Josh Powell killed himself and his two sons in a planned explosion in 2012, three years after the disappearance of his wife, Susan Cox Powell.
Officials believe Susan Powell was murdered, and her husband was a person of interest in the case. Powell was only allowed supervised visits with his children, but when the boys were dropped off for a visit, he shoved the supervisor out the door and lit the house on fire. Firefighters arrived within three minutes, but it was already too late. The chilling details of the grisly double murder were a disturbing element of an already disturbing case. The bodies of the boys, Charlie, age 7, and Braden, age 5, were found with injuries that indicated Powell tried to kill them with a hatchet before turning his Graham, Washington rental home into an inferno, according to the Desert News. Be forewarned that the details are disturbing.
20/20 is revisiting the case with a special update tonight, February 18, 2022 on ABC at 9 p.m. Eastern time. The show first aired November 13, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know:
Powell Poured 10 Gallons of Gasoline & Ignited it After Attacking His Boys With a Hatchet, Investigators Determined
Injuries to the bodies of 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charlie indicated their dad tried to kill them with a hatchet before lighting his house on fire. Melissa Baker, an investigator with the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, told the Deseret News the injuries were found in the boys’ autopsy, although they died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The attack did not kill them, and they had smoke in their lungs. A social worker who brought the boys to Powell’s home was immediately locked out of the house. She called her supervisor to report the smell of gas, and the house exploded moments later, according to ABC News.
The charred remains of the hatchet were found in the house. Both boys were found in the center of the house, where investigators believe the fire started. Powell, 36, poured 10 gallons of gas in the house before lighting it on fire, the Deseret News reported. The bodies of the boys were found near a gas can.
Evidence Indicated Powell Planned to Kill His Sons in the Explosion
Investigators discussed evidence with the Deseret News that indicated Powell was planning to kill his sons. He had given away boxes of his boys’ toys and books to a Goodwill charity in the days before Braden and Charlie arrived for their visit. He also sent out several emails in the minutes before his sons arrived, but they were not sent out early enough for officials to take any preventative action.
The emails were sent out to people including his pastor, his relatives and his attorney. Some detailed procedures for handling his assets after death. Others simply said “I’m sorry, goodbye.”
Powell said in an email he could not live without his sons, according to ABC News. An ABC News reporter interviewed Powell just days before the murder, who said he was optimistic about the future and expected he would soon regain custody of his children. He was ordered to a psychosexual examination before he could regain custody.
An autopsy determined the boys died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and their deaths were listed as homicides. Powell’s death was listed as a suicide, according to the Deseret News.
Chuck and Judy Cox were caring for the boys after their daughter’s disappearance. While they were mourning the loss of their daughter, they hoped to give her sons a good life, Chuck Cox told the Deseret News.
“We knew we were not going to bring Susan back, but we were hoping to at least give the boys a chance at a good life,” he said. “And now that’s been taken away by their father killing them.”
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