‘Cold’: Federal law enforcement officer helped Josh Powell move

Jan 2, 2019, 10:06 AM

Josh walks past the side of the moving truck and past a small sign on the truck that reads"Where wi...

Josh walks past the side of the moving truck and past a small sign on the truck that reads"Where will U Go Next?" as friends and neighbors of Josh Powell assist him in moving allegedly back to Washington on Saturday. Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010. (Photo: Scott Winterton/Deseret News.)

(Photo: Scott Winterton/Deseret News.)

Editor’s note: This is the eighth 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 — When Josh Powell moved from Utah to Washington in January of 2010, just a month after his wife’s disappearance, he called upon members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help him both pack and unload his possessions.

Powell likely never realized the man who organized that volunteer effort in Washington was a federal law enforcement officer.

“He had no idea that I was an officer and I didn’t let him know,” Rodney Stephens said during an exclusive interview for the investigative podcast series “Cold.”

Josh Powell first left his West Valley City home on Dec. 19, 2009, presumably to spend the holiday with family in South Hill, Washington; however, on Jan. 3, 2010, he told the bishop of the church’s Gem Heights Ward that he would be moving there permanently.

Powell and his youngest brother, Michael, returned to West Valley City about a week later. On Jan. 9, 2010, Powell rented a U-Haul truck and trailer. He asked several neighbors to help him pack his family’s possessions.

Josh walks past the side of the moving truck and past a small sign on the truck that reads”Where will U Go Next?” as friends and neighbors of Josh Powell assist him in moving allegedly back to Washington on Saturday. Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010. (Photo: Scott Winterton/Deseret News)

During the move, Powell made several odd comments to friends and neighbors. He joked about a spill on the kitchen floor being blood and needing to clean it up before police arrived. He told Wendy Trujillo, whose parents lived two doors away on Sarah Circle, that he’d loaded his wife’s head in the truck.

“I didn’t think was a very good joke,” Trujillo said. “I just looked at him and was like, ‘Did you really just say that?’”

Powell was referring to a mannequin head that his wife had used for cosmetology.

Trujillo used packing tape to gather a sample of the spot on the kitchen floor, as well as of a suspicious stain on a piece of basement insulation. She provided the tape to police, who tested the samples for blood. The tests were negative.

Josh Powell’s one-time neighbor Wendy Trujillo used packing tape to gather samples of possible evidence from the Powell home while helping him move in January 2010. Trujillo turned the tape over to West Valley police two months later. (Photo: West Valley City, Utah police)

At one point, Powell’s estranged older sister Jennifer Graves showed up to help. She attempted to remove some of Susan Powell’s personal possessions, at the request of Susan’s father, Chuck Cox. Michael Powell confronted Graves, leading to an argument.

“It just felt like a really strange situation,” Graves said. “Why are you all covering up for him? Why aren’t you just pushing him to tell what he knows?”

Josh and Michael Powell took turns driving the U-Haul to Washington.

The bishop of the Gem Heights Ward had assigned the task of helping Powell unload the truck to the president of the ward’s elder’s quorum, Rodney Stephens.

Josh Powell sent this email to the bishop of the Gem Heights Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Jan. 5, 2010, asking for help unloading his rented U-Haul.

Stephens arranged for five other men to meet him at the storage unit facility on the evening of Jan. 13, 2010. Powell was waiting for them.

“His father was there and his brother, his younger brother, was there,” Stephens said. “He was kind of aloof from us. He would kind of walk around and look at all of his goods but he didn’t help lift anything.”

Powell had been diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury less than a month earlier, a fact first reported by “Cold.”

“He didn’t help his father, he didn’t help his brother. He ate Doritos chips and drank water,” Stephens said. “I was so frustrated that I would grab boxes and put them right in Josh’s hands. Then he would take the box that I gave him, he would set it down, then he’d go back and drink his water and eat his potato chips.”

Powell did not engage Stephens or the other volunteers in conversation. Had he done so, he might have learned Stephens worked for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service.

“You’d probably win the lottery easier than saying, ‘Hey, I’m Josh Powell’s elder’s quorum president and I work in law enforcement,’” Stephens said.

Stephens found it odd that none of the property in the U-Haul appeared to have belonged to Susan Powell. The truck held a large number of 5-gallon buckets, which appeared to contain food storage.

This Dec. 8, 2009, photo shows some of the many buckets containing food storage items that Josh and Susan Powell had stockpiled in their basement of their West Valley home. Police photographed the buckets while serving a search warrant. (Photo: West Valley City, Utah police)

“My own thoughts were, ‘I wonder if part of her body is in this bucket that I’m offloading,’” Stephens recalled.

Stephens was aware of the Powell investigation. He kept a close watch for anything that might prove valuable to West Valley police.

“If I would have found something then I would have stopped it right then and I would have held it. I would have called West Valley, then I would have called the local agency out and we would have held it. Period,” Stephens said.

That did not happen.

Instead, Stephens provided the location of the storage unit to West Valley police. They searched it on May 11, 2010, with Josh Powell’s consent, then searched it again on Feb. 7, 2012, two days after Powell killed himself and his sons in Graham, Washington.

Neither search turned up any definitive evidence.

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.

United States News

Associated Press

Stock market today: Wall Street set to book another solid week, this one fueled by Nvidia and AI

Wall Street pointed higher early Friday, keeping markets on track to close the week with gains after Nvidia’s stunning results set off a tech rally that carried Wall Street to another record high. Futures for the S&P 500 rose less than 0.1% before the bell, while futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up […]

7 hours ago

FILE - Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks during a news conference Feb. 22,...

Associated Press

Los Angeles County district attorney seeks reelection in contest focused on feeling of public safety

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County voters are set to decide next month if embattled District Attorney George Gascón will remain the head of the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office in a race centered on perceptions of public safety. Gascón, who was elected in 2020 on a criminal justice platform alongside a wave of progressive […]

9 hours ago

In combo of undated selfie images provided courtesy of the Dime Doe family, show Dime Doe, a Black ...

Associated Press

A love affair unraveled before a Black transgender woman was fatally shot in rural South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Black transgender woman and the guy she was secretly dating had just been pulled over in rural South Carolina. Dime Doe, the driver, was worried. She already had points against her license and didn’t want another ticket to stop her from getting behind the wheel. Daqua Lameek Ritter, whom she […]

9 hours ago

FILE - A school bus moves up Rock Door Canyon Rd., in Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah, on the Navajo r...

Associated Press

Native American tribes gain new authority to stop unwanted hydropower projects

Federal regulators have granted Native American tribes more power to block hydropower projects on their land after a flurry of applications were filed to expand renewable energy in the water-scarce U.S. Southwest. Previously, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted developers approval to move ahead with planning even if tribes objected. That practice came to an […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Remains found over 50 years ago identified through DNA technology as Oregon teen

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The remains of a teenager found more than 50 years ago have been identified through advanced DNA technology as a young woman who went missing from Portland, Oregon State Police said. The remains are that of Sandra Young, a high school student who disappeared in 1968 or 1969, police said Thursday […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

California man arrested for making threats against election official in Arizona after 2022 vote

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of leaving threatening messages on the personal cellphone of an Arizona election worker he accused of rigging the 2022 election results, federal prosecutors said. The 52-year-old was charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat and will make an initial court […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

‘Cold’: Federal law enforcement officer helped Josh Powell move