Steve Powell, Josh Powell’s dad, spent time in prison after investigators found sexual images of children in his home.
Josh Powell was the sole suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell. After she disappeared in December 2009 in Utah, he moved to Puyallup, Washington, and moved in with his dad.
While police were investigating her disappearance, they discovered child pornography in Steve Powell’s home. Investigators believe he was obsessed with his daughter-in-law.
In 2012, Josh Powell killed himself and his two young sons in a house explosion. Steve Powell died of a heart attack at age 68 in 2018, one year after he was released from prison. The case is being examined in an all new episode of 20/20, which airs Friday, November 13, 2020 on ABC at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Steve Powell Was Convicted of Child Pornography Possession & Served Time in Prison
In 2011, Police were conducting a search for information into the disappearance of Susan Powell when they found images of child pornography in Steve Powell’s home. The children in the images were his former neighbors. He was convicted of second-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and sentenced to serve three years in prison, according to an appeal filed in his case.
“On August 25, officers from Pierce County and Utah executed the search warrant on Powell’s home. They seized computers, hard drives, discs, a camcorder, videos, and notebooks during the search. One disc seized from Powell’s bedroom contained numerous photos and videos carefully cataloged into folders. One such folder was titled ‘Neighbors,’ which contained subfolders titled ‘Open Window in Back House,’ ‘Taking Bath-1,’ and ‘Taking Bath-2,'” the appeal said.
Powell had images of his neighbors, which were taken through his window and looking into the neighbor’s house.
“The subfolders contained numerous images of young girls, including two who were later identified as Powell’s 8-year-old and 10-year-old neighbors. The images were taken through Powell’s window, looking into the bathroom of the neighboring house. They depicted the girls in the bathtub, going to the bathroom, and changing clothes. Some images captured and focused in on the young girls’ exposed genital regions,” the appeal said.
Powell was sentenced to 30 months in prison. He was later sentenced on an additional charge, and sentenced to 60 months in prison to run concurrently with his previous sentence.
Police found an entry in Powell’s journal, which said, “I enjoy taking video shots of pretty girls in shorts and skirts, beautiful women of every age. I sometimes use those images for self-stimulation.”
2. Steven Powell Also Had Tapes Which Contained Images of Susan Powell & Claimed She Wanted to Have an Affair
During the investigation into Susan Powell’s disappearance, police found a journal that belonged to Susan at her workplace.
“While investigating Susan’s disappearance, Utah police found a journal belonging to Susan at her workplace,” an appeal filed in Steve Powell’s child pornography case said. “Powell and Joshua then announced to media that they had numerous journals belonging to Susan that contained over 2,000 pages of additional journal entries. Powell and Joshua also indicated that the journals they possessed contained information important to the investigation.”
That announcement prompted the search warrant at Steve Powell’s home, which led to the discovery of child pornography and other shocking material that indicated he had a fixation with his daughter in law.
As police collected thousands of images of child pornography depicting girls as young as 8 in Steven Powell’s home, they also found images of Susan, according to The Charley Project.
“Police said it appeared Steven had been making the films for at least a decade,” the website said. “One of the women in the tapes was Susan. Steven also had pictures of other nude female bodies with their heads replaced by an image of Susan’s face, and photos of himself masturbating to a video of Susan.”
Steve Powell described his daughter-in-law as “a very sexual person” and claimed she wanted to have an affair with him. However, others told investigators he spied on her and she asked her husband to cut off contact with his father.
“(Interestingly, Steven had earlier claimed Susan was “a very sexual person” and that she had wanted to have an affair with him, but Susan’s family said the opposite was true and Susan and Josh had moved to Utah in part to get away from her father-in-law’s unwanted sexual advances,” The Charley Project said. “One of Susan’s friends said she told him Steven had spied on her while she was dressing and, after she moved to Utah, she told Josh she never wanted to allow Steven inside their home. Josh admitted he was aware of his father’s fixation on Susan. In her journals, Susan wrote that she thought Steven was a pedophile and a bad influence on Josh.)”
3. Steve Powell Was a Songwriter Who Wrote About a Painful Childhood
Steve Powell was an amateur musician, and often wrote about his troubled childhood, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The newspaper reported, “Born in Portland, Ore., Steve wrote that during his early childhood, his mother once packed up her children in a decision to leave his father. The couple reconciled for a time, until Steve’s dad took him to his grandparents’ home while his mother was visiting a sister. They all then proceeded ‘north on Highway 1, [and] something seemed amiss to me, even at 7 years old. ‘Where is Momma?’ I asked. Grandma curtly replied, ‘You’re never going to see your mother again,’ Steve wrote.”
He settled in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with his grandparents. At one time, he told his friends his grandparents had kidnapped him. His grandmother told Steve to keep his mouth shut, and poured cayenne pepper on his tongue.
4. Steve Powell Was a Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Married & Had 5 Children
When Steve Powell was a young adult, he was actively involved in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and served a two-year mission trip in Argentina. When he returned from the trip, he met his future wife, Terrica “Terri” Martin at the church. They began dating in 1973, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“He was fun to be around. He was outgoing and people all around were drawn to him. He had a beautiful singing voice and sung on many occasions for weddings, funerals, and church meetings,” Terri wrote in court documents, according to the newspaper.
They married when Steve was 24 and Terri was 18. Their first child, Jennifer, was born in 1974. Their second child, Joshua, was born in 1976. Johnny was born in 1977, followed by Michael in 1982. Their youngest, Alina, was born in 1985.
Both Josh Powell and Michael Powell died by suicide.
5. Steve Powell Left the Church in the Mid-1980s & Endured a Bitter Divorce in the Early 1990s
Friends and family members of Steve Powell said they noticed a change in him, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. He left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and went through a bitter divorce with his wife in the early 1990s. Hundreds of court documents noted a change in his personality over the years.
“Over the past few years I have seen Steve change from a loving and kind person to a person seemingly filled with darkness and hatred, whose respect for others and for basic and social moral values has been abandoned for a path of self-gratification that leads not only himself but his children in a direction that is not only not healthy but does not recognize basic social skills that are needed to function in society,” Terri’s brother, Jim Martin, wrote in court documents, according to the newspaper.
Powell worked in real estate when he and his wife first married. He switched careers to become a salesman shortly after their wedding. He died in 2018, one year after he was released from prison for child pornography. He died of a heart attack at age 68.
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