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Josh Powell used house to fool social workers, didn't live there

February 15, 2012 | 12:26 pm

Josh Powell ignited deadly fire

In a meeting with residents of the neighborhood where Josh Powell blew up a rented home, killing himself and his two sons, authorities said Powell never lived in the home. In fact, they said, he used it to deceive social workers. 

Pierce County sheriff's detectives told residents that the home was set up for Powell's scheduled supervised visits with his sons, reported the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. Powell had lost custody of his sons last year after police found child pornography on his father's computer; Powell was living with his father at the time.

"He set it up like a rental place, with pictures of the family," Sgt. Denny Wood said at the meeting Monday attended by about 50 people. 

In reality, the News Tribune reported, investigators believed Powell was still living with his father, Steven Powell.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told KIRO-FM: "There was no furniture. There were some kids toys, a little bit of clothing, some pictures of Susan [Powell] on the wall, and that was about it. It was very, very sparse, not like it was set up for anybody to actually live in."

Sheriff's officials didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The meeting Monday was called so residents in the Graham, Wash., neighborhood could ask questions related to the investigation of the explosion in which Powell killed himself and his sons. Chaplains were available to residents who are still coping with the tragedy, the News Tribune said. 

Police have been working to piece together Powell's last days. A weekend search of a Graham recycling center turned up papers and other items Powell had dropped off. Police also were testing a blood-stained mattress they retrieved from a storage locker Powell rented. 

On Feb. 5, Powell set the home ablaze. Minutes before, a state Child Protective Services worker had dropped off the boys for what was to have been a supervised court-ordered visit. She was about to follow the children into the house when Powell blocked her entrance and locked the door.

Minutes later, the house exploded in a gasoline-fueled inferno. Police said Tuesday they believe Powell had been researching the explosive properties of gasoline, The News Tribune said. 

Investigators are still looking for the body of Powell's wife, Susan, who went missing in December 2009 in West Valley City, Utah.

Powell had been considered a person of interest in his wife's disappearance, and police believe he may have killed his sons because they were recently beginning to recall details from the night their mother disappeared. 


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Photo: An investigator collects evidence from the charred rubble of the home where Josh Powell killed himself and his two sons Feb. 5 in Graham, Wash. Credit: Ted S. Warren / Associated Press