Susan Powell vanishes while her husband says he went camping with sons: Part 1

After what Josh Powell claims was a camping trip with the family’s two young sons, his wife was nowhere to be found. Josh says he left her at home. Her friends say they had a troubled marriage.
10:17 | 11/14/20

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Susan Powell vanishes while her husband says he went camping with sons: Part 1
Join us at Puyallup is a smaller town. It's a suburb of Seattle and Tacoma. Homie, it's growing. Lots of children who live there, lots of families. Susan was one of four daughters, born to chuck and Judy cox. She got interested in boys as a teenager. She met Josh when she was 18 at a social event for young and he was in his 20s. And she hadn't dated a lot. There are these incredible home movies taken by Josh's dad, which were later released by police that show the couple's blossoming relationship. They quickly fell in love. Josh and Susan's relationship goes from not knowing each other at all in October, to being engaged by the end of December. Those videos also captured Josh and Susan's wedding and the home life they built together after. Let's see the ring. Let see that ring. Hold your hand up, please. It's a young person's love story. That quickly becomes dark. Susan actually was the financial provider. They moved to West Valley City in Utah because they were looking for better life. They wanted to improve their economic situation. They buy a house and they start to have a family. Monday morning. December 7th, 2009. They didn't show up. Debbie Caldwell. She is the day care provider for charley and Braden Powell. Debbie tried to call Susan on the phone, tried to call Josh, couldn't reach anybody. So I got in the van and I went up the street to her house. And as I pulled into her circle, there was no racks in the driveway. So I pounded on the door. And I got no answer. So Debbie calls the emergency contact, which is Josh's sister, Jennifer graves. And Josh's mom, Terri Powell. 911, what is your emergency? My son and his wife and their two children are not responding to calls. And a couple of officers come out on a welfare check. The officers cleared the entire residence and found nobody inside the home. There was no sign of a disturbance, physical altercation, inside of the residence. I made a few phone calls asking other people in the congregation if anyone had seen Susan. Jovana says, I actuallyad dinner with them last night. Susan asked jovana to come to the house and help her with knitting and crocheting. While she was there, Josh, who never did anything domestic at all, offered to make people dinner. Josh and the boys were in the kitchen cooking. He made them one by one. He took a plate in to jovanna. He took a plate with different pancakes made in to Susan. Shortly after that, Susan began to not feel well. Susan laid down, and Josh sort of suggested to jovanna that it was time for her to leave. He was going to take the boys sledding, and he and the boys actually drove before I had finished putting on my seat belt. My brother finally called. Right away asked about the kids. Asked about Susan. He was like, yeah, the kids are here, no, Susan's not with me. I was like, where is she? He was like, I don't know, I have no idea. Josh drives all the way way south to a place called point the mountain, and he places a phone call to Susan's phone. Hello, Susan. We a on our way back. And -- I can't believe that -- I don't know where my brain is today, I thought today was Sunday. That was really, really stupid. I'll talk to you later, okay, bye. Josh had taken the children on a middle of the night camping trip. It was freezing cold. None of this makes any sense. He said that he left Susan in the house. She was sleeping. Welly wanted to talk with Josh, and we wanted to record it. He was adamant about taking the boys with him. When's the last time you've seen her? Probably midnight of last night. We were finishing up a movie. What movie did you guys watch? Josh is very evasive. And he uses the kids, who are in the room, to distract. We asked if we could search his minivan, and he agreed. The minivan was full of camping supplies, like there was a tarp, a generator, shovel, graham crackers. During that search of the minivan where they find Susan's phone hidden in the center console. It's this pink cell phone, clearly not Josh's. He was kind of like a deer in the headlights, just kind of looked at us. It was determined, we didn't have enough probable cause to secure a search warrant for the residence. Let alone book Josh into jail. Because we didn't have any physical evidence. The following morning, he is observed with the minivan pulled out of the garage, all the doors open, thoroughly cleaning it, wiping it down, vacuuming it. When Josh goes in to talk to the police, in the tape you see him initially acting very emotional. I didn't -- I didn't even sink in yesterday -- As detective Maxwell continues to push Josh about what's going on, Josh's demeanor changes. What places should we check to see if wnn find her? Beauty supply? I don't think she would be there but she likes them. He offers no suggestions, really, about where they might look. Let me ask you this before Go ahead and ask one last question. How am I going to find your wife without your help? While I'm interviewing him, another colleague conducted a child forensic interview. Right there, yeah! They were able to interview Charlie. Braden really wouldn't talk to them. Well, what did you do last night? Go camping. You went camping? Who were you camping with? Um, my dad and my mom and my little brother. Your children are telling our detectives that mom went with you guys last night. And that she didn't come back. She did not go with us. They know that she didn't go So your kids lie, then? Do your kids lie? Sometimes they do. It seemed like initially Josh and Susan were pretty conservative couple, loving family, couple of kids. We learned that there was a lot of distress. Josh and Susan's marriage reaches rock bottom in the summer of 2008. Josh and Susan are constantly fighting. She went to see a divorce lawyer one time for a free consultation at my advice. And he told her to make a videotape of everything in your house. This is me. July 29th, 2008. Covering all my bases. Making sure that if something happens to me or my family or all of us that our assets are documented. Police ended up discovering the safety deposit box that Susan kept secretly from Josh at the bare she worked. In it they found a DVD, savings bonds. And there was a makeshift will and testament. She wrote about how bad the marriage had become. She talked about a million-dollar life insurance policy that Josh had taken out on her. And she told her boys she would never leave them. She even goes so far as to say, if I die, it may not be an accident. That is our biggest piece of evidence. It's her last words. There was no doubt that this document was authored by Susan. Police have officially named Joshua Powell a person of terest in the disappearance of his wife Susan. There's a pile of circumstantial evidence. Is there enough there to arrest him and book him into jail and hold him accountable? Absolutely there is. Could we? No. The district attorney's office would not file any charges. They were very specific and told us that we needed to wait 12 months with no body. ABC news reached out to the D.A. At the time, who declined to respond to this claim and refused to comment on the case. N days of Susan's disappearance, he had closed their bank accounts, cashed out her retirement fund, took the boys to puyallup. Josh's dad takes control. He shields Josh from the media andecomes his most Arden defender. Are you okay? Sure, that's all right. I get a call from Josh. We were telling Josh, are you going to do this interview or not? And he finally said yes. Do you still love her? Yeah. He seemed very distant when I spoke to him. Josh did you kill your wife? No. His father was there. And his father really wanted to be interviewed. He ends up revealing the biggest We were watching this on TV and our jaws just dropped.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"10:17","description":"After what Josh Powell claims was a camping trip with the family’s two young sons, his wife was nowhere to be found. Josh says he left her at home. Her friends say they had a troubled marriage.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"74205328","title":"Susan Powell vanishes while her husband says he went camping with sons: Part 1","url":"/Nightline/video/susan-powell-vanishes-husband-camping-sons-part-74205328"}