Family of Susan Powell sues state

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

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TACOMA, Wash. - A federal judge said when Josh Powell was ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation and a lie detector test on February 1, 2012, he walked out of court looking like a caged animal.

Four days later he killed himself and his sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, beating them with a hatchet before setting a match to his gasoline-soaked home during a visit supervised by state Child Protective Services.

Chuck Cox, the boys’ grandfather, father of their mother, Susan Cox Powell, claimed he called and warned CPS this could happen two days before the murders.

“He was cornered and I was concerned for the safety of the children at that time, and I made that known to the social worker,” Cox said.

Cox is suing the state, claiming Child Protective Services and the Department of Social and Health Services didn't act on warning signs Josh Powell was a threat.

The state is asking a federal judge to throw out the case, saying CPS is immune because case workers were simply obeying a judge's order to carry out the visit.

In a hearing in Tacoma Thursday attorneys for CPS said there's no record of the phone call by Cox or a warning by Pierce County Sheriff's detectives that Powell was a danger to his sons as Cox claimed.

“This was a hunch that he was a very dangerous person,” said Assistant Attorney General Peter Helmberger. “Well of course he was a very dangerous person. That was everybody’s hunch. But you need evidence in order to move forward.”

Cox's attorneys are asking that the state’s motion for summary judgment be denied—saying they want their day in court.

“We have to hold people accountable when children die, especially when they die at the hands of their father with a hatchet,” said Cox attorney Anne Bremner.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton called the case a tragedy of “epic proportion."

Leighton’s decision on whether or not the case will go before a jury is expected within two weeks.