Josh Powell Tried to Kill Sons With Hatchet Before Fatal Explosion

Before his death, Josh Powell told ABC News he was optimistic about future.

ByABC News
February 6, 2012, 5:14 AM

Feb. 6, 2012— -- Josh Powell tried to kill his two young sons with a hatchet before the flames of the fiery explosion he had ignited engulfed them all, police said today.

Powell, 36, failed to kill his sons Charles, 7, and Braden, 5, but still wounded them horribly before they died -- smoke in their lungs -- in the gas-fueled explosion Sunday, according to police and the medical examiner. A funeral for the boys will be held Saturday, at the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Stake Center in Puyallup, and is open to the public.

Just days before he killed himself and his two boys when they came to his Graham, Wash., home for what was supposed to be a supervised visit, Powell gave away his children's toys, police said today.

Powell also sent long emails detailing what to do with his money, house utilities, and other aspects of his life to cousins, his pastor, and friends just minutes before he ignited the explosion that killed himself and his children and left his house a charred ruin, Pierce County, Wash., Sheriff's Department Det. Ed Troyer said today.

In the emails, Powell said he could not live without his boys, Charles, 7, and Braden, 5, Troyer said.

He and the boys were found in the center of the home, next to one of two 10-gallon cans of gas in the house, Troyer said.

Autopsies were being performed today, and police expected some results by tonight, Troyer said. There were no weapons found and no evidence of gunshot wounds on the bodies, he said.

Investigators are trying to determine when Powell began planning the murder-suicide by finding out when and where he bought the materials for the explosion, Troyer said. The toys were donated to Goodwill days before the deaths occurred, he said.

Josh Powell Was Relaxed Before Murder-Suicide

Just a week before the explosion, Powell had told ABC News he was optimistic about the future and was looking forward to a day when he would regain custody of his boys.

Powell spoke with ABC News shortly after a court hearing Wednesday in which he was ordered to undergo psychosexual testing before he could regain custody of his sons.

Less than a week later, Powell let his sons into his house for a supervised visit, but shut and locked the door before the social worker could enter. Moments later, the house smelled of gas and erupted in a ball of flames. The two boys and Powell died in the explosion.

In his final conversation with ABC News, Powell said he had no idea what images had been found on his hard drive that prompted the court to keep his children away from him and order him to undergo a psychosexual examination.

Despite the court ruling, Powell gave no indication of the rage that would drive him to blow up himself, his children, and his home.

Rather than being angry or upset by the court order, Powell was calm and more relaxed than usual and was optimistically looking forward to when he would regain custody of his sons.

Powell had been under investigation since the disappearance of his wife, Susan Cox, in 2009. Police had name Powell a "person of interest" in the case, but he was never charged in his wife's disappearance.

He lost custody of his children after his father, Steven Powell was arrested on child porn charges last fall. Josh Powell and his sons were living with Steven Powell. At the hearing Wednesday, a letter from police said that images found on Josh's computer were concerning for the welfare of the children.