‘Cold’: Secret recordings of Josh, Steven Powell revealed

Nov 21, 2018, 8:30 AM | Updated: 10:15 am


Editor’s note: This is the second of a weekly series featuring highlights from a KSL investigative podcast series titled “Cold” that reports new information about the case of missing Utah woman Susan Powell.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Josh Powell, the lone suspect in the presumed murder of his wife, Susan, kept a hidden chronicle of his life. He, like his father, maintained private journals.

The records of both father and son featured in the new podcast series “Cold” includes not only Josh Powell’s audio journals, but also clips from never-before-released home videos from his father, Steven Powell.

Audio journals

In one audio journal entry dated Jan. 5, 2001, Josh describes falling in love with Susan because she helped clean his Tacoma, Washington, apartment following a party.

“We did dishes together … and I thought, ‘I think she might help me keep my life and my property in order,’” Powell said.

West Valley police seized this digital audio recorder belonging to Josh Powell from his father Steven’s home in South Hill, Wash., while serving a search warrant on Aug. 25, 2011. (West Valley City Police Department)

The audio recordings cover a span from 1999 to early 2001, both before and after Powell met Susan Cox.

“I am not a standard person and many people find it difficult to remain in my company over extended periods of time,” Powell wrote in an entry dated Dec. 30, 2000. “Susan has loved every minute with me. She loves the things that other people cannot tolerate about me.”

Powell proposed less than a week later. Cox said yes. The couple wed four months after that in the Portland Oregon Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Powell recorded an audio journal entry the day after the wedding, never mentioning how he felt about his bride or the marriage.

Nine years later, Susan Powell vanished from the couple’s home while her husband and two young sons were on a winter campout in Utah’s western desert. Her body has never been found.

West Valley police discovered the journal files on computer hard drives seized during their investigation into Susan Powell’s Dec. 7, 2009, disappearance. KSL obtained copies of the journal files through an open records request.

Father/son relationship

The journals portray Josh Powell as a young man who struggled to cope with family chaos. On Dec. 13, 2000, he complained about a contentious relationship with his father.

“I was living with my dad for about six months until I finally got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. My dad is of course a nonmember and it was starting to wear me down to have to be around alcohol in the house and cussing and occasional anti-Mormon discussions,” Powell said.

He also discussed a tenuous hold on his own faith.

“I’ve got to have someone who’s strong spiritually, ’cause I get rather, I’m not as good a person, rather depressed, moody, irritable, when I get away from things that I know are right,” Josh Powell said.

He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ but stopped attending church meetings shortly after he and Susan moved from Washington to Utah in January of 2004.

The move was largely in reaction to Steven Powell’s confession of love to his daughter-in-law.

Confession and rejection

Steven Powell had developed a deep infatuation with Susan when she and Josh were living in his South Hill, Washington, home in early 2002. He used a Hi8 camcorder to capture video clips of her, often without her knowledge.

West Valley police seized this Hi8 camcorder belonging to Steven Powell from his home in South Hill, Wash., while serving a search warrant on Aug. 25, 2011. Powell used this camcorder or one like it to record video of his daughter-in-law Susan Powell, often without her knowledge or consent. (West Valley City Police Department)

On July 13, 2003, he offered to give Susan a ride from a trucking business in Kent, Washington, where Josh was training for a commercial driver’s license to her parents’ house in South Hill. He confessed his feelings to her during the drive, not realizing that his camcorder was capturing audio of the conversation.

“I’m probably wrong but I’ve really fallen in love with you,” Steve Powell can be heard saying on the tape. “For the last year and a half, you’re about the only thing I can think about.”

Susan did not respond for a long time. When she did speak, it was only to change the topic. Powell told her that he had become aroused while massaging her legs several months earlier.

“I don’t know where you’re going with this,” she replied.

Steven Powell wrote this description of an audio recording of a conversation between himself and his daughter-in-law Susan Powell on July 13, 2003. Powell accidentally recorded the conversation on his Hi8 camcorder while giving Susan a ride to her parents’ home. West Valley police seized the tape while serving a search warrant at Powell’s home in South Hill, Wash., on Aug. 25, 2011. (Creator – Dave Cawley; Source – KSL Newsradio)

Susan rebuffed her father-in-law’s advances that day. She refused to speak to him for months afterward. She told her husband what had happened. Powell agreed to move away from Washington in order to place physical distance between his wife and his father.

Josh Powell soon forgave his dad, much to his wife’s frustration.

You can hear the rest of Everett’s story in “Cold.” The new podcast is available for free at thecoldpodcast.com, on Apple Podcasts or through other popular podcast listing services. Connect with “Cold” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @thecoldpodcast.

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‘Cold’: Secret recordings of Josh, Steven Powell revealed