Susan Powell has been in the back of my mind for years now. I remember very clearly watching an interview in which Josh Powell, Susan’s husband, was interviewed only a couple of days after Susan went missing. I watched casually at first. Then, as he kept talking, trying to answer each question that the reporter was asking him, I started to pay a little closer attention. Something wasn’t right here.
I had never seen a news interview like this before. Josh had just pulled up to the house in his car (the same car, presumably, that he allegedly used to transport the body of his wife to her unknown final resting place). It was snowing outside and there was a fresh layer of crunchy snow on the streets and rooftops. The news reporter walked as quickly as he could across the snowy road to Josh’s car and began sympathetically….
“How are you doing? I know this has been difficult for you.” says the reporter after having shaken Josh’s hand (I can only imagine what that hand shake may have felt like)
Josh replies vapidly as he aimlessly darts his eyes here and there.
“Um….well…..I’ve been trying to figure out…what I can do so I don’t sit idle.” Josh then continues to answer the reporter’s questions half-heartedly, incorrectly, and disingenuously.
About halfway through the interview I knew he was guilty. I don’t remember who I was with when I saw the interview but I do remember that I said to that person, “That dude killed his wife.”
I’ve been following the Susan Powell case ever since.
Last week at work I was explaining to some friends and coworkers my obsession with the case. I told them in detail of the events that followed the interview – the search for Susan, the accusations toward Josh, his brother, and Steven Powell, Josh’s father, who is now serving an at least five year sentence in a Washington State prison on charges of child pornography and voyeurism (we’ll get to his story soon enough).
My friends ate it up. They quickly became interested in the story. When you tell the Susan Powell story as often as I have, you can usually tell when you’ve got your audience hooked. Its always right about when you start to mention what happened to Josh.
“So is he in prison?” everyone asks. “Did he get caught?”
“Far from it. He was never charged. No one was. And just a couple of years ago Josh took his two little boys into the house, locked the door, poured gasoline on everyone and everything, and blew the house up, killing him and his kids.”
Thats when people realize that this is no stereotypical murder mystery. There is something different about this whole case. You can feel it when you read the news articles online about alibis and motives. You can feel it when you watch video of Susan on Youtube documenting her worldly possessions the year before she disappears “just in case something happens” to her. If you get hooked on this case, there’s no letting go. You’re in. And like me, you may find yourself telling Susan’s story years later, almost a decade later, to interested friends and coworkers.
“We should find her.” my coworker said.
“Yeah. I wish,” I replied. “We should get whats-her-name to make it season three of Serial.”
“Screw that! We’ll just find her. It’ll be an adventure.” the coworker said, coldly.
“I guess we could. I mean, we know enough. It would be nice to bring closure to the family. They’ve been looking for her ever since she vanished. It might be useful to have an outside perspective. Fresh eyes.”
And that was pretty much it. We kept talking about the case, about what we thought may have happened, where she might be. We decided that we would at least give it a shot. Why not just dabble a bit and see what searching for a missing woman would entail. Who knows, it could be educational.
So we started. We figured the best place to start was the beginning. Where it all happened. We would drive up to old Powell house and sit in our car in the street and soak in the feeling, tap into whatever may be lingering in the air, talk about the case, and think about how we would solve this case if we were serious about it.
Today we drove up to the house in West Valley City on our lunch break and scoped things about. Two of the braver ones in the group actually got out and walked around the house, took pictures, and even rang the doorbell. The other two sat in the car and occasionally glanced over at the people repairing and old fence in the front yard of the house next door. I bet they see this type of thing all the time – teenagers or immature adults on their lunch breaks pulling up to the house and pointing. Or maybe they never see it because its been so long and no one cares anymore. The house looked abandoned, unlived in, but sturdy. The grass and bushes were overgrown. The cracks in the driveway cement were sprouting enthusiastic weeds everywhere. There were fruit trees in the backyard. We couldn’t help saying to each other “How could you comfortably kill someone in such a small cul-de-sac with houses and neighbors practically hugging your home on either side?”
We poked around for a few minutes, then got back in the car, and drove away. Ostensibly, it wasn’t much. Just a dumb trip to an old alleged crime scene. But a little deeper down, down into that part of me that can’t help but think of Susan and the tragedy of her family every so often throughout the years, I felt something. This was a place where something significant happened. Something happened behind that door, past the drawn shades of those windows, in the dark of the closed garage. Something happened. Maybe, just maybe, we could find out what. I mean, why not?