Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Tag: Josh Powell


Closure denied in the vanishing of Susan Powell

Susan Cox Powell disappeared in 2009. (Family photo)
Susan Cox Powell disappeared in 2009. (Family photo)

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Three-and-a-half years after it started, the most heart-wrenching missing person investigation in Pierce County’s history may have come to an end. And Susan Cox Powell’s remains have yet to be found.

The Puyallup mother’s mysterious disappearance in December 2009 was the beginning of a slowly unfolding horror show. The unimaginable climax followed a year ago February, when her husband, Josh, hatcheted and burned their two boys to death in a Graham-area rental house.

Josh Powell was the prime suspect all along, according to records just released by the Police Department in West Valley City, Utah. Susan disappeared in West Valley, and its detectives spent years searching for her body before finally calling it quits and closing the investigation Monday.

The released records held some surprises. Read more »


Our hopes and wishes for a brighter new year

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Shake up that Etch A Sketch. A new year dawns – and so does hope that the world can move beyond the blunders, disappointments and nasty predicaments of 2012.
Some of our hopes for 2013:

• The drawdown of U.S. troops – including Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers – continues on course in Afghanistan. The bleeding ends.

• The Seahawks win the Super Bowl in February.

• Gov. Jay Inslee proves better at finding money for public schools than his campaign rhetoric suggested.

• Washington’s pot smokers obey the law that legalized marijuana – especially the parts about licensed sales, and keeping the drug out of sight and away from minors.

• Randy Dorn, the state superintendent of public schools, gives up the idea of suing the voters to stop charter schools.

• Lawmakers figure out that they can’t keep starving higher education without squeezing Washington’s economic future.

• The state figures out how to fund the extension of Highway 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, and the construction of the cross-base highway from Frederickson to Interstate 5.

• Tacoma’s municipal unions join T.C. Broadnax’s effort to control city spending and preserve public services.

• Republicans start treating climate change as a scientific issue, not a partisan sledgehammer.

• After getting booted by the voters, former Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam fades into deserved obscurity.

• Afghans and Americans see unmistakable justice done for the appalling massacre of 16 Afghan villagers in March.

• Police solve the disappearance of Susan Powell, whose husband, Josh, murdered their two small boys and killed himself in February.
Read more »


The best of people, the worst of people, in 2012

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Like every year before it, 2012 brought out the good and evil in human nature. The theme never changes, just the particulars.

The generosity of strangers sometimes seems boundless. After Jacoby Miles, a 15-year-old gymnast, was paralyzed in a practice accident, supporters raised more than $150,000 on her behalf and began an overhaul of her South Hill home to accommodate her disability.

An elderly bus monitor, Karen Klein, experienced a similar shower of generosity last summer after several boys on her bus were caught on video viciously tormenting her for more than 10 minutes.

When the video went viral, more than $700,000 in donations poured in. The bullying couldn’t be undone, but roughly 32,000 Americans wanted at least monetary justice. In a corresponding display of generosity, Klein has since been donating the money to an anti-bullying initiative.

If only bullying were the worst 2012 had to offer.

The year has been marked by shocking attacks on helpless children. In Pierce County, the worst came 11 months ago, when Josh Powell set himself and his 5-year-old and 7-year-old sons ablaze in a Graham-area house. That completed the destruction of an entire family; the boys’ mother had disappeared earlier. There was no one left to console with gifts or other assistance.

Two weeks ago, in an even less comprehensible crime, a mentally disturbed 20-year-old gunned down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Why the children?

Last March, a U.S. soldier reportedly perpetuated a similar massacre in Afghanistan, killing 16 Afghan villagers, at least nine of them children. That distant atrocity struck painfully close to home: A Bonney Lake man, Sgt. Robert Bales, was charged with the murders. The criminal proceedings at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are being followed throughout the world.
Read more »


Revisit the mandate that abetted Josh Powell

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.
Read more »


Steven Powell: A case study in family destruction

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Steven Powell’s conviction on 14 counts of voyeurism Wednesday should give police plenty of time – as he sits in prison – to explore his possible involvement in the disappearance of his daughter-in-law, Susan Powell.

His role in the corruption of her husband, who burned their two sons to death in February, is already obvious.

Josh Powell had a penchant for pornography and a tendency to demean and menace his wife, as Susan’s emails and other surviving documents have made clear. His murder of the two young boys doesn’t prove that he killed their mother, but it does prove that he was capable of worse. At the very least, one could say that Josh was not a paragon of respect for women.

Like father, like son.
Read more »


Where the wild things are: In the real world

Three months ago, my daughter was driving with my 4-year-old granddaughter in her car seat; the radio was on. Someone started describing a recent horror: A man had locked himself in his house with his two sons, splashed gasoline around and burned all three of them to death.

My daughter quickly turned the station off to protect her 4-year-old from the awful details of the Josh Powell case. My granddaughter pleaded, “Mommy, could I listen to the radio?”

She’d been following it all along, apparently closely. The news was telling her something about the world she was growing up in. Four-year-olds want to figure out the world.

When I was growing up, Howdy Doody was still on TV. When the show came on, we’d sing: “It’s Howdy Doody Time/It isn’t worth a dime./So go to Channel 9,/And watch Frankenstein.”

Many children – not all – are eager to learn about the dark side of life. As parents, we wish they weren’t eager. We wish there weren’t a dark side of life to begin with. But it’s there, and there’s no escaping it.

Maurice Sendak, who died this morning, wrote and illustrated children’s books that addressed dark themes head-on. My favorite is “Where the Wild Things Are,” which recounts Max’s adventures with fanged, clawed, horned Wild Things, which the boy ultimately tames and rules – before sailing home to eat dinner. It’s a whole lot of fun for kids, and the fun part isn’t when he comes home.
Read more »


What’s real reason for withholding records in Powell case?

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Despite strong circumstantial evidence in the December 2009 disappearance of Susan Cox Powell, authorities in West Valley City, Utah, never filed any charges against the only person they say they suspected: her husband, Josh Charles.

Now that he’s dead – having killed himself and his two young sons – there’s no good reason to withhold records related to the investigation. The Salt Lake Tribune has tried to get those records, but the West Valley City Council has refused to release them.

The Tribune’s request is legitimate. It is in the public interest to determine why authorities failed to take action against Josh Powell – which might have prevented the February murders of 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charlie in Graham. And the newspaper could look into whether taxpayer money was responsibly spent in the two-year investigation.
Read more »


Utah authorities too timid, given their evidence

This editorial appears in Tuesday’s print edition.

Hindsight is 20/20. Even so, one can’t help but think that Utah police mishandled the case of the 2009 disappearance – and presumed murder – of Susan Powell.

Newly public documents detailing what West Valley City police knew about the case from almost the beginning look to untrained eyes like evidence that points directly to Susan’s husband, Josh Powell, as responsible for her death. The trained eyes of Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and former King County prosecutor Anne Bremner agree.

“Based on the facts we now know, we would have charged Josh Powell with Susan Powell’s murder if it occurred in Pierce County,” Lindquist said. And Bremner said, “ There was compelling evidence he killed her. I prosecuted cases on far less than that and won them.” She currently represents the parents of Susan Powell.

But Utah authorities never acted on that compelling evidence, and Powell was free to move to Washington state where he horrifically murdered his two young sons and killed himself Feb. 5.

Among the findings that investigators had turned up shortly after Susan’s disappearance: her blood on the floor in the Powell home near a couch that had been recently cleaned and a letter she hid in a safe deposit box in which she wrote of her fear that Josh might kill her.

That, coupled with other suspicious information and Josh’s odd late-night “camping trip” with his sons on the night Susan disappeared, adds up to what seems like a strong circumstantial case. Read more »