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Search for Susan Cox Powell in Oregon reveals no answers

Susan Cox Powell
Susan Cox Powell

WEST VALLEY CITY — An extensive two-day search of a farm near Salem, Ore., brought out search dogs and investigators but West Valley police did not find the remains of Susan Cox Powell.

Chuck Cox, Susan's father, was on hand for the search Wednesday, which he said seemed promising following a tip he received and passed on to investigators.

Cox was told by a source he declined to name that relatives of Steven Powell, Susan's father-in-law, had told members of the Powell family they would be willing to help hide a body on a remote piece of property, should the need arise. That tip prompted the search of an estimated 180 acres of land in Oregon that the family had been renting around the time of the disappearance.

Cox said the scene was impressive, watching five teams of local police joined by West Valley officers and using cadaver dogs to comb the property. He described it as "hunting country," a remote, rugged area in the foothills outside Salem.

The location seemed logical — this might be "the one," he thought.

"It seemed like it fit," he said. "She just wasn't there. The dogs didn't find anything."

West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle said the city is still deeply committed to the search for the missing Utah mother, but the end of the case might be drawing nearer.

"Although we will be following every credible lead that we believe would lead us to a resolution of the case, yes, of course, at some point you do run out of leads to follow, and at that point we'll make the decision of when and how to close the case," Pyle said. "I believe we're close to that point."

West Valley Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell confirmed the search had yielded nothing significant, but said the team of 15 to 20 officers, specialized searchers and four to five dogs intended to search again Thursday, and would evaluate at the end of the day whether to continue.

They are searching for any clues, evidence or additional tips, he said. The group began searching the private property Tuesday morning and searched 10 to 12 hours each day. He described it as a very wooded area and difficult terrain to search.

The deputy chief confirmed that a warrant was filed in order for the search to be conducted, but declined to give details about the search warrant. He stressed that every search West Valley police have conducted in the case has been very meticulous.

Susan Powell went missing from her West Valley City home in December 2009, the start of years of tragedy and unanswered questions. She is presumed dead but the case remains open.

Her husband, Josh Powell, was long considered a suspect in the disappearance, but was never arrested or charged. Josh Powell killed himself and the couple's two young sons in February 2012 in a massive fire during a custody visit at a home he rented in Graham, Wash.

Cox said he hopes the search will generate new tips that could finally lead to answers about his daughter's disappearance. Nevertheless, Wednesday's fruitless search was disheartening for him.

"It's depressing," he said. "We're not sure she'll ever be found. But you just can't give up, because, you know, she's your daughter."

Steve Powell, 63, was convicted last year of 12 counts of voyeurism for filming his young neighbors while they were in their own bathrooms. He was ordered to serve 30 months in prison, and with credit for the time he had already served prior to the June 2012 sentencing, will be released next week on May 23.

Photos and journals discovered during the investigation indicate Steve Powell was obsessed with his daughter-in-law, Susan Powell.

Contributing: Devon Dolan, Pat Reavy, Marjorie Cortez


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