PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — A woman contracted by the Department of Social and Health Services fought tears as she described the last moments of Charlie and Braden Powell’s lives before they died at the hands of their father, Josh Powell, eight years ago.
“I was panicked. I was absolutely panicked,” Elizabeth Griffin Hall said during her second day of testimony in a lawsuit filed by the boy’s grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox.
Griffin Hall described taking the children to their father’s home in Graham on Feb. 5, 2012, for a visit she was assigned to supervise. Powell had lost custody of his sons temporarily to the Coxes as law enforcement investigated the disappearance of his wife, Susan Cox Powell, in Utah two years earlier.
Griffin Hall said as she took the boys to visit their father, they ran to him as he scooped them up, and locked the front door. “And so I pounded on the door and said, Josh let me in, let me in right now!'” she said. “I ran to the garage, and when I got to the garage, I could smell gasoline, and I knew something was terribly wrong then. I had heard him tell the boys to lay facedown, that daddy had a surprise. And then there was an explosion.”
Powell had bludgeoned his sons with a hatchet, then poured gasoline on them and inside the home, sparking a fiery explosion. All three died.
At the time of their deaths, Powell had been named as a person of interest in his wife disappearance and ordered to undergo a polygraph and psychosexual evaluation by a Pierce County Superior Court judge as he fought to regain custody of the boys. Chuck and Judy Cox are suing the Department of Social and Health Services, accusing the agency of failing to protect their grandsons.
Griffin Hall said she thought about Cox Powell as the house in front of her exploded, killing her children. “I wanted to drop down dead so that I could take the children to Susan so they could find her in heaven,” Griffin Hall said.
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