Susan Powell's father-in-law arrested on child pornography and voyeurism charges
Police in Washington have arrested the father-in-law of Susan Powell, the Utah mother missing for nearly two years, after discovering he had thousands of sexually explicit pictures and videos of women and young girls.
Some of the videos found in Steven Powell's Puyallup, Wash., home were apparently shot through the window of two neighbor girls, ages 8 and 10 at the time, as they were taking a bath, using the toilet or dressing, prosecutors said.
The pictures also included images of his daughter-in-law, authorities said, with whom Powell, 61, has said he had a flirtatious relationship--a claim her family has vigorously denied. Police emphasized that Powell's arrest Thursday night was unrelated to Susan Powell's disappearance.
There were new developments there, too: Police in Utah who have been searching the desert about 30 miles from where Powell's husband allegedly went camping on the night of her disappearance have found some burned wood chips that may have been used to incinerate human remains, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
About 100 small pieces of wood were found in the same area where cadaver dogs had signaled the presence of human remains. They will be tested to see if they have any identifiable biological material, the newspaper said.
Though police said the two cases aren't connected, it was the investigation into Powell's disappearance in December 2009 that prompted police to execute a search warrant at the Washington home where Powell's husband, Josh Powell, had moved in with his father as the search for his wife went on.
Josh Powell and his wife had previously lived in Puyallup before moving to Utah.
Reportedly looking for Susan Powell's journals, police in August removed computers, digital media, recordings and photos from the house. Detectives in Utah examined them and notified authorities in Washington of what they contained.
Investigators "found thousands of images of females being videotaped without their knowledge, including Susan Powell. The photographer focuses on the women's buttocks, breasts and genital areas. Many images were of minor females," said a statement from Pierce County prosecuting attorney Mark Lindquist.
Some of the photos and videos, organized in folders with names such as "Taking bath-1" and "Open window in back house," contained images zooming in on the private parts of the 8- and 10-year-old girls who lived next door to Steven Powell in 2006 and 2007, the statement said.
"When contacted by law enforcement, the mother of the victims identified her daughters in the images. She explained that she sometimes left the blinds open in the upstairs due to the heat. Crying, she said that she never thought someone would be watching and photographing her daughters," it said.
Josh Powell, who has been described by police in Utah as a person of interest in his wife's disappearance, has not been charged in the new case and made no immediate comment about his father's arrest.
Steven Powell was taken into custody Thursday night and was scheduled to be arraigned in Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma today on 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of second-degree possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
All are Class C felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.
--Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Steven Powell at his home in Puyallup, Wash., in August. Credit: Rick Egan/Salt Lake Tribune