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Desert search continues for Utah mother missing since 2009

September 18, 2011 |  1:57 pm

Utah

Police continued to search the Utah desert Sunday for the remains of Susan Powell, a young mother of two from West Valley City who went missing two years ago.

Powell, 28, a stockbroker, was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for work.

Searchers have been combing the desert since Monday. On Wednesday, body-sniffing dogs indicated there might be human remains at a spot near Topaz Mountain about 130 miles from where Powell was last seen, West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell told the Associated Press.

Police didn't find any remains at the spot but they did find charred chips of wood that will be examined by forensics experts, the Associated Press reported.

“We hoped we would find the hard evidence that everybody wanted,” West Valley City Lt. Bill Merritt told the Associated Press. But Merritt said the charred wood chips were still held promise for investigators.

“They obviously have some type of human decomposition on them because that's what the dogs are hitting on,” Merritt told the AP.

The wood chips were sent back to Salt Lake City for further examination.

Dozens of officers and cadaver dogs were still searching Sunday in the area around Topaz Mountain.

The area is about 30 miles south of where Powell's husband, Josh Powell, told police he took his two young children camping on the night his wife vanished. He told police he and the boys — who were 4 and 2 — left his wife at home at about 12:30 a.m. in the midst of what local television reports described as a snow and rain storm. The 4-year-old confirmed the trip to police.

Josh Powell is a person of interest in the case, officials have said, but he has not been arrested or charged in connection with her disappearance. He has said he believes his wife ran off with another man.

Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, a former investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration, said he always knew the search for his daughter would be lengthy.

“This is a worthwhile investigation. A good place to be looking," Cox told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I need to stay until we find out what we have found here."

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston

Photo: Investigators screen soil from the area where body-sniffing dogs alerted near Topaz Mountain in Utah. Credit: Jim Urquhart / Associated Press

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