Friday marked nine years since a young wife and mother, her husband and her two young sons were first reported missing from West Valley City – Susan Powell, whose family returned without her.
Debbie Caldwell, the Powells’ daycare provider, was the first to realize the family was missing when no one showed up to drop off Charlie, 4, and Braden, 2. Because it was a cold and snowy commute, she attributed the tardiness to the weather, at least early in the day.
It was her phone call to the Powells’ emergency contact, Josh Powell’s sister, Jennifer Graves, that prompted the first official report to police. At 9:53 a.m., Graves drove toward Josh and Susan’s home in West Valley City while Josh’s mother, Terrica Powell, called 911.
Police broke a window to gain access to the home over concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning. No one was home, but police did find two box fans blowing on what appeared to be a freshly-cleaned couch, and Susan’s purse, undisturbed in the bedroom.
At 6:40 p.m., Josh Powell finally arrived home with Charlie and Braden, but without Susan.
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At a nearby West Valley City Police Department substation, Det. Ellis Maxwell conducted the first official interview with Josh Powell that night. Powell claimed he’d taken the boys on a camping trip to the desert west of Salt Lake City, on the Pony Express Trail, a washboard dirt road where four-wheel drive is recommended even in good weather.
Records would later reveal no activity on Josh Powell’s cell phone between 12:14 p.m. on December 6 and 3:02 p.m. on December 7. That first call, received from the mother of a boy who sometimes babysat the Powell boys, routed through a tower in West Valley City.
“Did you call Susan?” Maxwell asked Powell on the night of December 7.
“At work, yeah,” Josh Powell answered in that interview. “In fact, I called her when I got back into range.”
“Where’d you get cell service at, when did you pick that up?” Maxwell asked.
“Oh, it seems like I called her when I was getting onto the freeway,” Josh answered.
Phone records confirm Josh Powell did place a call to Susan at 3:36 p.m., with his cell phone routing through a tower at Point of the Mountain, a site south of Salt Lake City. Records show there was another call placed to Susan’s cell phone at 5:43 p.m. from the parking lot of Wells Fargo, where she worked.
Later that night, Maxwell would ask Powell for permission to search the family’s minivan. During that search, Maxwell’s partner discovered, deep in the center console, a pink Motorola cell phone. If Josh had Susan Powell’s cell phone in the minivan with him all along, why did he place those calls?
Episode 5 of Cold, a podcast produced by KSL in Salt Lake City, will address those cell phone records and the statements of Josh Powell’s that conflicted with the evidence. You can catch up on episodes 1 – 4 here as well as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify and other podcast providers.
Click here to read the story on mynorthwest.com.