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Josh Powell's brother, Michael Powell, dead in apparent suicide

February 12, 2013|By Kim Murphy
  • Michael Powell, brother of Josh Powell, died Monday in Minneapolis.
Michael Powell, brother of Josh Powell, died Monday in Minneapolis. (University of Minnesota )

In the latest chapter of an almost operatic family tragedy, the brother of murder-suicide suspect Josh Powell has died in Minneapolis after apparently throwing himself from a seven-story parking structure.

A spokesman at the University of Minnesota, where Michael Powell was a graduate student, confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that the death occurred off campus and said the Minneapolis Police Department was investigating.

Powell, 30, had been engaged in a legal battle with the parents of his missing sister-in-law, Susan Cox Powell, over the proceeds of as much as $3.5 million in life insurance paid out after Josh Powell killed himself and the couple’s two young boys in February 2012.

Michael Powell, a doctoral student in cognitive science, had ardently defended his brother when Josh Powell was listed as a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, who was last seen at the couple’s Utah home in December 2009.

Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, have long believed their son-in-law was involved in their daughter’s disappearance. But Michael Powell started a website early in the case accusing the police of harassing his brother and alleging that the Coxes were not properly caring for the Powell children, then 7 and 5, after they had been removed from Josh Powell’s custody.

In a long statement on the case, Michael Powell said the police were guilty of “malice” and “incompetence” and failed to pursue other leads that might have explained Susan Powell’s disappearance.

The website was taken down not long after its launch. Michael Powell had not been heard from publicly since Josh Powell locked his boys in the house during what was supposed to be a supervised visitation, attacked them with a hatchet and set fire to the house, killing all three.

Josh Powell had designated his brother Michael and his sister Alina as beneficiaries on the life insurance policies in October 2011, four months before he died.

Michael and Alina Powell tried to collect on the policies a few weeks after their brother’s death, but the Coxes moved to block the distribution, arguing that Josh Powell should not have been entitled to disburse the money.

 “The authorities believe Susan is dead, that Josh Powell killed her and her children,” the Coxes’ attorney, Anne Bremner, wrote in a declaration filed with the court in July. “They further believe that one of Josh Powell’s motives for murder was to collect the life insurance policies.”

The Powell brothers' father, Steve Powell, is serving a prison term for his conviction on 14 counts of voyeurism after police found in his home large numbers of suggestive pictures of two young neighbor girls. Photographs of Susan Powell, some apparently taken surreptitiously while she undressed, were also found in her father-in-law's possession.

Minneapolis Police Sgt. Stephan McCarty said the death occurred Monday afternoon.

“An individual jumped from a parking ramp yesterday afternoon. He died at the scene,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

A spokeswoman for the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that the deceased was Michael Powell.

According to the University of Minnesota website, Powell had received a bachelor's degree in international sciences/Asia from the University of Washington and was a graduate of the Defense Language Institute’s Korean language program.

He was studying acquisition of structured information, such as language using neuroimaging techniques.

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