Josh Powell gave away children's books and toys before fatal fire
Josh Powell, who is believed to have set off the explosive fire that killed him and his two young sons in Graham, Wash., began giving boxes of the boys' books and toys to Goodwill over the weekend -- an indication that he planned the deadly blaze, police said Monday.
In the first detailed hints of what preceded Sunday's fire, Pierce County Sheriff's Det. Ed Troyer also said that Powell sent a series of relatively detailed emails minutes before the conflagration to family members and his pastor.
In the communiques -- sent too late for anyone to avert the disaster -- Powell gave some hints of why he had made his decision and logistical details about what others should do afterward, including how to shut off the utilities at his rented house.
"Some people got a longer one about what to do, how to shut off utilities and how to take care of some final business," Troyer, speaking at a news conference, said of the emails, which he said were sent just "minutes" before the conflagration.
"There was nobody that we've been able to determine that would have had any type of notice, to be able to do anything about it," he said. "The only thing we've gotten is, 'I'm sorry, I can't live without my boys,' and that's it. Nothing any more detailed than that."
Troyer said there was no mention in any of the emails of Powell's wife, Susan, who disappeared in 2009 from the home they were then sharing in Utah. Powell had been listed as a person of interest in his wife's disappearance, and family members have said the boys were beginning to share recollections of Powell driving away in the family vehicle with their mother in the trunk.
Troyers said fire investigators found two 5-gallon cans of gasoline in the house, one of them very near to where the bodies of Powell and the two boys were found at the center of the residence.
The two boys had just been brought for a court-ordered visitation by a social worker, who was supposed to have been present but was blocked from entering the home. The medical examiner has not yet completed autopsies, and it is not yet known how the boys died, but Troyer said there was no evidence of gunshot wounds on the bodies, and no firearm had been recovered from the remains of the charred house.
Troyer said it was not known whether the gasoline had been spread around the house befire to the boys' arrival, but there were signs that at least one of the cans was set off right next to the children.
"Ten gallons of gas would easily take care of that house and do exactly what happened," he said.
--Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Josh Powell plays with his son Braden in a park near his home, in Puyallup, Wash. Credit: Rick Egan/Salt Lake Tribune/Associated Press