WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — For the first time, Utah police said they believe Susan Powell’s brother-in-law was “heavily involved” in getting rid of her body.
West Valley police said the focus shifted to Michael C. Powell after Josh Powell killed the couple’s two boys and himself in a deliberately set house fire 15 months ago.
Police held a news conference Monday to say they are closing the active investigation of Susan Powell’s disappearance citing a lack of leads. They are also releasing the case file, which includes details that have been kept under wraps since Powell vanished in 2009. Police have said they would reopen the Susan Powell case if they get new information.
Michael Powell killed himself Feb. 11 by jumping from a parking garage in Minneapolis.
Police based their suspicion in part on a car Michael Powell left at an Oregon junkyard only weeks after Susan Powell disappeared. The junkyard is about 200 miles from a forest outside Salem, Ore., where authorities searched last week, looking for a body. The search turned up nothing, and police said they ran out of clues.
Deputy West Valley Police Chief Michael Powell — no relation — said authorities believe Josh Powell killed his wife, and that his brother later got involved in a cover-up. Michael Powell denied any wrongdoing while under investigation.
It wasn’t until last August that Utah police discovered Michael Powell’s Ford Taurus at the junkyard outside Pendleton, Ore. DNA recovered from the upholstery inside the car’s trunk proved inconclusive, they said.
Susan Powell was reported missing more than three years ago after failing to show up for work. Her husband, Josh, maintained his innocence and said he had taken the couple’s young boys on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures the night she was last seen.
Josh Powell eventually returned to the couple’s hometown of Puyallup, Wash., where he got caught up in a battle with Susan Powell’s parents for custody of the boys, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden.
On Feb. 15, 2012, he locked a social worker out of a rental home at the start of a supervised visit, attacked the boys with a hatchet and set the house afire. All three were killed in the blaze.
Days earlier, a court had ordered Josh Powell to undergo an intensive psychosexual evaluation in the custody dispute.
Josh Powell was never charged in his wife’s disappearance, but unsealed documents say authorities found Susan Powell’s blood on a floor next to a sofa that appeared to have been recently cleaned, with two fans set up to blow on it. Investigators also found life insurance policies on Susan Powell and determined that Josh Powell had filed paperwork to withdraw her retirement account money about 10 days after her disappearance.
Susan Powell, then 28, was last seen Dec. 6, 2009.