I remember the days after I first heard on the news that a woman named Susan Cox Powell had disappeared. She was the mother of two little boys, just like me, and lived a few towns away.
The boys, Charlie and Braden, were the same ages as my little boys. I heard her husband Josh Powell telling everyone that she’d walked away from her children. He’d taken the boys, who were then 4 and 2, in the middle of the night on a camping trip in December in a snow storm in the West Desert. Now, you may not be from Utah, but let me tell you, the West Desert is a DESERT; It is God-forsaken land. The idea that anyone would take preschoolers camping in a snow storm, to the freezing and isolated West Deseret, was beyond absurd, it was ludicrous. It’s like telling people you took your kids to the beach, on the Bering Sea, in December. Susan left her purse and disappeared, Josh claimed, against the word from Susan’s family and friends that she had been considering divorce.
You and I know, in our mother hearts, that those circumstances did not add up.
We would not voluntarily leave our purses, let alone our precious babies. There was no possible way that Susan left her babies voluntarily. Not Susan.
Since December of 2009, Josh Powell continued to avow his innocence, and Susan’s family continued to keep her memory alive. He took the children and moved to Washington State. The police here in Utah gathered evidence, questioned witnesses, and tried to assemble a case. The police in Washington tried to help. Unfortunately, real life isn’t usually like CSI and the movies: cases go cold, evidence is scarce, and the burden of proof is insurmountable in the face of dogged manipulation and deceit. Charlie and Braden had to live with their mother’s murderer.
Many more clues and evidence mounted in the next two years: Josh’s disgusting father, who lived with the children, was arrested and is now in jail on charges of voyeurism and child pornography. Custody was granted to Susan’s parents, the boy’s grandparents. Josh was allowed supervised visits with the children, and recently ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual examination to further determine custodial arrangements.
And then on Sunday, February 5th, Josh Powell shoved the Washington State social worker, who brought the boys and was there to supervise his visit, out of his home, barred the door, tried to murder his children, and intentionally set fire to the gasoline he’d put all over the house.
It is mind-boggling and unbearable. He killed his wife and then he killed her babies.
I’m a writer and I have struggled finding the words to put together.
My heart is broken. The Cox family lost their daughter, and then her children, to the same horrible, evil creature.
Rage, fury, horror, tears, anger, frustration, revenge–and against whom? A dead man? There’s nowhere to put our emotional burden. People in two states and across the country are grieving. We can’t dig him up and put him on trial. We can’t kill him slowly. There’s nothing to be done except look at the impotence of our hands and the bleeding of our hearts.
I am so, so sorry. I am sorry your babies had to live with the man who murdered you. I am sorry they had to live without your hugs and love for so long. I am sorry that he killed himself before we could make him tell us where you are. The police are still working on your case. I never did and never will forget you. We will find you.
Dear Cox and Graves Families,
We are so unbelievably sad for this horrific loss. We send you our love. We send you our prayers.
Our hearts feel your hearts. Our hands reach for yours. We feel it with you.
I don’t know what else to say…