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4,500 photos released in case of missing Utah woman Susan Powell

December 07, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • At Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup, Wash., is the gravesite of Charlie and Braden Powell, who were killed by their father, Josh Powell, before taking his own life earlier this year.
At Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup, Wash., is the gravesite of Charlie and… (Ted S. Warren/Associated…)

Susan Cox Powell, the Utah woman who went missing three years ago today, was the object of familial obsession, according to more than 4,500 photographs and journals released by authorities.

The images, some of which are suggestive without being explicit, were released Thursday to the Associated Press, which sought them under Washington state’s public records law.

The pictures were in computer files discovered last year by authorities who were searching for evidence in Powell's December 2009 disappearance; the computer was found at the Washington state home where her husband, Josh, was then living with his father, Steven.

The Powell case reads like a tragic American novel complete with mysterious disappearances, murder, arson and voyeurism. Powell was 28, the mother of two, when she vanished from her Utah home, prompting a national search that proved fruitless despite numerous tips from a distraught public.

Her husband, Josh, the only named person of interest in the case, moved from Utah to Washington state about a month after his wife disappeared and remained aloof from the search. Josh, who was never charged in the case and his father, Steven, said they believed that Susan might have run off with another man, though no one else ever confirmed the story.

Josh Powell killed himself and the couple's two young sons in February in an arson fire at his rental home in Graham, Wash., south of Tacoma.

Steven Powell, 61, was arrested and charged with taking photos of two young girls while they were in a bathroom. He was convicted of voyeurism charges in May and has invoked his constitutional right not to discuss Susan Powell’s disappearance with authorities.

Last year, authorities searched the house that Steven and Josh Powell  shared and found the computer. Some of the images, including the bathing girls who lived next door, were used as evidence in the voyeurism case against Steven Powell.

But other photos show a variety of women apparently unaware that a camera is focused on them as they walk along sidewalks, at the park or into the mall, the Associated Press reported.

Then there are the pictures of Susan Powell, with whom Steven appeared to be fascinated. None of the pictures show her naked, though there are images of her crotch and backside. The computer folder contains nearly 4,500 images, the wire service said.

In the journals that authorities also made public, Powell describes himself as a "voyeur" and Susan as an "exhibitionist." He talks about using a mirror to spy on her under the bathroom door, and he writes about taking sexual pleasure in looking at images of Susan Powell that he kept on his computer.

In one entry, dated a few months before Susan Powell disappeared, Steve Powell wrote that he had just awakened "from a most pleasant dream about Susan."

According to AP, he described a sexually charged dream in which Susan asked him, “Do you think I would make a good wife for you?”

The Utah investigation into the disappearance is continuing, police reported.

"At this time the investigation continues to be active but has been scaled down," the West Valley City police said in a prepared statement. "The number of full time investigators assigned has been reduced. Some investigative tasks remain to be completed as follow-ups are coordinated. The department remains committed to this investigation."

On Thursday night, about 100 people attended a vigil at the Washington cemetery where the Powells' children, Charlie and Brendan, are buried.

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