On Tuesday the judge presiding over the custody dispute involving Susan Cox Powell’s two young boys said she needed more time to unravel the mess.
What Judge Kathryn Nelson didn’t say, but could have, was “This’ll be one of the easiest decisions I’ll ever make in this job.”
Wednesday, the Pierce County Superior Court judge gave custody to the missing woman’s parents, Charles and Judith Cox, in a decision that should be seen as nothing less than a stern rebuke for Josh Powell and the home he shares with his father, Steven Powell.
This ruling came despite the State’s strong bias towards keeping children in the care of their biological parents. Despite the worthy goal, the judge in this case had ample reason to take a harsh view of Josh Powell’s parenting program.
First, the home environment. Powell lives with his father, Steven, whose recent arrest for possessing perverted, predatory and felonious pictures of neighboring children certainly doesn’t scream “safe and secure.”
Next are the whispers and allegations. The Cox family has maintained that Josh Powell has done nothing to help authorities find the long-missing Susan Cox Powell. To be fair, Josh Powell countered by saying that he would not do anything to help authorities put him in the role of killer.
But if that’s true then why isn’t there anything else Powell can do to help authorities find his wife in a way that doesn’t implicate him? The most logical answer, it would seem, is that he can’t.
Then there was the judge’s request to examine some of Powell’s communications which elicited such a defensive and disturbing response. The request was first made to the prosecutor who–one can only imagine an eyebrow raising sardonically–lobbed it to Powell. The correct response, at least from a rational person who would realize that the privacy of one’s bizarre (but non-homicidal) tastes are less important than proving one’s innocence, would be “Well, sure.”
Instead, his brief pause conjures the image of Powell’s cranial wheels spinning as he wonders to himself ”What exactly did I put in there?” His response was a request to first review the material. It likely did not impress the judge.
Judge Nelson took a day to think the matter over, then allowed a delay for the media to get set up before rendering her decision. While some questioned this action there was in fact no need to rush because the most important issue, providing a safe environment for the Powell children, had already been resolved.
They were already in the temporary custody of their grandparents. The judge’s ruling made that a more permanent situation.
One last ill-considered comment by Josh Powell struck me, if only in that it was eerily reminiscent of the legend of King Solomon and the baby (wherein the King tested the maternal emotions of two women vying over custody of a baby by offering to cut the baby in half).
When asked who should be granted custody of the boys if Powell himself were not selected, Powell’s response was recorded in the Trib article (9/29):
“If that wasn’t possible, [Powell] told Nelson, the boys should remain in foster care.”
What Powell clearly didn’t understand was that his response suggested he cared less for his young children’s plight, being forced to live in a stranger’s home, and more about not losing the upper hand to his in-laws.
In the end it did not require the wisdom of Solomon to figure out this custody dispute. Powell’s own words and actions made it a no-brainer.