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The Susan Powell case roared back to life this week when West Valley City police announced their intention to conduct a search of abandoned mine shafts in and around Ely, Nevada; KTVX Channel 4 provides a written transcript of the press conference held on August 19th, 2011. Media were invited to accompany the five officers and 40 detectives participating in the search.
Initially, the search focused on an area about five miles north and west of Ely. The first search took place just off of Highway 50 near a gravel pit below Squaw Peak, with the focus on at least a dozen mine shafts. On Saturday the search moved to the Ward Historic Mining District 20 miles south of Ely, spending less than an hour wandering through the remnants of the Ward mine and an old, abandoned warehouse nearby that still contains the remains of years worth of core samples from the mine. Even though no physical evidence was recovered, West Valley City Police Sgt. Mike Powell said they accomplished their primary goal, which was to follow up on some information from the investigation that we needed to conduct some searches in several areas.
While police did not elaborate on why they picked Ely, Nevada, except to say they had a new lead in the case, it should be noted that Josh Powell rented a car two days after Susan's disappearance that he put hundreds of miles on. The distance between Ely and Salt Lake is 189 miles.
Capitalizing on the renewed public interest, two separate rallies on behalf of Susan Powell were held on August 20th. The first was a "honk-and-wave" in West Valley City, UT, organized by Kiirsi Hellewell, one of Susan's best friends. Crowds gathered not far from the home where Susan went missing, passing out flyers and waving signs.
The second rally was held in Puyallup, WA, and was a bit more controversial. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, was passing out flyers with other family members at 176th and Meridian in Puyallup. Then Susan's father-in-law, Steve Powell, showed up along with his daughter, Alina Powell, and accused Cox of spreading misinformation about his son in their own neighborhood. The confrontation grew more heated, as Steve Powell accused Cox of being a "liar" and a "cyberbully" who is hounding Josh Powell. The Salt Lake Tribune provides a video of the confrontation:
Moments later, Steve Powell clarified that he does not object to the Coxes publicizing Susan Powell’s picture, but suggested that doing it near his and Josh Powell’s home is meant as harassment. Steve Powell then renewed claims that FBI agents told him they do not believe Josh Powell had anything to do with his wife’s disappearance, and said that Josh Powell will not speak with West Valley City police because they earlier misled him.
Later, Josh Powell showed up with the couple's two young sons and told reporters that Susan's father, Chuck Cox, was purposefully engendering hate between family members by using Josh's sons as media pawns. He characterized Chuck Cox's distribution of flyers in Josh's neighborhood as offensive. Josh recently filed for a restraining order against Chuck Cox after the two confronted each other at a Lowe's store in Puyallup; a hearing is scheduled next week. In a separate interview on Friday, Josh Powell expressed disappointment in the ambiguous reports and said he got the initial impression police were talking about looking in a hotel or an apartment.
Each side has its own advocacy website. From the perspective of Josh Powell and his family:
And from the perspective of Susan Cox Powell's family:
Reaction: Public sentiment as expressed in comments to the latest batch of media stories still runs strongly against Josh Powell. A number of people simply believe he offed his wife. This is because when Susan Powell first disappeared, Josh did not react in the expected fashion, but retreated into a shell and was less than forthcoming. He failed to adequately explain some anomalies, such as a spontaneous camping trip into the desert in freezing weather on the night of the disappearance. Then there's the unexplained rental car with hundreds of excess miles racked up. Josh Powell is obviously more forthcoming now, but the damage has been done.