Susan Powell, the 28-year-old mother of two small children, was reported missing Monday, December 7, 2009 under what police are calling suspicious circumstances.
Police consider her husband a person of interest in the case. Josh Powell has been under intense scrutiny since he told police he last saw her at 12:30 a.m. when he left her at home to go on a midnight "desert camping trip" in freezing conditions with his two sons, ages 2 and 4. Thus far, he has refused to retrace his whereabouts or give investigators an in-depth interview about the night's events.
West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan says police haven't been able to verify Josh Powell's story because snow had covered the spot along the Pony Express Trail in Utah's west desert where he said he went. Complicating the search for Susan Powell, McLachlan said police don't have a description of the clothing she was wearing when Josh Powell last saw her.
"I'm kind of concerned that all the focus is on him at the present. I mean he's told his story — believable or not — and I don't see him as capable of harming her. And the more time spent on him, the less time there is looking at other possibilities."
-- her father, Charles Cox,
who flew in from Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle
A prayer service was held for her Saturday in West Valley City and volunteers have posted thousands of fliers with her image on it. Following the prayer service, Josh Powell declined to answer questions from The Associated Press on Saturday.
"I can't say anything,"
-- Josh Powell
Susan Powell's friend, Kiirsi Hellewell, described her as a "girly girl" who liked to get dressed up when she went out with friends and make blankets for friends at church. She said that winter camping trip seemed out-of-character.
"They might go camping, but they would not do it in the winter, they would not do it in the middle of night and they wouldn't do it when they were expected at work the next day."
-- Susan Powell's friend, Kiirsi Hellewell
Tim Peterson says that he and other neighbors tried to call Josh all day Dec. 7 after his wife was reported missing, but it took him two hours to get home when they finally reached him.
"He just said he was driving around West Valley City. He wasn't in a big hurry to get home to find his wife. This guy was absolutely a crackpot and there was just something wrong with this whole situation."
-- Tim Peterson, neighbor
Days after friends reported her disappearance Josh dropped by his house with "wind-burned hands" and acted very strangely. He kept pulling out a bottle of lotion and reapplying it as they spoke.
"We kept asking about Susan, but all he could talk about was the new clothes and phone he'd gotten at Walmart after the police took his stuff for evidence. He was pretty unfazed. It's just a really crappy situation."
-- Tim Peterson, neighbor
Ten days after his wife, Susan, went missing, Joshua Powell knocked on a friend's door in tears. For the next hour, he sat on Wayne Hamberg's living room sofa, sobbing.
"He was so distressed, so despondent, so overwhelmed. The reason he's not talking to police is he's just shut down. He's so emotionally drained and everybody's attacking him, making him out to be a Mark Hacking or a Scott Peterson. The Josh I know is not some kind of evil guy. I don't believe that's he's suicidal or anything like that, but right now, I don't think he's capable of doing much more than tying his own shoelaces."
"I told him Tuesday night, when he came to see me, not to say anything to me about the circumstances, only to talk to his attorney. I want to be his friend, not somebody snooping around for a scoop. I'm there to support him and I'd like to think that he's innocent. I'd like to think that of all of my friends. I do know, though, that he thought Susan was overspending. So there were some financial problems. But that happens to a lot of families."
-- Wayne Hamberg, Powell's friend
Two days after Susan was reported missing, Josh rented a car.
For those 24 hours, Powell's whereabouts were unknown. Law enforcement sources tell Salt Lake City's Desert News that the car was returned with several hundred miles on the odometer, but no GPS data was stored and they don't know where the car was taken.
"We have an open, standing invitation for him to come and talk to us."
-- West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan
Powell is still refusing to be questioned by authorities.
Joshua left Utah with his two young sons over the weekend to spend the holidays in his hometown of Puyallup, Wash., with his father.
Late last year, Susan Powell told friends she was worried what would happen if she tried to divorce her husband. According to friends Susan had set up a separate bank account and had written an informal will. She ultimately decided to stay in the marriage and hoped to make the relationship work, friends say, but her husband was upset when he learned about the secret bank account. At Susan's insistence, the couple eventually got marriage counseling and the relationship seemed to improve.
An anonymous donor is now offering a reward of up to $10,000 for "original information" leading to the discovery of Susan Powell. If her disappearance is a crime, the reward will be given for information leading to an arrest.
Police are asking that anyone with information contact the West Valley City Police Department at 1-801-840-4000.