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911 call: Worker says Josh Powell 'blew up the house and kids'

February 8, 2012 |  1:47 am

From her first words, it was clear there was something horribly wrong. "Something really weird has happened," the social worker outside Josh Powell's house in Graham, Wash., told the 911 dispatcher.

"The kids went into the house and the parent, whose name is Josh Powell, will not let me in the door. What should I do?"

Pierce County sheriff's officials Tuesday night released the tapes from the increasingly frantic call a state visitation supervisor made to emergency workers just before Powell, locked inside the house, attacked his two young sons with a hatchet and set the residence on fire.

AUDIO: Worker's first 911 call

The Pierce County medical examiner said all three died of carbon monoxide poisoning, with the boys suffering chop wounds to the head and neck.

"I could hear one of the kids crying. ... I think I need help right away," the social worker said. "He's on a very short leash with [the state child supervision agency], and this is the craziest thing. He looked right at me and closed the door."

She told the dispatcher she wanted to pull her car out of the driveway. She smelled gasoline, she said.

"He's got the kids in the house, and he won't let me in. ... I rang the doorbell and everything. I begged him to let me in."

Powell, who for two years had been at the center of an intense media spotlight over the disappearance of his wife, Susan, in Utah in 2009, had already left a farewell voicemail to family members, one of which was obtained by ABC News.

"This is Josh," he said in a slow and broken voice. "I'm calling to say goodbye. I'm not able to live without my sons, and I'm not able to go on anymore. I'm sorry to everyone I've hurt. Goodbye."

Family members say it has become increasingly clear that Powell, listed by Utah police as a person of interest in his wife's disappearance, was distraught at having lost a bid the previous week to regain custody of his sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5.

AUDIO: Worker's second 911 call

The two boys were living with their maternal grandparents, and were being brought to Powell's house for a supervised visit -- but were quickly and unexpectedly locked inside when Powell suddenly slammed the door on the social worker.

"I was one step in back of them ... he shut the door right in my face," reported the woman, who was on contract to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.

In the 911 call, the social worker attempted to remain calm but seemed to grow increasingly frustrated as the dispatcher repeatedly asked for details about who she was, why she was at the house, what kind of car she was driving, and finally told her a deputy would be sent when one was free. "They have to respond to emergency, life-threatening situations first," the dispatcher explained.

"This could be life-threatening!" the social worker interjected. "He went to court Wednesday and he didn't get the kids back, and I'm -- I'm afraid for their lives."

Moments later, the social worker called back. The house was in flames. This time, she was put through to the fire department.

"There's two little boys in the house. They're 5 and 7, and there's an adult man ... he blew up the house and the kids!" she said, speaking calmly but urgently.

"And you think he might have done it intentionally?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yes," she replied.


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-- Kim Murphy in Seattle