This week marks the second anniversary of the disappearance of Puyllup native Susan Cox Powell from her Utah home. In updating the case, The Salt Lake Tribune is asking a key question: What happens if her body is never found?
Finding any remains would end the nearly two-year mystery of Powell’s disappearance, giving her family answers and providing something else: evidence. But in the absence of discovering a body, putting together a criminal case in connection with Powell’s disappearance is a lot tougher.
Family and friends gained hope earlier this year, when authorities searched the Nevada desert based on their investigation and executed a search warrant on the Puyallup home of Susan Powell’s father-in-law. But neither of the developments has produced a breakthrough in the case. The only named person of interest in the case is husband Josh Powell, who has vehemently denied involvement. Police say they continue to process the evidence.
In its analysis, the Tribune suggests that a prosecution could move forward.
Police have said little about what evidence exists in the case, but University of Utah law professor Daniel Medwed said the lack of a body would make it difficult, but not impossible, to file a murder charge.
“You basically need to have a mountain of circumstantial evidence,” Medwed said.
That circumstantial evidence would have to show the person is dead, was murdered and who did it. But a murder case with no body creates an obvious counterargument for the defendant.