This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Three words helped Josh Powell kill his two young boys five months ago: “least restrictive setting.”
The state Children’s Administration on Thursday released an internal review of its attempts to protect Charlie and Braden Powell, who ultimately died with their father in a gasoline fire he ignited in a Graham-area house.
On the whole, the social workers assigned to look after the 7- and 5-year-old come off looking good. They were alert to the possibility that Josh – a “person of interest” in the disappearance of his wife – would abuse his sons.
Josh had been living with the boys in the house of his own father, Steven. When investigators discovered in September that the elder Powell kept a large trove of pornography in the house, the Children’s Administration pounced and plucked Charlie and Braden out. The agency continued to track them closely right up to the moment their father killed them; Josh had to lock a supervisor out of the house before he set it on fire.
Josh knew how to play a rule-bound agency. He put on a grand show of doting on his boys. Caseworkers need hard evidence to separate children from parents, and this father knew how to make evidence invisible.
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