WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A Utah mayor is defending his police department’s handling of the Susan Powell case, insisting it did everything it could to resolve it.
After Friday’s release of court documents linking Josh Powell to the 2009 disappearance of his wife, her family and prosecutors in Washington questioned why he wasn’t arrested for her murder before he killed himself and their two young children two months ago.
West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder told the Deseret News that it’s easy to go back and second guess police decisions, especially after the Feb. 5 death of the two boys in a gas-fueled house inferno in Graham.
“It is easy to Monday morning quarterback these things. It is easy for those of us who watch TV to say, ‘Hey, there is plenty of evidence,’” Winder said. “It is a different matter if you are in the legal community to have enough evidence to go in for an arrest.”
West Valley City police have repeatedly said they are treating the case as a missing-person matter. They still don’t have a body, and no firm answers on where — and if — a murder took place.
Susan Powell’s father, Chuck Cox, said he pleaded with police to arrest his son-in-law, and his two grandsons would be safe had investigators acted.
“I did everything within my power to ask them, would they please arrest him if they have enough, if they think they’re even close, would they go ahead and do it. And they assured me they were doing the best they could at the time,” Cox told the Deseret News.
Attorney Anne Bremner, who represents Chuck and Judy Cox, said she was shocked police didn’t make an arrest given the information they had.
Among a heap of evidence, West Valley City police found Susan Powell’s blood in the family home, a hand-written letter in which she wrote that she did not trust her husband and a young son who said that mom was dead.
“There was compelling evidence he killed her,” said Bremner, a former prosecutor in the King County Attorney’s Office. “I prosecuted cases on far less than that and won them. There was enough evidence to arrest Josh, and if he had been arrested, the boys would be alive.”
But Winder pointed out that Washington authorities were ultimately responsible for the safety of the two boys.
“They had that information, they had that knowledge that was revealed (Friday),” he said.
Winder said he’s aware of the emotion involved in the Powell case, and the public is rightfully disturbed.
“We all just ache and grieve with the Cox family as we have watched what has unfolded,” he said. “But I will tell you this: No one cared more about this case than (Police Chief) Buzz Nielsen and his officers.
“They put in many hours, and blood, sweat and tears. The last thing they were going to do is make a premature arrest and let someone slip through the fingers of justice,” the mayor added.