Josh Powell's in-laws said Thursday that Washington's child protection system is flawed and could better ensure the safety of children with changes in policy.
OLYMPIA — Josh Powell’s in-laws said Thursday that Washington’s child protection system is flawed and could better ensure the safety of children with changes in policy.
Since last summer, Chuck and Judy Cox had cared for Powell’s two young boys until he killed the children and himself in a fire earlier this month. They described personal frustrations with how the state handles child-custody cases, concluding that workers handling the Powell case were constrained by state laws and regulations.
“We believe there’s a lack of strong guidelines, and we believe there are policies and procedures that need to change,” Chuck Cox said.
The Coxes said they are supporting several changes to the system, including more rights for grandparents in court proceedings. They pushed restrictions on private home visitations, arguing that they had been concerned about allowing Powell to visit with the children while only one woman supervised the meeting.
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Chuck Cox also said he was bothered by the state’s persistent focus on trying to reunite children with their biological parents, especially when there are safety concerns.
“It just flies in the face of reason,” he said.
The Coxes and their attorneys are also backing a bill that would prohibit a child-custody award to a murder suspect.
Powell’s wife, Susan, vanished in 2009, but Utah authorities never publicly labeled her disappearance as a murder.
Investigators also never called Powell a suspect, although he was a person of interest in the case.
Powell maintained full care of his sons, Charlie and Braden, until last summer, when his father was arrested on voyeurism and child-pornography charges. The state then shifted custody to the Coxes but allowed Josh to have a few hours of supervised visits each week.
On one of those visits earlier this month, Powell locked out the woman who to supervise the visit, attacked the boys with a hatchet and then burned down the house.
Powell’s actions came just days after a psychologist recommended that he undergo a specialized psychosexual evaluation. Utah authorities had recently disclosed incestuous images that had been uncovered in a search warrant at Powell’s home two years ago.
The state’s Department of Social and Health Services also formed a team that will review the deaths of the children.
That panel, which is set to meet at the end of April, includes a psychologist who specializes in sex-offender-treatment law enforcement.