Share story

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — For the first time, Utah police said Monday they believe Susan Powell’s brother-in-law was “heavily involved” in disposing of her body, even as they announced they couldn’t solve the sensational case of a mother’s disappearance after nearly 3½ years.

West Valley police said the focus shifted to Michael C. Powell after his brother, Josh Powell, killed the couple’s two boys and himself 15 months ago.

Police announced Monday they were closing the investigation of Susan Powell’s disappearance, citing a lack of leads coupled with Michael Powell’s suicide months ago. They also released the case file, which shows Josh Powell had an affair with a woman he met through a dating service.

The police file contains tens of thousands of pages of documents, photographs and video, interview notes and voice-mail messages.

In one file, police revealed they interviewed a West Valley City woman who said she made contact with Josh Powell on the dating service Live Links six or seven months before Susan disappeared. The woman, identified only as Kourtney in police files, said she knew Powell by the name John Staley and didn’t know he was married.

The woman said Powell gave her $800 over the course of their relationship — for reasons that weren’t detailed in reports — and she discerned his real identity only after news broke of Susan Powell’s disappearance.

Police said they based their suspicion of Michael Powell’s involvement partly on a car he left at an Oregon junkyard only weeks after Susan Powell vanished. The junkyard is 200 miles from a forest outside Salem, Ore., where police searched last week, looking for a body. The search turned up nothing.

Deputy West Valley Police Chief Mike Powell — no relation — said authorities believe that Josh Powell killed his wife and that his brother later got involved in a cover-up. Michael Powell had denied any wrongdoing.

It was last August that Utah police discovered Michael Powell’s Ford Taurus at the junkyard near Pendleton, Ore. DNA from the upholstery in the car’s trunk was inconclusive, they said.

The Powell brothers used sophisticated computer encryption to communicate, according to West Valley City Deputy Chief Phil Quinlan. Investigators have been unable to decipher that encrypted communication, he said.

Investigators said they focused on the brother last year, when Josh Powell changed his insurance policy to list Michael Powell as a primary beneficiary.

Michael Powell, an ardent supporter of Josh Powell, killed himself Feb. 11 by leaping from a parking garage in Minneapolis.

Authorities believe the brothers were responsible for Susan Powell’s disappearance, but as they said repeatedly Monday, they never had enough evidence to bring charges.

Susan Powell was reported missing more than three years ago after failing to show up for work. Her husband
said he had taken the couple’s young boys on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures the night she was last seen.

Josh Powell eventually returned to the couple’s hometown of Puyallup, where he got caught up in a battle with Susan Powell’s parents for custody of the boys, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden.

On Feb. 5, 2012, he locked a social worker out of a rental home at the start of a supervised visit, attacked the boys with a hatchet and set the house afire. All three were killed in the blaze.