WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – For the first time, Utah police said Monday they believe Susan Powell’s brother-in-law was “heavily involved” in getting rid of her body, even as they announced they couldn’t solve the sensational case of a mother’s disappearance after a nearly 3 1/2-year investigation.
West Valley police said the focus shifted to Michael C. Powell after Josh Powell killed the couple’s two boys and himself in a deliberately set house fire 15 months ago.
Police announced Monday they were closing the investigation of Susan Powell’s December 2009 disappearance, citing a lack of leads coupled with Michael Powell’s suicide months ago. They also released the case file, which shows Josh Powell had an affair with a woman he met through a dating service.
The police file contains tens of thousands of pages of documents, photographs and video.
In one file, police interviewed a West Valley City woman who said she made contact with Josh Powell on the dating service Live Links six or seven months before Susan disappeared. The woman, identified only as Kourtney in police files, said she knew Powell by the name John Staley, and didn’t know he was married.
Police said they based their suspicion of Michael Powell’s involvement partly on a car he left at an Oregon junkyard only weeks after Susan Powell disappeared. The junkyard is about 200 miles from a forest outside Salem, Ore., where authorities searched last week, looking for a body. The search turned up nothing, and police said they ran out of clues.
Deputy West Valley police Chief Mike Powell – no relation – said authorities believe Josh Powell killed his wife, and that his brother later got involved in a cover-up. Michael Powell denied any wrongdoing while under investigation.
It wasn’t until last August that Utah police discovered Michael Powell’s Ford Taurus at the junkyard outside Pendleton, Ore. DNA recovered from the upholstery inside the car’s trunk proved inconclusive, they said.
The Powell brothers used sophisticated computer encryption to communicate, according to West Valley City Deputy Chief Phil Quinlan. Investigators have been unable to decipher that encrypted communication, he said.
Investigators said they focused on the brother last year, when Josh Powell changed his insurance policy to list Michael Powell as a primary beneficiary, rather than his wife or children.
Michael Powell, an ardent supporter of Josh Powell, killed himself Feb. 11 by leaping from a parking garage in Minneapolis.