Steven Powell during closing arguments in his trial on voyeurism charges. (Ted S. Warren / Associated…)
SEATTLE -- The case against Steven Powell is over: A jury has convicted him of 14 counts of voyeurism stemming from photos of two young neighbor girls found in his bedroom. But police appear no closer to zeroing in on the bigger question of what happened to his daughter-in-law, Susan Cox Powell, who was captured in various stages of undress in the furtively collected photos.
The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated less than a day before convicting the 62-year-old Puyallup, Wash., resident Wednesday of all 14 charges against him, a case that could bring a maximum of five years in prison on each count.
It was a case of high drama, featuring appearances from the girls who were just 8 and 10 when Powell allegedly filmed them from his neighboring bedroom window, and also Powell’s daughter, Jennifer Graves. The latter avoided her father’s eyes as she testified about the handwriting in his journals and talked later about what she said was her father’s longstanding “pornography problem.”
“Oh, I know he took those pictures,” Graves told reporters outside the courtroom, according to the Deseret News. “He's had a pornography problem for as long as I can remember. And with pornography, you don't sit on the fence. You either get worse or you get better. You take steps to improve and get that out of your life or you go down the other path and you end up doing worse and worse things. So it's not a surprise at all to me he's ended up where he's at now.”
Meanwhile, Powell’s other daughter, Alina, launched a website this week aimed at countering what she says are misstatements about her father and his relationship with Susan. It includes audio and video of the family in pleasant moments, including clips of Susan and Steven singing together.
“Susan and Steve made beautiful music together; here are a couple of audio segments in which the two worked together on love songs written by Steve. Susan's voice can be heard singing along with Steve in these songs,” she wrote.
Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, said they were “relieved” by the guilty verdicts, but also admitted they were frustrated that the case — uncovered when police were searching Steven Powell’s home for evidence of what happened to their daughter — did not shed any light on her disappearance.
Powell’s son Joshua, Susan’s husband, was a person of interest in that case when he killed himself and the couple’s two young sons this year. The Cox family has said they are convinced Steven Powell had conversations with his son about what happened to their daughter, though both of the Powells said repeatedly they believed Susan Powell disappeared of her own accord.
“Steve and Josh have over the last two years done nothing but avoid answering for the things they've done. And they won't give anyone a straight answer on anything, so it's not surprising,” Chuck Cox told the Deseret News.
During the trial, Powell’s attorneys argued there was reason to doubt whether it was Powell who had taken the photos in question, or whether they constituted voyeurism.
But prosecutors noted a camera whose model number matched the pictures of the girls on the disc was found in Powell’s room, and the disc also contained images of Powell urinating and masturbating.
“He was sitting there, lurking in the shadows, leering at the girls,” deputy Pierce County prosecutor Grant Blinn told the jury during closing arguments on Tuesday.
Judge Ronald E. Culpepper set sentencing for June 15.
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