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On December 7, 2009, mother of two Susan Cox Powell disappeared from her home in West Valley City, Utah. The 28-year-old was last seen by her husband, 33-year-old Josh Powell, who told investigators that he had left town to go on a camping trip with their two sons, 4-year-old Charlie and 2-year-old Braden, at 12:30 a.m. the morning she went missing, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Josh claimed Susan had been sound asleep when they left for the campground, which was located about 85 miles away from their home.
When the Powell children failed to show up to their daycare at 9 a.m., the childcare provider called both Susan and Josh, who did not answer their cell phones. She then contacted Josh Powell's mother and sister, who called police. By this time, Susan had also been reported missing from work. Authorities broke into the Powell home and discovered it was empty, but they found two fans positioned to blow air on a living room sofa that appeared to be damp, reported The Salt Lake Tribune.
Around 5 p.m., Josh and the two boys returned to West Valley City, and he was immediately taken to the police station for questioning. He was named a person of interest in Susan's disappearance several days later, and what unfolded over the following months was a painstaking investigation that tragically culminated in the 2012 murder-suicide of Josh and his two sons. To this day, Susan has not been found and is presumed dead.
The two-night special "The Disappearance of Susan Cox Powell," premiering Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 at 7/6c on Oxygen, will explore the young mother's mysterious vanishing as well as the tragic events that took place after her disappearance.
Though we may never know what truly happened to Susan or the extent of her husband's possible involvement in her disappearance, there are key pieces of evidence about the case that could help shed a new light on the investigation. These are the eight crucial details to remember about the Susan Cox Powell disappearance:
1. Traces of blood
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, police searched the Powells' home the day after Susan went missing and found "blood evidence" on a tile floor near the damp sofa, which Josh told authorities had been cleaned before they went camping. Forensic testing revealed the blood belonged to Susan.
2. Closing accounts
A week after Susan was reported missing, Josh went to their local bank with a power of attorney form and withdrew all of the money from her IRA accounts, reported The Seattle Times. He also cancelled his wife's future chiropractic appointments.
3. Secret will
Inside a safety deposit box kept secret from her husband, Susan had left a letter to her friends and family titled, "Last will and testament of Susan Powell.” According to a search warrant affidavit cited by The Seattle Times, Susan wrote in her will (dated June 28, 2008) that if she died, "it may not be an accident, even if it looks like one.” That affidavit stated that Susan "does not trust her husband and that he has threatened to destroy her if they get divorced and her children will not have a mother and father." Local station KIMA TV also reported that Susan wrote, "I want it documented somewhere that there is extreme turmoil in our marriage."
4. Susan's video
About a year and a half before she vanished, Susan recorded a video on the advice of an attorney that documented various assets in her home. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the video was made out of fear that Josh might sell off the expensive items, as he had filed for bankruptcy claiming more than $200,000 in debt earlier in their marriage. Two years before Susan's disappearance, the Powells took out a $500,000 five-year term life insurance policy and a $500,000 rider for Susan, reported The Salt Lake Tribune.
5. Witness testimonies
A search warrant affidavit cited by The Seattle Times referenced family friends who said Josh and Susan had experienced marital discord, with Susan discussing divorcing Josh. According to them, Josh had spoken about how to murder someone and dump the remains without getting caught.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that he even declared that a mine shaft would be the best way to get rid of a body. A friend remembered Josh saying that "if you knocked a little [of a shaft] loose, it would all come tumbling down and no one would really want to travel down it because they are all so unsafe." Josh also remarked that there were many abandoned mine shafts in Utah's West Desert.
6. Children's statements
The couple's older son, Charlie, was interviewed on December 8, 2009, and he told investigators "his mommy went camping with them although she did not come back home with them and he did not know why," reported The Salt Lake Tribune. Almost a year later in January, a Sunday school teacher told Charlie that if he kept disobeying her, she would have to call his mom or dad. Charlie told the teacher, who was unaware that Susan was missing, "My mom is dead," reported The Salt Lake Tribune.
The younger son, Braden, later drew a picture at camp depicting a car with three passengers. Braden was asked who was in the drawing, and he said it was his father, his brother and himself. When asked about the location of his mother, Braden explained, "Mommy is in the trunk," said the outlet.
7. Josh's new cell phone
The day after his wife's disappearance, detectives asked Josh to submit his cell phone for forensic testing. Before handing it over to detectives, however, Josh removed the SIM card without their knowledge, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Josh then purchased a new cell phone and activated it in Tremonton, Utah, more than 80 miles away from their hometown.
8. Steve Powell's obsession
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Josh's father, Steve Powell, admitted that he had an "inappropriate, sexually-charged interest in his daughter-in-law." During a 2011 search of Steve's home, police uncovered several photos of naked women on whom Susan's face had been superimposed. They also found images of Susan taken without her knowledge, including one of her in underwear, and images of Steve masturbating while looking at an image of Susan displayed on a television screen. He had also written songs about his sexual obsession with Susan under the pseudonym Steven Chantrey.
Aside from his inappropriate behavior, Steve became involved in the case when he backed up his son's theory that Susan had run off with 30-year-old Steve Koecher, a Utah man who was last seen on December 13, 2009. Josh and his father hypothesized that because they were around the same age, practiced the same religion and were in the same city during the week leading up to their disappearances, they could have run off to Brazil and started a new life together. Members of both families have denied these allegations.
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