SALEM, ore. — Not many people besides Job could fathom the depths of Chuck Cox's despair. At this point in his world, burying your daughter next to your grandsons would be a blessing -- not a nightmare. But even that modest prayer goes unanswered Wednesday night.
Back in January, more than three years after his daughter Susan Cox Powell disappeared from her Utah home, an anonymous tipster told him about a place in Oregon that he might want to check out. It was a remote, wooded area near Salem where Susan and her husband Josh had visited. Mr. Cox says the tipster told him the couple "would drive because you could do anything you want and nobody would even know what you were doing out there." Back when Susan first saw it, the land probably looked idyllic, but now the description sounds ominous. The land was once rented by Josh's paternal aunt, a relative who continued to defend him even after it looked more and more certain he was responsible for his wife's disappearance.
West Valley City police looked into the tip and developed enough other leads to get the warrant to search the property over the last two days. Mr. Cox was there for the search and talked to us when he returned Wednesday night to his home in Puyallup. He says they found some bones, which are probably animal bones, but authorities will test them to be sure. They took other items too. All of it will be tested to see if it can be connected in any way to Susan. Each piece tugs at Mr. Cox's hopes. "I've had moments where I think, 'Wow - is this going to be it?" he says, "Is this going to be the chance to lay her to rest whatever, we find of her -- with her boys?
No is the answer Wednesday night. The boys, Charlie and Braden, are buried side by side without their mom, since their father killed them and then himself in February of 2012. The horrors of the case seem to outnumber the clues. Authorities have searched for Susan in Utah, in the deserts of Nevada, and now in Oregon. "It's good that nobody is giving up," Mr. Cox says. He also realizes some may believe it's grasping at straws. He believes it's grasping at hope. "We looked, we tried. It's not over yet. They have things to look at and the police are not giving up," he says, trying to be upbeat. "The police assured me if they get a tip 20 years from now, they'll still send a bunch of people."
They may still be chasing leads in 20 years. Blessing or nightmare?