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Susan Powell’s Disappearance: What Happened? Was She Found?

November 6, 2020
5 min read

ABC’s ’20/20′ is a prime time newsmagazine that has distinguished itself from the rest as one of the most esteemed programs in investigative journalism. Chronicling one mysterious true-crime tale after another, giving us every little detail to reach the heart of it, it has managed to capture and hold the interest of many over the years, lasting for over 43 seasons. Its latest episode, ‘If Something Happens to Me,’ telling the story of Susan Powell’s disappearance, the subsequent investigations, and the tragedy in the family that followed, is no different. Curious to know more about her case in particular? Here’s what we know.

What Happened to Susan Powell?

Susan Marie Powell (née Cox), born October 16, 1981, was living blissfully with her husband and their two sons for anyone who was looking into her life from the outside. However, the reality of it, filled with turmoil, secrets, and possessiveness, as it unfolded later on, was much different. The family was active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and so, on the morning of December 6, 2009, Susan, along with her two sons, attended church services.

A neighbor visited them at home that same afternoon, leaving at about 5 p.m., and that’s the last anyone from outside the Powell household ever saw of her. On December 7, the entire family was reported missing after Susan’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law were informed that the Powell children had not been dropped off at their daycare center as usual. They called the police after they couldn’t get in touch with Susan or her husband, Joshua.

The officers subsequently broke into the family home, fearing carbon monoxide poisoning taking all their lives. The house was empty, but two box fans were switched on and blowing at a wet spot on the couch. Susan’s purse, wallet, and ID were all inside, and she hadn’t shown up at Wells Fargo Investments, her place of work, that day either. Later that day, at around 5 p.m., Joshua returned home with their two kids and was immediately taken to the police station for questioning.

Joshua claimed that he had left Susan sleeping at home shortly after midnight to go camping with his sons at the Simpson Springs in western Utah, a short while away from their home in West Valley City. What’s suspicious about all of this, though, is that Susan’s phone was later found in the family’s only vehicle, the one that Joshua had been using and that when the police visited the site on December 10, they found no evidence of the camp that Joshua had described.

Was Susan Powell Found?

Unfortunately, no. Susan Powell has never been found and has since been presumed dead, mainly because of everything the police investigations have revealed. Upon searching the Powell home on December 9, the detectives found traces of Susan’s blood on the floor, life insurance policies under her name worth $1.5 million, and a handwritten journal entry from her where she expressed fear for her life. Along with this, they discovered that Susan had written a secret will, which included statements like “I want it documented that there is extreme turmoil in our marriage” and “If I die, it may not be an accident, even if it looks like one.”

The detectives also found it weird that Joshua would take his kids camping after midnight when he had to go to work just hours later. He hadn’t informed his boss about taking the day off beforehand either, and when questioned about it, he claimed that it was because he thought it was Sunday rather than Monday. In 2012, it came to light that Joshua liquidated Susan’s retirement accounts, canceled her regularly scheduled chiropractic sessions, and withdrew his children from daycare just shortly after her disappearance.

Apparently, he had also spoken to his coworkers about how to hide a body in an abandoned mineshaft in a desert. When the detectives initially interviewed the couple’s eldest son, Charlie, he confirmed that the camping trip happened, but that Susan had gone with them and did not return. Weeks after her disappearance, Charlie allegedly also told a teacher that his mother was dead, and his younger brother, Braden, drew a picture of a van with three people in it and said that his “Mommy was in the trunk.”

With all this, by December 24, Joshua was considered to be a person of interest in the investigation, especially as he grew increasingly uncooperative. He then took his sons and moved to Washington, where he underwent a series of court-ordered evaluations to be deemed fit to care for his kids. Joshua’s father, Steven, was also looked into as it was discovered that he was quite obsessed with his daughter-in-law, but there was no evidence that pointed towards him having a hand in her disappearance.

Susan remains a missing person to this date. But given the evidence and the fates of her sons, who were killed by their own father, the authorities are certain that she, too, was murdered by him. Joshua’s brother, Michael – who killed himself in February 2013, after suspicions around him grew – is said to have assisted him in concealing her body. There have been calls to have Susan be declared dead, with the cause being homicide, but it doesn’t seem like that has happened as of yet.

Read More: How Did Susan’s Children Die?

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