Powell's daughter-in-law went missing and his son — a suspect — killed himself and his own two children in a fire he set in Pierce County. He served prison time for voyeurism and possession of child pornography.
Steven Powell, a key figure in a gruesome saga that started in 2009 with the disappearance of his daughter-in-law and ended last year with his release from prison after serving time for possession of child pornography, died Sunday. He was 68.
Powell died in a Tacoma hospital as a result of heart problems, said Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer.
Powell was the father-in-law of Susan Powell, a woman who went missing from her home in West Valley City, Utah, in 2009 and was never found. Josh Powell, who was Steven’s son and Susan’s husband, was the primary suspect in his wife’s disappearance.
In 2011, investigators searched Steven Powell’s Puyallup house, where Josh and his children lived at the time, for clues into Susan Powell’s disappearance. They found thousands of voyeuristic images — including photos of the young girls next door using the bathroom and of Susan Powell. Police said Steven had a sexual obsession with Susan.
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“She actually moved away to Utah because he was obsessed with her,” said Anne Bremner, the attorney representing Susan Powell’s parents.
In her diary entries leading up to the disappearance, Susan wrote that she feared her husband and what he might do to her and their children.
In 2012, Josh Powell killed his two sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, and himself by setting their house in Graham, Pierce County, on fire. West Valley City police said they believe Josh killed his wife and that his brother Michael Powell helped him dispose of the body. Michael killed himself about a year after Josh did. After Michael’s death, police closed the case in 2013 because they did not have any leads.
Susan Powell’s parents hoped Steven Powell might shed light on the missing woman’s case.
“When he was in jail, we thought he would say something,” Bremner said. “There are a lot of secrets that will be buried with him.”
Steven Powell was convicted of voyeurism in 2012 and served a 30-month sentence. The trial court had dismissed the charge of possession of child pornography in 2012, but the state Court of Appeals reinstated the charge in 2014. He was convicted of the crime in 2015 and released from prison last July after serving another two years.
Chuck Cox, Susan Powell’s father, is still searching for his missing daughter, and has recruited the help of volunteers and at least one private investigator, according to Bremner.
“Michael killed himself, Josh killed himself and his kids — you just look at that broken family and you wonder about Steven Powell,” Bremner said. “I’ve never seen a more tragic case.”
Information from previous Seattle Times articles and The Associated Press is included in this report.
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