UPDATE: 2/6/12 10:19 p.m: Autopsy reports reveal that both Powell boys were attacked with a hatchet before they died. All three died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The Pierce County Sheriff has closed their investigation into this terrible tragedy, but Utah detectives vow to keep Susan's case open.
Police believe Josh Powell caused the powerful explosion and fire at his Graham home that killed him and his two young sons, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden, on Sunday.
It has been more than two years since Powell’s wife, Susan, vanished in Utah under suspicious circumstances.
In a Monday afternoon press conference at the scene, Pierce County Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer said his department believes Powell planned the double murder-suicide.
A social worker brought the two boys to Powell’s residence on the 8100 block of 189th Street Court East for a scheduled, supervised visit. The boys ran to the house, leaving the social worker behind. She got to the door and found herself locked out. The social worker called police and her employer and was on the phone when the house went up in flames.
A Pierce County judge before he could regain custody of his two children. Powell had pleaded for their return to him and his hopes for the future in requesting full custody.
Investigators have recovered two 5-gallon gas cans from the home, including one near the bodies. They also found gas spread all over the house. No other weapons have been recovered and it did not appear that any guns were involved.
Minutes before the two boys arrived at his house for a scheduled visit with a social worker, Powell sent a series of emails to his pastor and family. Some of the correspondence included instructions for what to do with his money and possessions, and said, “I can’t live without my boys.” Troyer said that Powell had also donated books, toys and other items to the local Goodwill the weekend before the fire.
Troyer said none of the emails included details on the whereabouts of his wife or anything related to her disappearance.
In an official statement, the family of Susan Cox-Powell said that Braden and Charlie told family members their mother was in a mine, looking for crystals. The two were starting to verbalize what happened to their mother, and Charlie, the oldest, drew pictures depicting their mother in the trunk of a car, with them inside of it.
Meanwhile, Powell’s father, who is currently jailed on voyeurism and child pornography charges, is on suicide watch, said Troyer. He has refused to discuss the case with any media at this time.