Skip to main content

The Tragedy of Susan Cox Powell and Her Children

I'm heart broken about the deaths of Susan Cox Powell's children, and the tragedy of their loss.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
Susan Cox Powell - Find Susan

Susan Cox Powell - Find Susan

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.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

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.

Dear Susan,

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...


Google phone

Check Out Her Apps- Carina

I’m not a phone gamer. I like to think I’m above such wastes of time. Except that I’m completely and totally hooked on Words with Friends.

Newborn Danica Camacho (AP)

Seven Billion Children

I've been hearing some rumbling about our 7 billionth person: how can the earth sustain that many people? But I think they're panicking over nothing.

charlie and chocolate factory

Favorite Children's Movies

Have you ever watched a movie as an adult that you loved as a child? It's an entirely different experience to see your favorite children's movies after all those years.


The Pageant Boy

I was watching Toddlers and Tiaras tonight (as I do) and one of the contestants was a little 6-year-old boy. For the sake of gossiping about him behind his (and his mother’s) back, I’ll call him Johnny...

AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura

Talking to Kids About the Japanese Earthquake

Once you become a mom, tragedies make your heart race and ache at the same time. Immediately you think about what you would do with your own little ones if the tsunami warnings blared.

The Economics of Parenthood, an interview with Susan Athey

Susan Athey is one of the most impressive young economists today. At just 37-years-old she has been a tenured professor at MIT, Stanford University and currently Harvard University. In this exclusive MamaVote interview, Susan shares her ideas on the economy and the economics of parenthood.

MamaVote Interviews Susan Bodine of the EPA

Think you can’t get anywhere unless you’re willing to work 60 hours a week? Susan Bodine shares how flexibility, cooperation and listening led her to a successful position in the EPA.

My Story: Senator Susan Collins

As a teen, Maine Senator Susan Collins spent a week in Washington D.C. with the United States Senate Youth Program. It was a week that would change her life. Learn ho the powerful example set by a legendary female senator propelled Senator Collins to strive for her own success in politics.