When he returned home about an hour later, a police detective asked why he hadn’t answered his phone all day, and Powell answered that he had had to keep the phone off to conserve the battery because he didn’t have a phone charger. “Det. Maxwell clearly saw Joshua Powell’s mobile phone sitting on the center console plugged into a cigarette lighter phone charger,” the affidavit said.
Asked why he hadn’t called in to report he would not be at work that day, Powell told police he had gone on the sudden camping trip to check out his new generator and had thought the next day was Sunday, not Monday. When he realized the mistake, he said, he figured he was going to be fired and so never called his employer.
When police searched Powell’s car, they found a generator, blankets, a gas can, tarps and a shovel, along with his wife’s cellphone — minus the SIM card.
Not long after that, Powell stopped answering questions and wanted a lawyer. But detectives talked with family friends, who said Susan had talked of divorcing her husband, and Powell had made comments to someone “about how to kill someone, dispose of the body and not get caught.” Another said Powell had talked about how the western desert of Utah was full of mine shafts and tunnels “so you could dispose of someone and no one would ever search for the body.”
After leaving the police station Tuesday (with his car still in police custody), Powell rented a car about 10:30 p.m. at Salt Lake International Airport. He also bought a new cellphone, which he activated the next afternoon about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City. He returned the car at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, having driven it more than 800 miles.
On Dec. 14, seven days after his wife went missing, Powell contacted the family day-care provider and informed them that the children would not be coming back. A day later, he canceled all of his wife’s future chiropractor appointments. On Dec. 17, he emptied her individual retirement account.
Finally, detectives talked to one of the couple’s two boys, the 7-year-old identified only as C.P. “Mommy went camping with them, although she did not come back home with him,” detectives said he told them in their interview. “He did not know why.”
Later, though, C.P. was warned at Sunday school by an unwitting teacher that she was going to go get his parents if he didn’t stop misbehaving.
“C.P. stated with no emotion and with no hesitation, ‘My mom is dead.’”
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