Susan Powell search resumes in Utah desert


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The desert around remote Topaz Mountain in Utah is once again being combed for human remains by searchers looking for Susan Powell, the stockbroker and mother of two whose disappearance nearly two years ago has turned into what one family member called ‘a three-ring circus.’

Powell’s father, Chuck Cox, was visiting the search site about 30 miles from where his son-in-law, Josh Powell, said he took the couple’s two children on a snowy, nighttime camping trip on the evening his wife disappeared in 2009.


Cadaver dogs alerted searchers to a spot in the desert earlier this week, prompting police to announce they had found human remains, but after a day of searching Thursday they said nothing had been recovered yet.

‘Right now, we haven’t found anything except for these scents that these dogs are picking up,’ West Valley City Police Lt. Bill Merritt told Seattle’s KIRO news. ‘We have not come across bones.’

Authorities did say, though, that they’d found what appeared to be a shallow grave site.

Cox, who lives in Puyallup, Wash., told Utah’s ABC4 he doubted his daughter’s body would be found there -- it would have been a three-hour drive from the couple’s home 135 miles northeast in West Valley City, Utah -- but said he wanted to visit the site Friday to thank the officers and searchers and ‘get a feel for the area.’

Josh Powell, 35, is described by police as a person of interest in the case and has not cooperated with the search but has repeatedly denied any involvement in his wife’s disappearance. He said he has never been in the area police are searching.

‘With very little information available to the public, we can only hope that additional information will be released quickly to minimize heartache to those of us who love Susan. In the meantime, we continue to hope for Susan’s safe return,’ the Powell family said in a statement.

Josh Powell has said he left Susan at home shortly after midnight on Dec. 7, 2009, to take their two young sons on a snowy, middle-of-the-night camping trip to an area where the couple frequently had gone rock hunting, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.

His wife, who was 28, was reported missing when she failed to show up at work the next morning, and Powell has said he believes she went off with another man. The elder son confirmed the camping trip to police.

The house in Puyallup where Josh Powell now lives with his father, Steve Powell, was searched in August and police seized computers with a warrant laying claim to Susan’s private journals.

The case has become even stranger in recent weeks, with Steve Powell telling reporters that he and his daughter-in-law had been falling in love. Cox has countered that, to the contrary, one of the reasons his daughter moved to Utah was to avoid the elder Powell’s unwanted advances.

So heated have the family exchanges become that a Washington court commissioner has ordered Cox and his son-in-law to remain at least 500 feet away from each other.

Cox told reporters he would feel better just going out to the search site. ‘At least I’ll be in the area and maybe I’ll feel something,’ he said. ‘Maybe I’ll get some confirmation.’


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-- Kim Murphy in Seattle