Powell family 'will have their day in court'

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:


The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services lost a bid Friday to have a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Susan Powell thrown out.

Lawyers for DSHS argued the agency cannot be held responsible for the 2012 murder suicide that took the lives Susan’s children, Charlie and Braden Powell, who died in a fiery explosion set by their father, Josh Powell.

Chuck and Judy Cox filed the suit shortly after the boys were murdered claiming they had warned DSHS that Powell posed a threat to his sons saying their pleas for help to DSHS officials were ignored.

“These boys are in the care and custody and control of the department at the very time they they’re murdered,” Cox family attorney Cheryl Snow said.

Powell set his rental home in Graham ablaze on February 5th, 2012 after a DSHS contract case worker brought them to the home for a supervised visit. Powell slammed the door on the caseworker, bludgeoned his sons with an ax then ignited gas he had poured throughout the home. 

“It’s time for the department to stop blaming others,” Snow said.

But attorneys for DSHS claim they have immunity from the suit because they were following a court order to facilitate visits between Josh Powell and his sons while he fought the Coxes for custody. 

At the time Powell was a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife Susan who vanished from the couple’s Valley City, Utah home in December 2009. He was later called a suspect in her murder.

Her body has never been found.

“The sad reality is that when somebody makes a decision that the only way out of their circumstances is to murder their children and commit suicide, it’s guess work as to where and how that would be done,” DSHS attorney Peter Helmerberger said.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Jerry Costello denied the motion for summary judgment saying, “the Cox family will have their day in court.”

Trial is scheduled to begin September 29th.

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.