New Tip in 2009 Missing Utah Mom Case Sparks Search in Nevada Desert

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New information has prompted authorities to launch a search Friday of the remote mountain desert around Ely, Nev., for a Utah woman who disappeared when her husband went camping with their boys, police said.

Authorities have declined to detail the scope of the search or say specifically what they are looking for in the desert some 237 miles southwest of Susan Cox Powell's home in West Valley City, Utah, where she was last seen Dec. 6, 2009.

The search is based on new, credible information obtained by investigators, West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell has said.

Police continue the investigation a missing persons case.

Susan Cox Powell was 28 and had two young children when she was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job. She had been seen by friends at church and at dinner the day before.

Her husband, Joshua Powell, told police he left his wife at home about 12:30 a.m. that day to go winter camping in freezing temperatures with their young sons -- then ages 4 and 2 -- on the Pony Express Trail, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The 4-year-old confirmed the trip to police.

Police have called Joshua Powell a person of interest in the missing person case, although he's never been arrested or charged. Investigators have claimed Joshua Powell has not cooperated with their investigation, although his Salt Lake City attorney, Scott Williams, disputes that characterization.

On Thursday, Joshua Powell, who now lives in Puyallup, Wash., told Seattle's KING-TV he was "overjoyed" by news of the Nevada search. Joshua Powell has rarely spoken publicly about the case. He and his father have said they believe Susan might have run off with another man.

"It's been a hard two years, it's been lonely," Joshua Powell said. "I will always love her."

Susan Cox Powell's disappearance has strained the relationship between her husband and her family, which for nearly two years has publicly pleaded with Joshua Powell to cooperate with police.

Court papers from Washington's Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma show Joshua Powell filed a restraining order against Susan's father, Chuck Cox. A court hearing is set for Aug. 23 in Tacoma, Wash.

In his petition, Joshua Powell claims Chuck Cox has used the news media to "inflict me and my children with emotional insecurity and fear." The restraining order followed an incident at a hardware store, where Powell and the children encountered Cox, who also lives in Puyallup. The papers state Cox and his wife begged Joshua Powell to let them hug their grandchildren and peppered Joshua Powell with questions about what he had been telling the children about Cox.

The petition also states that Joshua Powell believes Cox's behavior is increasingly threatening because he believes Joshua Powell is responsible for his daughter's disappearance.

On Thursday, Cox claimed he didn't understand why Joshua Powell wants to restrict Susan's family from seeing her children.

Cox said he would not be in Ely to monitor Friday's police search but was pleased by their continued efforts.

"I look at this, frankly, as further evidence that they are still on the case and willing to do whatever it takes to solve the case," he said. "Obviously, if they found her alive somewhere we certainly would be there instantly. ... We hope that she's alive, that she is returned, but we're preparing ourselves for the worst."