Susan Powell Family 'Not Neccessarily Surprised' By Focus on Husband

Missing mom's family says Joshua Powell's camping story a "red flag."

Dec. 17, 2009 — -- The family of missing Utah mother Susan Powell is "saddened, not neccessarily surprised" that the police named her husband as a person if interest in her disappearance.

At a news conference held today in Washington state, family friend Shelby Gifford said Joshua Powell's story that he took the couple's two young sons, age 4 and 2, on a camping trip in the middle of a cold abd rainy night was a '"red flag." Susan Powell, they said, would never have let her boys be taken into the woods in below-freezing temperatures.

"We believe police would not have made that determination without good reason," Gifford said, referring to their classification of Joshua Powell as a "person of interest." "That concerns us greatly. That makes us very sad."

Gifford and Susan Powell's father described the missing woman, who was last seen on Dec. 6 and reported missing the next day, as an "exceptional mother" who would never have willingly abandoned her children.

West Valley City Assistant Chief Craig Black told "Good Morning America" today that it was a "likely possibility" that Susan Powell's disappearance involved foul play, but her father Charles Cox said he simply can't think the worst.

"As a father I can't give up the hope that she is alive," Cox said today.

"We don't have all the facts," Gifford said. "We are left to speculate about somethings as much as everyone else has."

Even Joshua Powell's own family members said they wouldn't be surprised if Joshua Powell is eventually charged in the case.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he gets arrested in the next seven days," Joshua Powell's brother-in-law Kirk Graves told ABC News. "Even if he's innocent, there's more than he's telling us."

The police have said Joshua Powell has been uncooperative, refusing to take investigators to the site where he allegedly camped with his sons and avoiding questions during an interview Tuesday.

"Josh's reasons for not wanting to approach the police department or come and work with us in a little more forthcoming manner have kind of generated some controversy among the officers," Black said. '"And it's something that's been questioned by the community members who have been following the case."

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Susan and Joshua Powell were married in 2001, nine months after Susan Powell graduated from high school. The couple met at church and had some trouble in their marriage recently. Gifford said Susan Powell, the third of four daughters, had seen a marriage counselor at some point.

During the interview Tuesday with his lawyer present, Powell responded to basic questions about the clothes his wife was wearing and what her jewelry looked like, Black said, but even after being reminded that this was in the best interest of his wife, Joshua Powell refused to answer "hard, direct questions."

He declined to elaborate on exactly what questions Powell would not answer.

Forensic Psychiatrist: Greatest Conflict Can Come From Intimacy

Black said the case is still considered a search for a missing person, but are preparing for a criminal investigation.

"All the leads at this point indicate that this is where it will end up going," he said.

Graves told ABC News that he has known Powell for 15 years and that while he's never seen him get violent with his wife, he can be controlling. The family's commitment lays more with Susan than Joshua right now, he said, but they will continue to support him and hold out hope for Susan's safety.

"For Susan's sake he needs to really open up and talk to everybody," Graves said. "People will listen to him."

Powell's attorney, noted Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Scott C. Williams, has denied that his client has been uncooperative and that the only reason Powell is the focus is because of intense pressure on police to solve the case.

Powell failed to show up for a scheduled interview with investigators on Monday, and on Tuesday answered only a handful of detectives' questions, West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan said.

The captain said that Powell's attorney has made statements that would lead the public to think he's served up his client to police "on a silver platter," but McLachlan said Powell would only answer a few of the investigators' questions.

Powell, he said, "is not fully cooperating, and while he's cooperating at some level it is certainly not the level we would like."

Black noted that at this point, the Powells' neighbors have been more helpful in answering questions than Joshua Powell has.

Forensic psychiatrist and ABC News consultant Dr. Michael Welner told "GMA" that the tough part in a case like Susan Powell's disappearance is separating fact from theories.

When a spouse goes missing, it's only natural to look at their partner, he said, especially around the holidays when tension and financial pressure is at a high.

"When someone vanishes, apparently from her own home with no sign of forced entry ... then naturally the greatest source of conflict comes from the greatest source of intimacy," he said.

Welner said that Joshua Powell could be feeling pressure not just from police, but from his children.

"Even if he isn't compelled to be very involved in the search for finding his mother well, then they're pressuring him, 'Where's mommy?'" Welner said, adding that Powell's lack of cooperation in the face of his children's questioning would be "striking."

The children, he said, could also be credible witnesses, but said police will need to work quickly before they have been "contaminated" by their father or anyone else.

Police obtained a court order to force a DNA sample of Powell Tuesday. McLachlan told ABC News that they secured the court order for Powell's DNA to guarantee they would get it.

DNA samples also have been collected from others, but McLachlan would not elaborate on who they had tested.

Police have been back to the Simpson Springs Campground where Powell told investigators he had taken his young sons on a camping trip in the early morning hours of Dec. 6, they told ABC News, but they could not find any evidence that verified his story.

ABC News has learned that fewer than 20 people visit the remote campground each winter. The temperature the night Powell allegedly took the couple's sons, ages 4 and 2, to the campground was between 10 and 25 degrees, with rain and snow. Powell told police they set out for the trip around 12:30 a.m.

Investigators have been at the Powell home every day since Susan Powell was reported missing Dec. 7, neighbors said. Forensic tests were run in portions of the house, but were not expected back for weeks.

Best Friend: 'I Don't Believe There Can Be Any, Very Much Hope Left'

Susan Powell's father, Charles Cox, indicated to "Good Morning America" Monday that his faith in his son-in-law was wavering.

"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."

Cox said that now he has no choice but to leave the investigation up to police.

"I understand the concerns I'm hearing from everyone, and I can see their point," he said. "I just don't want us to focus on him exclusively or that story exclusively when there might be another explanation."

Others also are confused by Powell's actions, including his decision to hire a lawyer.

Powell did not show up for a scheduled second interview Monday, police said.

"It kind of raises a red flag, but I know he has to protect himself," neighbor Wendy Trujillo told "Good Morning America." "We're just really worried about Susan. And of course, everyone's thinking the worst and just hoping by the faith of God that she does come back."

Trujillo told ABC News that police and forensic units have removed several bags and boxes as well as one of the family's computers. Joshua Powell and the couple's sons, she said, have not been staying at the house.

"She's been gone for an entire week. I don't believe there can be any, very much hope left," a tearful Kiirsi Hellewell, Susan Powell's best friend, told ABC News this week. "I'm trying to stay busy and not think about it. But I don't see how there's any way she can still be alive."

Joshua Powell told police his wife didn't go camping with them because she was feeling sick.

Cox said it's not unusual for his son-in-law to get a late start.

"It was believable," Cox said of Powell's story. "It was unusual, but believable to me."

But Hellewell said she talked to Susan Powell the day she went missing and she wasn't sick. Police told ABC News they couldn't verify Joshua Powell's camping trip because snow had covered the spot where he said they went.

The West Valley City Police found Susan Powell's purse and keys in her bedroom and say there was no sign of forced entry at the house.

"She would never leave her children, and she would never leave without contacting anybody," Hellewell said.

Susan Powell's Friends Say the Couple Discussed Marital Problems

Susan Powell's friends told ABC News that although the couple openly had discussed marital and financial problems in the past and at one point were considering divorce, they had made a real effort to reconnect.

They both had good jobs, Hellewell told ABC News, and Joshua Powell had begun going back to church.

Anyone with information regarding the case can call West Valley City Police at (801) 840-4000. Crimestoppers has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case, Gifford said.

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