Josh Powell Case Ignites Custody Questions

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on February 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Washington state agency is set to review Josh Powell's child-custody case after a scheduled visitation ended in a deadly house explosion. Powell and his sons, ages 5 and 7, were killed.

"We really look at the service delivery with the case. Was there anything we can learn about what happened?" a deputy director with Washington's Children's Administration told The Seattle Times.

Josh Powell's struggle to regain legal custody of his sons apparently led to the explosion that investigators believe was a murder-suicide. The custody fight was the latest hardship to hit Powell since the unsolved disappearance of his wife Susan three years ago:

Josh Powell reported Susan missing after taking his sons on an impromptu camping trip in Utah in December 2009, the Los Angeles Times reports. Powell was named a "person of interest" in Susan's disappearance, but her body was never found. The next month, Powell and his sons moved in with Powell's father Steve in Washington State.

In September 2011, Steve Powell was arrested in connection with voyeurism and child pornography. Because of the charges, a Washington court granted temporary custody of Josh Powell's children to their maternal grandparents. Josh Powell got supervised visits -- twice a week, three hours at a time.

What happened at Sunday's visitation is being scrutinized. The worker who supervised the visit was not a Child Protective Services employee, but rather a private contractor, a CPS spokeswoman told The Seattle Times.

At the visit, Powell's kids ran ahead to meet their father, who then slammed the door before the contractor could step into the house. The contractor smelled gas just before the house blew up; an email from Powell to his attorney read, "I'm sorry, goodbye."

Josh Powell never showed any signs he would hurt his children, the CPS spokeswoman said. Otherwise, "we wouldn't have taken the children over there."

The children's maternal grandparents aren't blaming the state either, their lawyer told the Associated Press. They suspect Josh Powell used his scheduled visitation to silence his children: The eldest son allegedly told his grandparents that Susan Powell was "in the trunk" the night their father took them camping.

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