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Crime & Courts

Josh Powell set up sham residence to mislead authorities before killing sons, self, officials say

  • Josh Powell house

    Feb. 7: The charred rubble of the home where Josh Powell and his two sons were killed in Graham, Wash., in what police said appeared to be a deliberately set fire. (AP)

  • Josh Powell

    In this Aug. 23, 2011 file photo, Josh Powell, husband of missing Utah woman Susan Cox Powell, walks to a court hearing in Tacoma, Wash. (AP)

Authorities said Josh Powell was not living at the house he rigged as a bomb and blew up, killing himself and his two young sons, the Tacoma News Tribune reported Tuesday.

Pierce County sheriff's detectives told citizens at a community meeting on Monday that the house Powell showed to authorities was a sham -- intended to look like a loving home where his two sons could visit, according to the newspaper.

Detectives said they believe Powell passed the abandoned home off as his so that he could be granted supervised visits with his sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5. 

"He set it up like a rental place, with pictures of the family," Sgt. Denny Wood said at the meeting, the newspaper reports. 

"I think it was staged so when CPS (Child Protective Services) came, it would look like a loving family," he said.

Powell, long a suspect in his wife's disappearance, killed his sons as well as himself when he blew up the home Feb 5, shortly after a social worker arrived with the children for a court-ordered visit.

After locking the social worker out of the house, Powell hit both sons with a hatchet and then doused the home with gasoline before lighting a flame, authorities said. The house then exploded.  

Powell's wife, Susan, disappeared in 2009. Powell had always maintained that she disappeared after he took the boys, then 2 and 4, on a midnight camping trip in freezing weather in Utah's west desert.

Since the fire, authorities in Washington have discovered a comforter -- apparently stained with blood -- Josh Powell left at a storage locker. They found books and an unmarked map of Utah that Powell dumped at a landfill.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Click for more on this story from the Tacoma News Tribune. 

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