'Josh Powell was really, really evil,' social worker says
Josh Powell may have tried to end it all when he killed his two young sons and himself in a gasoline-fueled inferno Sunday in Washington state. But his actions have unleashed a new round of investigations, allegations and recriminations as authorities try to unravel a family saga that began long before Powell's wife, Susan, disappeared in Utah in 2009.
With law enforcement officials and the court system facing allegations that they failed to recognize the danger that Powell posed to his children, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, the case continues to unfold on several fronts:
--Disturbing new details have emerged about "incestuous" sexual drawings discovered on Powell's computer, dating back to when he still lived in Utah, before moving to Washington state, according to the Associated Press.
The images led a court-appointed psychologist to call for Powell to submit to a psycho-sexual evaluation and a polygraph test, tests that a judge approved last week when denying Powell's request to regain full custody of his children. Powell was said to be devastated by the judge's ruling, and it may have been the trigger for his deadly actions.
The discovery of the disturbing images, however, was not made known to all the parties in the case, including the attorney for the children's maternal grandparents, who could have used the images as grounds to bar Powell from having any access to the boys.
--The investigation into Susan Powell's disappearance is taking on new urgency and led authorities this week to rope off a portion of a recycling center in Graham, Wash. They were following up on a tip that Josh Powell had discarded some paper there shortly before he set his home on fire, the News Tribune of Tacoma reported.
Authorities in Utah have also reported a new flood of tips coming in about Susan Powell's disappearance.
--Washington state Sen. Pam Roach told the Salt Lake City Tribune it was "outrageous" for a judge to give Powell visitation with his sons, and wants to know precisely what the Washington agency in charge of child welfare knew and when officials knew it. She has sent a public records request to Washington's Department of Social and Health Services.
"This material should be made public," she told the newspaper. Her district includes the Graham, Wash., home where Powell killed the children.
--The case worker who was escorting the children for a court-mandated supervised visit with their father said that Powell coaxed the children into the house on Sunday by saying "I've got a big surprise for you!" and then slammed the door on her to keep her from entering.
The worker, Elizabeth Griffin-Hall, told ABC News about those final, frightening moments -- and her realization that Powell was setting the house on fire with all inside. "How this happened is that Josh Powell was really, really evil. I couldn't have stopped him," she said.
--In a bid to understand what may have been driving Josh Powell long before Sunday's inferno, the Salt Lake City Tribune unearthed Washington state records relating to the bitter divorce of Powell's parents. The documents portray a dysfunctional family ruled by father Stephen Powell, who allegedly abused his wife and children -- emotionally, physically and verbally -- and whose penchant for porn contributed to his divorce. The documents also portray Josh Powell as an emotionally disturbed teen who killed family pets, threatened his mother with a butcher knife and attempted suicide.
--Finally, Chuck and Judy Cox, the parents of Susan Powell and the grandparents of the boys killed in the fire, are pleading with protesters and counter-protesters to stay away from Saturday's scheduled funeral for the boys.
The Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas, known for its extremist views, announced plans to protest at the funeral as a way of targeting Washington state's pending bill to allow same-sex marriages. Several other groups, including Occupy Seattle, said they plan to counter-protest. But a pastor speaking on behalf of the Coxes told the News Tribune that they want all protesters to stay away.
"They want this to be about the kids," Rev. Dean Curry said, and free of protests and counter-protests, "even if on the surface, the aims are more noble."
-- Rene Lynch
twitter / renelynch
Photo: Alex Ramirez, 17, brings a balloon to a memorial to Charlie and Braden Powell, erected outside the Carson Elementary School in Puyallup, Wash., where Charlie attended school. Credit: Ted S. Warren / Associated Press