Cops Facing Heat To Make Arrest in Susan Powell Case

Person of interest Joshua Powell free to travel though wife still missing.

ByABC News via logo
December 10, 2009, 8:15 PM

Dec. 22, 2009 — -- It's been more than two weeks since Utah mom Susan Powell disappeared and police in West Valley City acknowledge that they are under growing pressure to arrest the only "person of interest" in the case, Powell's husband Joshua.

"The pressure is to conduct the investigation of this missing person in a legal fashion where we can get a resolution that will stand up in any court in the land," West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan told "Good Morning America" today.

McLachlan's statement came days after Joshua Powell left his Utah home to travel 900 miles to Washington state to spend the holidays with family there and attend a vigil for his missing wife.

Neighbors were dumbfounded that Joshua Powell left town in the middle of the search for his wife.

"If it were me and my husband were missing, I would not have left at all," said neighbor Sherry Clauson. "My family would have come to me."

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According to legal experts, however, police have no evidence a crime has been committed and not arresting Powell could be part of a larger strategy.

"You want to gather as much information as quickly as possible," ABC News consultant and former FBI agent Brad Garrett told "Good Morning America." "By calling someone a suspect or a person of interest, you're basically telling them that's the only thing that you have at this point.

"Leave him out there as long as you can, collect as much evidence as you can," he said.

The danger of having only one person of interest, Garrett said, is tunnel vision.

"Clearly that's an issue... What you don't want to do is only focus on the husband. What you try to do is eliminate him. What can I do to take them out of the case? When you can't do that, that helps you move forward."

Susan Powell, 28, has been missing since Dec. 6 after Joshua Powell, 34, last saw her in the couple's home before he took their sons on a late-night camping trip into a freezing winter storm. Last minute overnight camping trips were not unusual for him, Powell claims.

Joshua Powell's father, Steven Powell, said his son has been "vilified" by speculation.

"The whole thing has just turned into a vilification of Josh, and it will turn into a vilification of me, my ex-wife and my other kids," Steven Powell told The Salt Lake Tribune Sunday.

The Tribune reported Monday that friends of Susan Powell said the missing woman told them last year she feared Joshua Powell would kidnap their children if the couple divorced.