Josh Powell won't be buried next to sons; officers buy plots
Josh Powell's family reportedly wanted him interred in the same cemetery on a hill overlooking his sons, whom he attacked with a hatchet before killing them and himself in a gas-fueled explosive fire Feb. 5.
Det. Ed Troyer of the Pierce County sheriff's office, who is also director of the nonprofit Crime Stoppers, said he and Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor placed a down payment on the plots surrounding the boys' grave.
"We might not be able to keep Josh Powell from being buried in the cemetery, but we can keep him away from the boys," he said in a phone interview with The Times. "Bottom line is, it's not fair for murder victims to have the murder suspect laid to rest next to them. It's hurtful to the community and dishonors the boys."
Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit that tries to help solve and prevent crimes, announced the news prominently on its website and asked for donations to help cover the cost of the plots, which is expected to be about $5,000. Troyer says he's hoping the community will step up.
The news that Josh Powell's relatives were looking at nearby plots caused a uproar among Washington authorities and the family of the boys' missing mother. An attorney for the boys' maternal grandparents said she would stop at nothing to derail the Powell family's plan.
"For him to be buried near those kids is just unthinkable," Seattle attorney Anne Bremner told the Associated Press. She represents Charles and Judith Cox of Puyallup, Wash., whose daughter is Powell's missing wife, Susan.
Adding to the outrage, of course, is that Susan Powell disappeared under mysterious circumstances from the Powells' Utah home in December 2009, and Josh Powell was the chief person of interest. He told authorities he'd taken his young sons for a camping trip to the desert in the middle of the night during a snowstorm, and when he returned, she was gone. He moved to Washington state soon after, moving in with his father, Steve Powell -- who was arrested last fall on child pornography and voyeurism charges.
Josh Powell lost custody of his sons after his father's arrest. He rented a house in nearby Graham, which he set on fire after a caseworker brought the boys over for what was to have been a supervised visit. He locked her out of the house, attacked his children with a hatchet and set the house ablaze.
Troyer said they would let the Cox family decide what to do with the plots.
"Susan Cox is still missing," he said, adding that the family can have the option to bury her next to her boys if she is found. Authorities presume she is dead, but the Utah investigation continues.
Powell's relatives had selected a plot at Woodbine Cemetery 80 to 100 feet from the plot where Charles, 7, and Braden, 5, were interred Monday, the AP reported. More than 1,000 people attended the boys' funeral on Saturday.
Puyallup City Manager Ralph Dannenberg told The Times on Wednesday that the sale to the Powells was on hold while Bremner pursued plans to seek a restraining order.
The city doesn't have guidelines for handling such a thorny situation, Dannenberg said.
"We are a municipal cemetery. We don't have anything in our codes or procedures about denying anyone" a plot to purchase, he said. "But with legal action pending, it's in the best interest of both parties to hold off."
-- Ricardo Lopez and Rene Lynch
Photo: Family members hug Saturday after the funeral for Charlie and Braden Powell in Tacoma, Wash. Credit: Ravell Call / Deseret News