to safer schools, says a Utah lawmaker whose bill awaits the governor's pen to become law.

2 hours ago

Chief of Police for Price City Police Department, Brandon Sicilie, holding PeeDee....

Britt Johnson

Abandoned puppy finds a home at the Price Police Department

PeeDee, a puppy found on the side of a roadway during a dispatch call, has found a new home with the Price City Police Department.

4 hours ago

great salt lake shown, a bill to preserve the lake has passed...

Adam Small

Utah Legislature passes massive bill aimed at helping Great Salt Lake

This bill subjects mineral extraction companies to the same rules as every other water user in Great Salt Lake Basin.

5 hours ago

Tulips are bulbs that you plant in the fall so they can be ready in the spring. They typically come...

Michelle Lee

It’s time for tulips to bloom

Tulips are getting ready to bloom. If you planted these in the fall, your garden will soon be filled with bright and colorful bulbs.

6 hours ago

ksl movie show review host steve salles next to dune part two poster...

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ is a masterclass in cinematic world-building

In this KSL Movie Show review, we dive into the larger-than-life world of "Dune: Part Two," which picks up where the first part left off.

6 hours ago

cdc sign shown, the agency updated its covid guidelines...

Brenda Goodman, CNN

CDC drops 5-day isolation guidance for Covid-19, moving away from key strategy to quell infections

The CDC says it’s updating its guidance for Covid-19 to bring it in line with its advice for other kinds of respiratory infections, including influenza and RSV.

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Parents of Susan Powell endure day of graphic court testimony