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Steven Powell dies of heart attack at Washington hospital, police say

SHARE Steven Powell dies of heart attack at Washington hospital, police say

SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps the final chapter in the infamous case of the Powell family has now ended.

Steven Powell, whose family made headlines for years following the disappearance of his Utah daughter-in-law Susan Cox Powell and the subsequent murder of her two young sons by their father Josh Powell, died Monday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.

Pierce County sheriff's detective Ed Troyer, who investigated cases involving the Powell family in Washington, confirmed the death Tuesday, saying Steven Powell, 67, died from a heart attack.

No autopsy will be performed, he said. His body was taken to a funeral home. Troyer said Powell had recently been experiencing heart issues.

Powell was released from a Washington state prison just one year ago in early July of 2017 after serving a full term for possessing child pornography. At that time, he was placed under community supervision for two years, with regular visits by the equivalent of a parole officer.

Investigators believe Josh Powell murdered his wife while they lived in West Valley City, but her body has never been found and he was never charged with any crime. Over the years, detectives suspected that Steven Powell knew more than he ever told police, even suspecting at times that he may have helped plot her disappearance.

Troyer said Tuesday he and his investigators wish they had been with Steven Powell even just 30 minutes before he died to see if he would have shared any new information with them.

Powell's estranged daughter, Jennifer Graves, said Tuesday she was surprised to hear of her father's death. The last contact she had with him was when she testified against him.

Graves said she doesn't know if her father helped kill her sister-in-law, but believes he knew more than he ever let on.

"Obviously my brother committing suicide and my other brother Michael committing suicide who also knew stuff and then my dad. I mean he's kind of taken that stuff to the grave unless he's left physical evidence," she said.

"I don't know if they're going to find anything, but we can be hopeful."

Susan Powell disappeared in December of 2009. The night before she went missing, her husband took their two young children camping in single-digit temperatures in a remote part of Tooele County in the middle of the night. When he returned a day and a half later, he said his wife was gone.

Josh Powell soon moved with his sons to his father's house in Puyallup, Washington. Meanwhile, investigators continued to conduct multiple searches for Susan Powell without success.

In August of 2011, Utah and Washington police served search warrants at the Puyallup home not long after Steven Powell said in TV interviews that he was in love with his daughter-in-law. Her friends and family said she told them her father-in-law had made inappropriate advances on her, that she "despised" him and had forbidden him from entering their West Valley home.

Journals, videos and photographs were among the items in bags and boxes of evidence taken from the home in the search. A month later in September, the two boys were removed from the house, launching a custody battle between Josh Powell and his in-laws, Chuck and Judy Cox. Steven Powell was charged with possession of child pornography and 14 counts of voyeurism.

Then in February 2012, days after a judge ruled against him in a child custody hearing, Josh Powell murdered his two young sons, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden, while committing suicide by dousing his rental home in Graham, Washington, with gasoline and setting it on fire.

A Child Protective Services worker had just brought the boys to the home, but Josh Powell blocked the worker from entering after the boys were taken inside.

In May 2012, Steven Powell was convicted of 14 counts of voyeurism for taking pictures of two young neighbor girls, ages 8 and 10. The photos had been confiscated during the search. A judge later dismissed two of the charges and sentenced him to 30 months behind bars.

In August of 2015, Powell was sentenced to five years in prison for possession of child pornography. It was a charge that had been dismissed at his original trial but was later reinstated after an appeals court ruled the judge had erred in his decision to dismiss it.

After Steven Powell was convicted, his two victims filed a multimillion-dollar civil suit against him and won. The house that Powell lived in where he took the voyeuristic pictures was seized and awarded to the girls as part of the settlement.

West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku issued a statement Tuesday emphasizing that Steven Powell never provided them information about his daughter-in-law's disappearance.

"The Susan Powell disappearance case remains assigned to a detective in the West Valley City Police Department. Although all leads in the case have been exhausted and the case has gone cold, we stand ready to act on any new information that might provide resolution in this challenging case.

"Steven Powell, the father of Josh Powell, has not provided any information in the past to aid with the investigation into Susan's disappearance. Steven Powell's death does not change the status of the Susan Powell disappearance case, nor does his death make the case any more or less likely to be solved.

"Our thoughts today are with the Cox family members who have suffered extensively with the disappearance of their daughter and death of their grandchildren, as well as with the surviving members of the Powell family."

Graves said her father's death gives her peace of mind that he's not going to come after her or her family. She contemplates his negative influence on others, like her brother, but says people still have to make their own choices.

What also gives her peace is her belief that Susan Powell is with her boys.

Contributing: Caitlin Burchill