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Eight years before Susan Cox Powell went missing, her father-in-law made a disturbing confession. In an audio tape recently unearthed by the investigative team behind “The Disappearance of Susan Cox Powell,” Steve Powell recorded himself confronting Susan about his uncontrollable sexual obsession with her.
Taped without her knowledge, the conversation begins with Steve telling Susan that he is “going crazy” and cannot think “of anything else other than” her.
“I’ve really fallen in love with you. … For the last year and a half, you’re about the only thing I could think about,” says Steve.
According to a search warrant affidavit from 2011, this was not the first time Steve had made a recording regarding his infatuation. Steve professed his love for his daughter-in-law throughout hours of video diaries and often stalked Susan to obtain footage for his own sexual gratification. It was also discovered that Steve had collected her personal items, such as underwear and used feminine hygiene products.
Steve detailed his fixation to Susan, saying, “Maybe I’m getting the wrong signals from you. Maybe I’m interpreting something that I shouldn’t be interpreting. … Just being with you … I was extremely aroused, and I think you were somewhat aroused, at least I thought.”
Clearly uneasy, Susan attempts to de-escalate the situation: “I don’t know where you’re going with this. I’m married to your son, and I should just be the daughter-in-law, which puts me a step beneath your own children, and that’s where I’m comfortable.”
Steve seems to ignore her rebuff and then places the blame on Susan, recalling a time when she visited him at his office to show off the results of her leg wax. Susan apologizes for the incident and concludes she “can’t undo” the past.
“One of the hallmarks of any kind of sexual predator is that he will blame the victim,” Dr. Chitra Raghavan, a professor of psychology and expert in abuse at John Jay College, told Oxygen.com. “This is true of rapists, this is true of sexual harassers, this is true of pedophiles. And so, it’s actually very consistent and part of his … sort of mental disorder … that he blames her.”
Dr. Raghavan explained that though Steve was “clearly aware” he had crossed a line, he “nitpicked” Susan’s rejection in hopes that she would “admit that she’s in love” and have “this fantasy … work out.”
Following the confession, Steve wrote about Susan’s reaction in one of his hundreds of journal entries about the missing young mother.
“I am still convinced she loves me and is sexually attracted to me … I want Susan to be my wife,” wrote Steve.
“Steve believes he’s in love, and she’s in love,” said Dr. Raghavan. “So in order for him to perpetuate the idea that he’s in love, he needs her to be complicit. So he starts to look for all sorts of behaviors and then attribute her willingness to it.”
This behavior is a “mixture of willful denial, absence of insight and permission for himself,” said Dr. Raghavan, noting that Steve is giving himself the “entitlement to pursue what he will term as this great love.” It is all part of what makes Steve a predator, according to Dr. Raghavan.
Steve continued to stalk, harass, photograph and videotape Susan until she disappeared in late 2009. Though his behavior is extremely troubling, Steve was never charged in connection with Susan’s case.
He was, however, found guilty of 14 counts of voyeurism in 2012 for taking inappropriate images of neighborhood girls and sentenced to two and a half years in prison, reported ABC News. He was later sentenced to an additional five years in prison for possession of child pornography, according to The News Tribune.
Steve was released from prison in 2017 and died of a heart attack shortly after. To this day, Susan remains missing.
To learn more about the case, watch “The Disappearance of Susan Cox Powell” on Oxygen.
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