During a supervised visit gone terribly wrong, Josh Powell killed his sons — slashing the boys with a hatchet, before lighting a can of gasoline. Their child welfare caseworker remained locked outside, watching helplessly as the house exploded with all three inside.
Now six months later, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services has released a report that suggests the tragedy may have been preventable. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
More information from Utah law enforcement about the investigation into Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance might have helped guide child welfare officials’ decisions and ultimately saved the lives of her two young sons, according to a report released Thursday by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.
The deaths also might have been prevented if Josh Powell — the only person of interest in his wife’s December 2009 disappearance from their West Valley City home — had been evaluated for domestic violence. That might have precluded in-home visits with Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, the Child Fatality Review Committee report said.
Although the report cites a lack of communication between law enforcement and child welfare officials, it does not place final blame on either entity:
The review committee recommended that the state’s child welfare agency provide ongoing training on domestic violence to caseworkers and increase communication between child welfare workers and law enforcement when parents are targets of active criminal investigations.
The 13-page report concludes…that everyone involved in the case acted with the “highest concern for the children’s health, safety and welfare,” and work in the case was “consistent with and sometimes exceeded” accepted child welfare standards. Nobody could have anticipated that Josh Powell would murder his sons, it states.
The children’s grandfather, Chuck Cox, vehemently disagrees with the report’s conclusion:
“We told them Josh was capable of killing the children,” Cox said. “We had warned them of that very possibility. We told them of our concern that if Josh Powell was cornered and was going to lose the children or be arrested, he would be capable of killing the children and himself. And that is exactly what happened.”
Cox and his wife, Judy, had temporary custody of the boys in September 2011 and say they shared their concerns about Powell with caseworkers, psychologists, police and attorneys involved with the case. Concerns that Cox says fell on deaf ears:
“They heard us, they knew about it and they chose to dismiss it,” he said. “And, as a result, our grandchildren are dead.”