I can’t stop reading and thinking about all the tragedy surrounding the disappearance of a 29-year-old mother, Susan Powell, from her Utah home in 2009. Allegedly, while her husband and small sons, then only 2 and 4 years old, were on a last-minute “camping trip” that began after midnight on a December night, Susan vanished, leaving her purse and cellphone behind.
They moved in with his parents in the same town where Susan’s parents also live. Both sets of grandparents frequently spoke to local and national media (ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC Dateline and Today Show) and routinely disparaged the other side of the family in the press.
Josh told reporters Susan was “emotionally abused” by her parents as a child and, with his father’s help, released pages of her girlhood journals to the media. Josh’s father, Steven Powell, and Susan’s father got into public shouting matches in front of TV cameras. A restraining order was issued to keep the two families at least 500 feet apart.
Grandpa Steven Powell more recently became the subject of a separate police investigation after thousands of images of women and young girls videotaped without their knowledge were discovered on his computer — including clandestine pictures he had taken of his missing daughter-in-law.
He pleaded not guilty to voyeurism and possession of child pornography but the children were removed from the home the Powell men shared and Susan’s parents were awarded temporary custody.
A few weeks before Powell senior was arrested, the 61-year-old grandfather told GMA he had a flirtatious relationship with his daughter-in-law and believed they were in love.
“Father-in-law, daughter-in-law flirting with each other, maybe some sexual touching or whatever. And I enjoyed it, frankly.” he said. “We interacted in a lot of sexual ways because Susan enjoys doing that.”
Josh’s sister Jennifer Graves took sides with Susan’s family and told reporters “my dad is a liar” and that her father “had a pornography problem.
The story reached its literal detonation point a few days after Josh Powell lost a bid to regain custody of the children and was ordered by the court to undergo a “psycho-sexual evaluation.” He and the two sons, who were 5 and 7 years old, died in a spectacular house explosion just after the social worker dropped them off for court-ordered visitation.
(The social worker was apparently helpless to prevent the blast as their father forced the door closed after the children were inside.)
Police have declared the case a murder-suicide.
Grandpa Steven survived the blast; he was in jail at the time, and now is on suicide watch.
But don’t you wonder how all this could have played out in public over such a long time without anybody having the authority to reach in and save those kids?