CRIME

Wrongful death lawsuit in murder of Susan Powell’s sons continues

Feb 19, 2020, 11:51 PM
Former Washington child protective services social worker Jane Ramon answers questions from attorne...
Former Washington child protective services social worker Jane Ramon answers questions from attorney Anne Bremner in Pierce County Superior Court on Feb. 19, 2020.

TACOMA, Wash. — One by one, attorney Anne Bremner walked through a list of nearly 50 “red flags” that preceded the killings of Charlie and Braden Powell, Susan Powell’s sons, at the hands of their father eight years ago.

Expert testimony marked day two of a wrongful death lawsuit involving the two young boys in a Tacoma courtroom.

The list began with perhaps one of the most telling indicators of the potential for future violence in the Powell family: the disappearance of Josh Powell’s wife, Susan, from the couple’s home in West Valley City, Utah on Dec. 7, 2009.

Red flags and Susan Powell’s sons

“Why was this [a] red flag?” Bremner asked in Pierce County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Jane Ramon, an expert witness called to testify by the legal team representing Susan Powell’s parents Chuck and Judy Cox, offered her answer to the jury.

“Because there’s questions, certainly, as to why the disappearance of these little boys’ mother and what has occurred and has there been any violence to that person in the midst of the disappearance,” Ramon said. “Or is it a murder?”

Josh Powell took his sons and left Utah less than two weeks after Susan Powell’s disappearance, taking up residence with his father, Steve Powell at his home in South Hill, Washington. They were still living there in August of 2011, when police served a search warrant at the home seeking evidence including Susan Powell’s childhood journals.

The following month, Pierce County deputies arrested Steve Powell because of voyeur videos they’d located in the home. The deputies also took Charlie and Braden into protective custody that same day.

Reunification bias

Susan Powell’s sons were subsequently placed by the state in the care of Chuck and Judy Cox, their maternal grandparents. Josh Powell contested the placement and was attempting to regain custody of his sons when, on Feb. 5, 2012, he killed them and himself during a court-authorized visitation.

In their lawsuit, the Coxes have accused state social workers of acting with negligence toward the safety of the boys. Their attorneys contend the state prioritized reunification of children in protective custody over their personal safety.

Ramon called that “reunification bias” on the stand, saying Washington Department of Social and Health Services records from the Powell case exhibited it, “shockingly so.”

Expert witness

Ramon is the first witness to testify in the long-delayed trial, which could last into March. She previously worked for the state of Washington’s child welfare agency. The Cox’s legal team called her to testify as to the “standard of care” typically owed by social workers in child dependency cases.

In court, Ramon pointed to numerous places where she believed Washington’s handling of the Powell case was deficient. Those included a failure to flag the Powell case as one of domestic violence.

“Is murder a form of domestic violence?” Bremner asked.

“The ultimate form,” Jane Ramon replied.

While police did consider Josh Powell the lone suspect in their homicide investigation, detectives never arrested him. Josh Powell was also never charged with any crime related to his wife’s disappearance.

What went right

During cross-examination, an attorney representing the state of Washington, Joseph Diaz, repeatedly pointed Ramon to instances in the record where social workers had collaborated with law enforcement. He also noted West Valley City’s case records were not available to the social workers, due to a court secrecy order in the state of Utah.

“There’s been no evidence presented in this case of any abuse or neglect in Utah of Charlie or Braden,” Diaz said.

Diaz also asked Ramon to offer a list of what she believed the Washington social workers had done right in their dealings with the Powell family. Ramon credited them with coordinating the removals of Charlie and Braden from the home of their grandfather, Steve Powell, as well as with referring them both for therapy.

That praise was undercut though by her final answer to attorney questions.

“Did more things go wrong than went right,” Bremner asked.

“Sadly, yes,” Ramon said.

Resources and related information: 

The 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:

Today’s Top Stories

Crime

Provo Police need help to identify and locate a suspect in a 2020 cold case shooting that happened ...
Devin Oldroyd

Provo Police Department asking for help solving a 2020 cold case

Provo Police need help to identify and locate a suspect in a 2020 cold case shooting that happened at the Missionary Training Center.
6 days ago
salt lake mayorMendenhall guns...
Curt Gresseth

After NY law is struck down, two Utah experts sound off on gun rights

Two advocates on either side of the gun-control vs. gun rights debate sound off on the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling to expand the right to carry a firearm in public.
6 days ago
A men’s maximum-security unit in the new Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City is pi...
Lindsay Aerts

State leaders cut the ribbon on new Utah State Correctional Facility

After five years of construction, a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Utah State Correctional Facility, located west of the Salt Lake City International Airport, was held Wednesday.
7 days ago
Salt Lake City Police are looking into a pair of armed bank robberies Tuesday night in the Salt Lak...
Mark Jones

Update: SLC armed robbery suspect taken into custody

Salt Lake City police are searching for Tanner Cram, age 27, a suspect behind a pair of alleged armed bank robberies Monday evening.
8 days ago
Salt Lake City Police Department recently conducted a speed enforcement operation, which resulted i...
Mark Jones

SLCPD issues 96 citations in recent speed enforcement operation

Salt Lake City Police handed out 96 citations to drivers, and issued 18 warnings to other drivers in a recent speed enforcement operation.
8 days ago
Speed limit sign that says the limit is 80 mph. The Washington County sheriff's office made a drug ...
Mark Jackson

Washington County Sheriff’s Office makes drug bust during traffic stop

The Washington County Sheriff's Office said one of its deputies kicked off the drug bust by making a traffic stop on I-15.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Wrongful death lawsuit in murder of Susan Powell’s sons continues