Her friends and relatives are surprised by Joshua Powell's appearance in her hometown

By Cathy Free
December 21, 2009 07:30 AM
Credit: Hardman Photography/AP

Dozens of concerned strangers gathered with friends and relatives of Susan Powell at vigils in Utah and in Washington state on Sunday night to light candles and pray for the safe return of the 28-year-old mother of two, who has been missing now for two weeks. Susan’s husband, Joshua Powell, attended the Washington event, as friends wondered how he could leave Utah with his wife still missing.

Since Powell’s disappearance on Dec. 6, her husband, who claims to have gone on a midnight camping trip with the couple’s two young sons that night, remains the only “person of interest” in the case. Authorities say that Powell left sometime this weekend with his boys to spend the holidays with his father in Puyallup a trip that police learned about from Powell’s neighbors, who were surprised that he would leave the state with Susan missing.

Investigators say they don’t have a problem with Powell’s leaving town. “He’s free to come and go as he wishes – he’s not required to tell us where he’s at or where he’s going,” West Valley City Police Capt. Tom McLachlan told reporters on Sunday. “We can’t control his movements. But we hope to still try and maintain contact with him so we can have an interview with him at some point.”

Sang ‘Silent Night’

Holding candles in a foggy park near Powell’s West Valley City, Utah, home, children and adults stood in frigid temperatures to sing Susan Powell’s favorite Christmas hymn, “Silent Night,” and offer prayers for her return.

“We ask that hearts be softened, that whoever may know what has happened to her may have the courage to step forward and speak up,” said James Hofheins, coordinator of the Susan Powell Friends and Family Facebook page.

“We join Susan’s family and friends at this moment in Puyallup, to light a candle of hope for Susan,” added Kiirsi Hellewell, a close friend of Powell’s who helped organize the event. “We have not given up and we will not give up until Susan comes home.”

Although the Powell home is no longer being searched for clues by police, Salt Lake City TV station Fox 13 reports that Joshua Powell rented a car and wasn’t seen for 24 hours, two days after his wife disappeared and one day after police seized his van. The station also reports that detectives found a carpet-cleaning machine inside the house early on in the investigation.

Parents Attended

At the vigil in the LDS Church ward chapel of Susan’s Washington hometown of Puyallup, her parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, attended but did not speak to their son-in-law. Joshua Powell – in her first public appearance since being named a person of interest by police – avoided reporters, shielded by a group of supporters protecting him with umbrellas, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The newspaper also reports that Powell, who was stared at by many of Susan’s friends and family members, attended the service with his son, Charlie, 4, who held a candle. Joshua did hug and speak to Susan’s sister, Denise, who afterwards told the Tribune she asked Joshua how he, Charlie and her other nephew, Braden, 2, were faring, and if she could discuss recent events with him. She said Joshua agreed to talk later, which she appreciates.