CPS on trial in 2012 deaths of missing woman Susan Powell’s boys

The trial for a civil lawsuit against Washington state’s child welfare program began Monday. The parents of Puyallup native Susan Powell are suing Child Protective Services, saying the state should have known her two boys, Charlie and Braden, were in danger before they were killed by their father.

Susan Powell disappeared from West Valley City, Utah, in Dec. 2009, where she lived with her husband, Josh Powell, and their boys. Her body was never found.

Some legal experts say Utah prosecutors had enough evidence to convict Powell for his wife’s murder. He was never charged in the case.

A month after his wife disappeared, Powell moved with his boys to Washington State.

Three years later, in Feb. 2012, he was ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation and lie detector test.

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Four days later, he attacked and killed his two sons, ages 5 and 7, and then himself when he set his house on fire in Graham.

The boys had been living with Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, when they were killed during what was supposed to be a supervised visit with their father in the midst of a custody battle. But when the boys ran ahead of the social worker to see their dad, Powell locked the social worker out of the house.

Police say Powell first attacked his sons with a hatchet and then spread gasoline throughout the home and lit it, creating an explosive inferno. No one survived.

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The boys' grandfather, Chuck Cox, said he called and warned CPS two days before the murders.

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

Chuck and Judy Cox filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state in 2012, claiming Washington’s Child Protective Services and Department of Social and Health Services didn’t act on warning signs that showed Josh Powell was a threat.

The case was at first dismissed, but the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Jan. 2019 the lawsuit could go forward.

The trial in Pierce County Superior Court began at 9 a.m.