Cops Facing Heat To Make Arrest in Susan Powell Case

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

ByLEE FERRAN 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.

Joshua Powell Goes Silent

Though he initially spoke to investigators, Joshua Powell has gone silent, drawing ire from investigators and suspicion from Susan's family.

He failed to show up for a scheduled interview with police Dec. 14, and the following day answered only a handful of detectives' questions, McLachlan said. Powell was later named a person of interest by police.

Chuck Cox, Susan Powell's father, initially defended Joshua Powell but has since wavered.

"I don't know until we get some solid info about what really happened that night, that morning, that day," Cox said Sunday. "Still a lot of unanswered questions."

Cox indicated to "Good Morning America" last week that he began doubting Joshua's story.

"I asked him if he had any idea where his wife, my daughter Susan, would be. And he said he didn't. He was sincere sounding when he said that. I believed that," Cox told "GMA." When asked if he still believed his son-in-law, Cox replied, "I don't know what to think anymore."

Joshua Powell attended a vigil for his wife in Washington on Sunday, to the surprise of the Cox family who organized the event.

"We have no contact of Josh at all," Cox said Sunday. "I didn't know he was coming up here."

Joshua Powell stood with his son, 4-year-old Charlie, in a chilly downpour Sunday night with dozens of others at the candle-lit vigil and spoke briefly with Susan's sister, The Associated Press reported.

The Powells were reportedly seeing a marriage counselor and facing daunting financial problems. The Salt Lake Tribune reported the two had filed for bankruptcy, and public records revealed they were $200,000 in debt, including large amounts of credit card debt and student loans.

Anyone with information regarding the case can call West Valley City Police at (801) 840-4000.

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