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Timeline: What we know in the 10 years since Susan Cox Powell went missing

Susan graphic.jpg
Timeline of events: 10 years since Susan Cox Powell's disappearance. (KUTV)

Friday marks one decade since Susan Cox Powell disappeared from her West Valley City, Utah home -- presumed murdered by her husband Josh Powell.

And 10 years to the day; she has still not been found -- nor legally declared dead. Her two sons -- Charlie and Braden, both murdered by their father -- would be celebrating their 15th and 13th birthdays in January 2020, respectively.

The Susan Cox Powell case is one of the biggest Utah stories from 2009-2019, with many horrific and disturbing updates through the years.

2News put together this comprehensive timeline of events in the unsolved Susan Cox Powell case.

2007

The Powells file for bankruptcy with $200,000 in debt.

SATURDAY, JUNE 28, 2008

Susan writes a letter addressed to family and friends warning them of Josh. In the letter, Susan says Josh threatened to "destroy her" if she filed for divorce. She then said that if she dies "it may not be an accident, even if it may look like one." The letter was kept in Susan's safe deposit box, which only she had access to.

TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2008

12:33 p.m. - Susan Cox Powell records this video of herself documenting her family's assets:

Towards the beginning, she says:

Covering all my bases, making sure that if something happens to me, or my family, or all of us, that are assets are documented. [I] hope everything works out and we're all happy, and live happily ever after as much as that's possible.

This video was recorded less than 500 days before Susan would go missing.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2009 - SUSAN COX POWELL GOES MISSING

12:00 p.m. - Susan Cox Powell takes her two sons, Charlie and Braden, to services at her local ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Afternoon - 5:00 p.m. - A neighbor visits Susan and leaves at approximately 5 pm as Susan lies down for a nap. This is the last time Susan was seen alive by anyone outside of her family's home.

2:29 p.m. - Susan calls a friend from her cell phone. This is the last call she made or received on her phone.

5:00 p.m. - Josh Powell says he is taking Charlie and Braden sledding.

8:30 p.m. - A neighbor sees Josh Powell return home and pull into the garage

11:45 p.m. - A neighbor heard a car alarm coming from inside the Powel's closed garage. All the lights in the home appeared to be off.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2009

12:00 - 12:30 a.m. - Josh Powell says he left his home with Charlie, 4, and Braden, 2, to go camping at Simpson Springs Campground in a remote area of Utah's west desert.

During this time, he claimed Susan was at home asleep after cleaning a red stain from the carpet. The campground is about a two-hour drive from West Valley City. Temperatures were below freezing that night.

9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. - The daycare provider for Charlie and Braden contacts Josh Powell's mother Terrica and his sister Jennifer Graves, concerned that she could not reach either parent after they failed to drop off their sons. Terrica and Jennifer call the police who break into the Powell home worried the family may be victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. Police find two box fans blowing on a wet spot on the carpet. Susan does not show up to work and she is reported as missing.

5:00 p.m. - Josh Powell returns home with Charlie and Braden, and is greeted by the police, who find he had Susan's cellphone in his van with the SIM card removed. Police also found a generator, blankets, a gas canister, tarps, and a shovel. Josh was unable to explain why he had Susan's phone or why the SIM card was taken out. Josh was immediately taken to the West Valley City Police Department to be questioned. Note: Powell was never arrested in the case, despite the long-held belief by many that he murdered Susan and covered it up, possibly with the help of his father Steven and brother Michael. All three are now dead.

During his interview with police, Powell was asked why he was not answering his cellphone. Powell told police he didn't have a charger with him and he was trying to conserve the battery. However, a detective noticed Powell's phone was plugged into a charger on the center console of his vehicle.

Police interview young Charlie Powell, who says that the camping trip took place, but tells police that Susan had come with them, but did not return. A few weeks later, Charlie's school teacher says he claims his mother is dead. Chuck and Judy Cox would also later say that while at daycare, Braden drew a picture of a van with three people inside, and told daycare workers that "mommy was in the trunk."

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2009

11:00 a.m. - Josh calls Susan's father Chuck Cox to tell him that Susan is missing and that police are going to question him again.

12:44 p.m. - Josh Powell is interviewed by West Valley City Police Detective Ellis Maxwell.

2News obtained footage of that interview, which you can watch in two clips embedded below. Each clip is nearly an hour long.

In the first clip, you see Detective Maxwell walk into the room, concerned about cuts on Josh's hands. Josh sniffles through his answers:

At roughly the 5:55 mark in the above video, Maxwell wonders why Powell wants an attorney. Maxwell says:

So you're telling me you don't want to come in here and talk to me and answer my questions so we can try to figure out where potentially she could be?

Powell responds:

They told me that I should have an attorney because they don't know whats going on. They said I'm pretty much in over my head.

Maxwell asks:

Okay, you're in over your head because your wife is missing?

Powell says:

Because you guys are already trying to trap me on little things like cuts on my hands for one.

In the second clip, below, another officer enters the room toward the end of the video to tell him his story does not add up. Later, Josh is read his rights and is told he will be detained, but he is let go later in the day.

After police seized the van Powell was driving, he rented a car at the Salt Lake City International Airport and drove it 800 miles, returning it two days later. At some point during his trip, he purchased a cell phone and activated it in Tremonton, Utah, near the Utah-Idaho border.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2009

Police execute a search warrant on the Powell home, removing boxes, bags, and a computer. Police find Susan's blood, life insurance policies for $1.5 million, and a letter from Susan fearing for her life. Police also find blood from an "unknown male contributor."

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2009

Police search the remote Simpson Springs Campground for signs of a campsite Josh Powell claimed he used. Police did not find any evidence of camping in the west desert location Josh Powell described.

Person-of-interest Josh Powell talks with 2News reporter Chris Jones in this clip:

In it, Josh Powell is heard saying:

I've been trying to figure out what I can do so I don't sit idle. Dealing with this repeatedly. I was just going to go in [motions to the house] and get my kids.

Jones askes: 'How are [the kids] doing?' Powell responds:'They've been doing good, as far as I can tell.'

Jones asks Powell: "You came home and went camping, what can you tell us about that night?"

Yeah, a lot of times I just go camping with my boys. Not anything big. We just go overnight and we do smores and stuff like that.So I just went with the boys. I was planning on doing smores in the morning and then when we got home. On the way home, I found out people were worried about us and we were missing.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2009

Snow halts the police search for evidence at Simpson Springs Campground in Tooele County.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2009

Daytime - Family and friends of Susan Cox Powell, including Josh and her father Chuck Cox, gather outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Hunter Central Stake Center. The group sings hymns, prays, and begins a 24-hour fast in hopes of Susan's safe return. Josh Powell is seen tearing up but does not speak at the event. Chuck Cox is concerned about the focus on his son-in-law.

Here's 2News' report on the vigil from that night:

Evening - Josh Powell joins others to hand out missing person fliers to people attending a Utah Jazz basketball game.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2009

Josh Powell hires defense attorney Scott C. Williams.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2009

Josh Powell fails to attend a scheduled third interview with officers with the West Valley City Police Department (WVCPD). Police publicly announced this development saying Josh was getting in the way of police efforts to find his wife.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2009

2News, along with other local television stations are subpoenaed by West Valley police for footage of interviews done with Josh Powell.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2009

Josh Powell takes Charlie and Braden to Puyallup, Washington to stay at his father, Steven Powell's home "for the holidays."

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2009

Family and friends hold vigils for Susan both in Utah and Puyallup.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 4, 2010

Social media campaigns are launched to spread the word of Susan's disappearance.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 6, 2010

Josh Powell and his brother Michael arrive back in West Valley City to pack up the Powell home. It's revealed by Josh's friends that he had been fired from his job. Josh claims he won't be able to keep the home, so he brought Michael with him to pack up the house to move to Puyallup.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2010

Josh Powell comes back to West Valley from Puyallup to "make repairs" to his home in order to rent it out.

FRIDAY JANUARY 29, 2010

WVCPD serves Josh Powell with a warrant -- seizing the blue minivan he drove the night Susan disappeared.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2010

The Cox family holds a press conference, revealing that Susan had told family and friends that she might end her relationship with Josh by their April 6 anniversary. The Cox family says Josh had been physically abusive with Susan at least once in the past. Josh's controlling behavior is also revealed.

The Cox family announces the creation of the nonprofit Susan Cox Powell Foundation. The foundation's website says:

The Susan Cox Powell Foundation was established in 2010 by Susan’s Parents with the help of friends, and after and overwhelming response from people around the world. Their email, letters, and Facebook messages of support and sharing of other parents with missing children, questions of parents concerned about their children in potentially similar situations but without the support we felt, moved us to create this Foundation.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2010

Steven Powell's neighbors put up missing persons fliers and ribbons throughout the neighborhood. The Cox family says this upset the Powell children.

SATURDAY, APRIL 10, 2010

A volunteer search for Susan's body at Simpson Springs Campground -- where Josh Powell claimed he went camping the night Susan disappeared -- turns up nothing.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2010

The West Valley City Police Department released data related to the investigation of Susan's case:

  • 6,850 - Man-hours used to date searching for Susan
  • $150,000 - Cost to the department, so far
  • 5 - Fulltime detectives assigned to Susan's case. The department has 28 total detectives.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2010

Chuck Cox, along with Ed Smart (father to kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart), make an appearance together in Utah to promote legislation requiring those arrested on suspicion of a felony be required to submit to a DNA test.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2010 - ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SUSAN'S DISAPPEARANCE

Josh and Steven Powell make the claim that Susan ran away with Steven Koecher, a Utah man who went missing in Nevada in December 2009. The two claim the pair may have run off to Brazil, where Koecher served an LDS mission, to start a new life. There is zero evidence to back up Josh's claims.

You can watch Steven Powell refer to such claims in this 0:55 clip:

FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2011

Josh and Steven Powell announce plans to post parts of Susan's teenage journals online.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2011

A judge grants Josh Powell a restraining order against Chuck Cox after an "altercation" happened between the two of them at a Lowe's Home Improvement store. Later, both are given anti-harassment orders against each other -- requiring they stay at least 500 feet apart.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 18, 2011

The West Valley City Police Department announces a "break in the case," and that a search will happen in abandoned mine shafts near Ely, Nevada. Media is invited along as crews search, but after two days, police find nothing.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2011

Susan's best friend Kiirsi Hellewell and Josh Powell's estranged sister reveal Steven Powell had made unwanted sexual advances against Susan. Steven Powell denies the claim.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2011

Police from Utah and Washington state serve a search warrant on the Powell home in Puyallup, Washington. Police take computers, boxes, and bags from the home.

In an interview with ABC, Steven Powell said:

...[I] shared father-in-law, daughter-in-law flirting [with Susan], and maybe some sexual touching or whatever, and I enjoyed it, frankly.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2011

In Utah's west desert near Delta, police begin a multi-day search in a popular rock collecting area.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2011

Continuing their search, and thanks to cadaver dogs, police find human remains and recover charred wood from the area.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2011

Police arrest Steven Powell on child pornography and voyeurism charges after police find thousands of images of young girls and women, including Susan, dressing. The photos were taken without their knowledge, and two neighbor girls were victims. Charlie and Braden Powell are placed in state custody while police investigate to see if anyone else knew about Steven's activities.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

The Cox family files in court to get custody of Charlie and Braden. A judge temporarily also rules that Josh Powell cannot publish Susan's teenage diaries online

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2011

Charlie and Braden Powell are temporarily placed with Chuck and Judy Cox after Washington's Division of Child and Family Services files a child welfare action.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011

After two days in court, a judge temporarily places Charlie and Braden with the Coxes.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2011

Chuck Cox files a motion in court asking for the judge to appoint a guardian for Charlie and Braden so a custody investigation could begin.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2011

A judge sets a custody hearing for Charlie and Braden for January 19, 2012.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2012

A website created days before the custody hearing by Josh Powell, with help from his family, is disabled. The site had claimed Chuck and Judy Cox abused Charlie and Braden.

Police find hundreds of disturbing images on Josh's computer including:

  • Simulated child pornography
  • Beastiality
  • Incest

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2012

Just four days before Josh Powell brutally murdered his sons and killed himself, a Washington state judge rules that 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden will remain with Chuck and Judy Cox.

The judge orders Josh Powell to get a psychosexual evaluation by a court-appointed examiner. It's found that Powell has narcissistic personality traits - shown by his inability to admit even small personal shortcomings or weaknesses. The examiner also finds that Powell has "adequate" parenting skills, steady employment, and no criminal record. The examiner decides to recommend that Josh Powell has supervised visitations with his sons several times a week.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2012 - JOSH POWELL KILLS HIS TWO SONS, HIMSELF

After social worker Elizabeth Griffin arrives at Josh Powell's trailer with Charlie and Braden for a supervised visit -- Powell slams the door on Griffin after his children were inside. Griffin called 911 and tried to get inside.

The 36-year-old Powell tried to murder Charlie and Braden by using a hatchet. After Powell fails to kill them with a hatchet, he sets off an explosion -- killing his children and himself.

When Josh's father Steven is told about the deaths while in jail, he appears unconcerned by the news and gets angry at those who notified him. Two weeks later, Steven Powell would invoke his 5th Amendment right to not answer questions about Susan's case. Steven was obsessed with Susan, and many think he knows what happened to her body.

An investigation would reveal the three died from carbon monoxide poisoning, but that both children had chopping injuries on their heads and necks. The fire was quickly called deliberate after two five-gallon cans of gasoline were found on the premises, as well as evidence the gasoline was spread throughout the home.

TUESDAY, JULY 3, 2012

A mine explorer says a mine 30 miles west of where Josh Powell claimed he went camping the night Susan disappeared, had been filled up with gasoline and burned. This comes a week after court documents were released that show that Josh Powell had told a woman at a work party that "the best place to dispose of a body is down a mine shaft."

You can see KUTV's report on the subject below:

Also on July 3, the Salt Lake Tribune obtains emails from Susan to friends.

In June 2008, Susan wrote of Josh:

He's usually rude, yelling and barking commands at me.

She also wrote of wanting marriage counseling,, but that Josh would have none of it. She wrote of Josh's controlling ways -- even over small amounts of money -- when she was the one working to support the family. And then, in what seems an eerie foreshadowing of future events, she wrote:

Every moment I step back and take stock of what I'm dealing with it feels like a never-ending cycle. But I'm too afraid of the consequences, losing my kids, him kidnapping [me], divorce, or actions worse on his part.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2012

A 13-page report from Washington state comes out addressing the question of whether Josh Powell's murder-suicide could have been prevented. The report suggests that West Valley City’s sealed information about the Josh Powell case may have helped prevent the death of his two boys, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden. The report says the sealed evidence:

Would have raised specific safety concerns for the children, but that information was not made available. [It] could have been used in assessing the need for services and the structure of contact between Mr. Powell and his children.

West Valley City responded at the time:

From the onset of the investigation into the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell, an emphasis was placed on the children's health, safety, and welfare. At no time did the West Valley City Police Department receive any indication that Josh Powell would murder his two sons.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2013

Josh's brother Michael Powell -- believed by many to have helped Josh with Susan's disappearance -- kills himself by jumping off of a parking garage in Minneapolis -- taking any secrets to the grave. During previous interviews with police, it's discovered that Michael had abandoned a Ford vehicle at an Oregon wrecking yard. That vehicle was found, at one point, to have had human remains inside the trunk.

TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013

West Valley City police search for Susan's body on a property in Salem, Oregon, but find nothing.

MONDAY, JULY 1, 2013

West Valley City Police announce the end to the active phase of their search for Susan at a press conference but said the case is still open 3-and-a-half years after she went missing. At the time West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle told 2News: "We have no further active leads to develop at this point."

Mike Powell was West Valley City's deputy police chief in 2013 when he told 2News:

Without a crime scene, just circumstantial evidence and no body, successful prosecution was not likely to happen

TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2013

The Cox family is awarded control over their daughter's estate. Josh's mother and sister had looked to have Susan declared legally dead so they could collect on life insurance.

MONDAY, JULY 13, 2015

A jury finds Steven Powell, Josh Powell's father who admitted to being infatuated with Susan, guilty of possessing child pornography. Powell, 64, was on trial for possessing explicit images of two neighbor girls, ages 8 and 10, that prosecutors say were taken from a bedroom window of his home in 2006 and 2007.

In 2012, Powell was convicted on 14 counts of voyeurism for shooting video and still pictures of the girls as they used a family bathroom next door. The child porn charges were thrown out by a superior court judge before the voyeurism trial but were reinstated by an appeals court.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 21, 2015

Steven Powell is sentenced to five years in prison and is given credit for 17 months already served behind bars.

OCTOBER 6, 2015

A federal judge in Washington state dismisses a lawsuit filed by Susan Cox Powell's parents Chuck and Judy Cox. The couple sued the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services claiming social workers didn't do enough to protect their grandsons. The judge said federal law provides social workers with absolute immunity from liability to make sure the courts and others can pursue justice without fear of retribution.

In 2014, a judge had refused to toss out the lawsuit.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2017

Officers with the West Valley City Police Department announce a computer seized from Josh Powell in 2009 is still locked. Police say a contractor managed to crack the first layer of encryption on the drive, but additional security has kept investigators from obtaining any information from the machine. Police say other computer drives that belonged to Josh Powell didn't contain useful information and it's unclear whether this computer has any clues.

TUESDAY, JULY 11, 2017

Steven Powell is released from prison:

MONDAY, JULY 23, 2018

Steven Powell dies at a Tacoma, Washington hospital. The sheriff's office was aware that Powell was in the hospital, but was told he was recovering.

Ed Troyer, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office said at the time:

I wish we could have talked to him before he died.

TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2018

Steven Powell's daughter Jennifer Graves talks to 2News about the death of her father. She was shocked and saddened, but, she says, it's a different kind of sadness. Graves told 2News:

It’s more of an emotion of not sad that he’s gone, but sad that he lived such a poor life.

You can watch our interview with Graves here:

FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018

Chuck Cox tells 2News he wants access to West Valley police files in the investigation just days after the death of Steven Powell. Cox told 2News reporter Brian Mullahy:

I want access to all the evidence and all the case files, so I can look through the whole thing,. I have the right to have them divulge that information to me.

Cox's attorney filed to get unredacted versions of the police files.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2019

Utah's Cold Case Coalition reports they received a tip that some mines in Utah's west desert have not been searched, and some were not searched thoroughly.

Karra Porter, co-founder with the Utah Cold Case Coalition told 2News at the time:

Some folks reached out to us with information to us that's not generally known to the public that related to the search for Susan Powell’s body. If there is a possibility that there was a mine search that wasn't able to be done or was only partially done, we think it's worth doing. We feel that there are enough factors pointing to a particular area and we think it is possible that these mines were not searched all the way down.

You can watch 2News' full report on the subject here:

THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2019

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules that the family of Susan Cox Powell can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against Washington state's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), overruling a lower court's decision. However, the court upheld the lower court's ruling that the social workers involved are immune.

Susan's parents Chuck and Judith Cox reportedly asked the DSHS to not allow the children to be in the custody of Josh Powell, still the main suspect in Susan's disappearance. In 2012, a social worker brought Charlie and Braden to Josh Powell for a visit. The kids ran ahead and entered the home while Josh locked out the social worker. She called to report a gas smell shortly before the house exploded. Authorities said emails from Josh Powell before the explosion made it clear the deaths were intentional.

The 22-page ruling states:

The dismissal of the negligence claims against Defendants State of Washington and Department of Social and Health Services is reversed and remanded because the district court dismissed them without according justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2019

Friday marks the 10-year-anniversary of Susan Cox Powell's disappearance.

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