TACOMA, Wash. — The husband of a missing Utah woman is temporarily losing the right to care for his children after officials questioned Wednesday whether he is responsible for his wife's disappearance.
Judge Kathryn Nelson said there is reasonable cause to believe the two boys cannot be safely returned to the home of Josh Powell, so she ordered that the kids will temporarily stay with Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox. Josh Powell will have visitation rights.
Powell is a person of interest in his wife's disappearance, but he has not been charged and insists he did nothing wrong. John Long, an assistant attorney general, described during Wednesday's hearing a variety of concerns he has about Josh Powell, including that he has been uncooperative with law enforcement.
"It leads the state to believe that he is responsible for her disappearance," Long said.
Another of the concerns that Long raised was that the children had been living in the home of Steve Powell, Josh Powell's father, who was charged this month with voyeurism and possessing child pornography. Josh Powell said he wasn't aware of any illegal pornography and said there were no signs that it was in the home.
More details emerged Wednesday about Steve Powell's past in a 1992 divorce case from Spokane County. Case documents reviewed by The Associated Press show Steve Powell's ex-wife accused him of keeping pornography, damaging his children's respect for marriage and inappropriately discussing sex issues with the kids. Powell was charged this month with child pornography and voyeurism after authorities investigating the disappearance of Susan Powell searched his home in Puyallup.
Terri Powell wrote in the divorce papers that Steve Powell talked of teaching his children about birth control methods when they were as young as 9 years old. Terri's sister, Becky Mulcahy, wrote in the documents that Steve Powell told her that he had shown his youngest children books about sexual intercourse when they were 6 and 8 years old.
Terri Powell said her husband viewed people as animals and that they should be able to have sex with anyone at any time. She recalled a conversation in which Josh referred to a girl his brother, Johnny, liked. "All she is good for is her body, right Dad?" Terri recalled Josh saying.
"Yeah, that's right," Steve Powell replied, according to the declaration.
Terri Powell also said Steve Powell kept hardcore pornography in the home and that he visited pornography shops.
Jennifer Graves, Josh Powell's sister, said in an interview with The Associated Press that she broke off ties with her father in part because of his problems with sex and pornography. She recalled going on a business trip with her father when she was about 11 years old and that he viewed a pornographic video while she was with him.
"Looking back, I wonder if he was willing to do that with a 10-12 year girl – his daughter – in the room, what else would he be willing to do?" she said.
Steve Powell has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges of voyeurism and one of possession of child pornography. He remains jailed on $200,000 bail. Prosecutors said that for at least a decade, he had been secretly filming women, including Susan Powell, and that he shot footage of two young neighbor girls as they took baths and sat on the toilet.
In Wednesday's court hearing, Josh Powell advocated without an attorney that it was in the best interest of the children for him to keep caring for them. He also opposed the judge's decision to place them in the care of his in-laws, who have been openly critical of him.
Powell reiterated his statement that he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance and wants her back safely. He continues to wear his wedding ring. Powell has said he took his boys, then 2 and 4, on a late night camping trip in freezing temperatures the day his wife disappeared from their West Valley City, Utah, home.