Note: All posts on this case available HERE, with the most recent post displaying first. You can also visit the Susan Powell Facebook page HERE.
Headlining a gaggle of Utah stories published on December 22nd, 2009 about the case of missing West Valley City woman Susan Powell is a report from KSL Channel 5 that former FBI profiler Cliff Van Zandt has weighed in. On the Today show, Van Zandt said this case reminds him of two other missing women cases, one of which is that of the wife of former police officer Drew Peterson. Van Zandt said Josh's behavior is the opposite of what he would expect from a husband whose wife is missing, and the issue of the rental car also begs more questions.
"We know, of course, he's now the primary caretaker of two young children, but one would think most of his activities would be centered around the house or trying to help law enforcement," Van Zandt said. "If that vehicle's been driven hundreds of miles, where might he have gone? And could that have anything to do with his wife's disappearance?"
The rental car was the subject of a KSTU Channel 13 story and a Deseret News story. Powell rented the car during the 24-hour period that his van was in police custody, about two days after his wife was reported missing. According to West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan, "It was rented in Joshua Powell's name, and there were several hundred miles put on it...The company that rents the car has said there is no stored GPS data that would indicate where it was taken." McLachlan declined to say specifically how many miles were added to the rental car's odometer and acknowledged that while police know the car was rented by Powell, they can only speculate about whether he was the person who used it. He said he didn't know what type of car was rented and declined to name the rental company.
KTVX Channel 4 reports that Tim Petersen said a couple days after Susan went missing, Josh went to their home and asked for a ride to the police station to pick up the family van that police had been processing. Petersen says Josh drove to his home in his rental car. He told ABC4 that Josh never mentioned anything about taking any particularly long drives. Today, Petersen says he's left speculating if Josh possibly took another trip up to the alleged campsite along the Pony Express Trail.
Meanwhile, in a separate story, the Salt Lake Tribune also reports that Susan Powell told a wide circle of friends over a year ago that she was preparing for the worst if she sought a divorce: that her husband might try to kidnap their sons and break her financially. She said she had set up a separate bank account, arranged a place to stay if she decided to leave, and had informally written a will, according to friends who requested anonymity because they are not authorized by police to speak about the investigation. And Susan Powell made sure many knew of her preparations. But ultimately, she decided to stay and work on the relationship after fasting and praying. Josh Powell was reportedly upset when he learned his wife was depositing money into a separate account. Friends of Susan turned over e-mails received from her during June-July 2008 to the police.
However, Josh Powell still has his defenders. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Wayne Hamberg, who got to know Josh Powell in a computer user's group that met regularly over the past year, says Josh is in the worst state of bereavement he's ever seen. Hamberg, who last met with Josh Powell on December 15th, said his friend was capable of little more than tying a shoelace. "He'd just functionally shut down," said Hamberg. Hamberg said Powell came to his home and, over the course of an hour, completely broke down. He was in such poor shape that, in Hamberg's opinion, Powell was incapable of defending himself or helping police. Hamberg also said he did not press Powell about his wife's disappearance, instead offering comfort and support. He has not heard from Powell since, though he understands his friend's decision to go to Washington just for his own safety.
In addition, another Deseret News story reveals that going on a spur of the moment camping trip wasn't necessarily out of the ordinary for Josh Powell. One friend recalled a time when Susan Powell had to get a ride home from work from another person because of a miscommunication with her husband. He decided one afternoon to take his two boys camping, the friend said. They returned about 3 a.m. because it got too cold, and the boys subsequently got sick.
In response to those impatient about the progression of the case, West Valley City Police Chief Thayle Nielsen said they were waiting for results from the state crime lab, which is testing DNA evidence taken from the couple's home five days ago. He said their case is the top priority for the lab right now. But police say they have a number of leads already. They also said they attempted to search the Simpson Springs recreation area in Tooele County along the Pony Express Trail, but their efforts were hampered by fresh snow and the vastness of the area.