As police scale back their investigation of the missing Utah mother until after the holiday, a neighbor reports her husband's odd behavior

By Cathy Free
Updated December 24, 2009 06:15 PM
Credit: Hardman Photography/AP

A neighbor of missing Utah mother Susan Powell says days after friends reported her disappearance on Dec. 6, her husband, Joshua Powell, dropped by his house with “wind-burned hands” and acted very strangely.

“We kept asking about Susan, but all he could talk about was the new clothes and phone he’d gotten at Walmart after the police took his stuff for evidence,” the neighbor, Tim Peterson, tells the Salt Lake Tribune in a new interview.

Peterson says that neighbors tried to call Joshua all day Dec. 7 after his wife was reported missing, but it took him two hours to get home when they finally reached him. “He just said he was driving around West Valley City,” Peterson said. “He wasn’t in a big hurry to get home to find his wife. This guy was absolutely a crackpot and there was just something wrong with this whole situation.”

Peterson said Joshua Powell had the worst wind burn he’d ever seen on the back of his hands and he kept pulling out a bottle of lotion and reapplying it as they spoke. “He was pretty unfazed,” Peterson told the newspaper. “It’s just a really crappy situation.”

Susan Powell was last seen by friends on Dec. 6 – the same night her husband says he took the couple’s young sons camping in freezing conditions along the Pony Express Trail in Utah’s west desert. Joshua Powell, who is the only person of interest in the case, according to police, is spending Christmas at his father’s home in Puyallup, Wash., with his boys. Police still hope to interview him at some point about his whereabouts on Dec. 6 and 7.

In the meantime, police are scaling back their investigation until after Christmas so that detectives, who have worked around the clock since the Utah mother of two disappeared, can spend some time with their families. At the same time, family and friends of the West Valley City woman are asking people to step up and do something nice for someone else in Powell’s honor.

“Susan is a shining example to others and [her family] is gratified by the acts of service being performed on their behalf,” says Shelby Gifford, spokesperson for Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox. “They hope, in some small way, they will be able to bring peace and comfort to those whose lives are affected by Susan’s disappearance.”