Chuck and Judy Cox had cared for Powell’s two young boys until he killed the children and himself in a fire earlier this month. They described personal frustrations with how the state handles child custody cases in a hearing in Olympia on Thursday, concluding that workers handling the Powell case were constrained by current state laws and regulations.
Powell maintained full care of his children until last summer, when his father was arrested on voyeurism and child pornography charges. The state then shifted custody to the Coxes but allowed Josh to have a few hours of supervised visitation each week.
Chuck and Judy Cox, in-laws of Josh Powell, speak during a news conference about how they say Washington’s child protection system is flawed, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, in Olympia, Wash. The two said Thursday that they are hoping to see changes to better ensure safety of children involved in custody cases. The Cox family had cared for Powell’s two young boys until he killed the children and himself in a fire earlier this month. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
“[Josh Powell] was saying that we had mental problems, that we abused the boys, that we were an unstable family, and he had absolutely nothing to back it up with. He said we abused him, we attacked him, that we committed domestic violence because we controlled the media and the media didn’t like him.”
Chuck Cox told 97.3 KIRO FM’s Ron & Don Show that without looking into Powell’s remarks, for several hearings in a row the judge accepted Powell’s remarks at face value.
“That was accepted, and the judge, based on that information prohibited me from talking about my daughter in the media while we had custody of the boys because that’s going to hurt them somehow, but that’s ridiculous.”
The Coxes said they are supporting several changes to the system, including more rights for grandparents in court proceedings. They pushed restrictions on private home visitations, arguing that they had been concerned about allowing Powell to visit with the children while only one woman supervised the meeting.
Chuck Cox also said he was bothered by the state’s persistent focus on trying to reunify children with their biological parents, especially when there are safety concerns.
Chuck Cox told Ron & Don that because Josh Powell was a person of interest in a disappearance and possible murder, the visitation should have been handled differently to offer more protection to the children. “You don’t put an unarmed person as a supervisor when a parent is accused of murdering his wife.”
The Coxes and their attorneys are backing a bill that would prohibit a child custody award to a murder suspect. Powell’s wife, Susan, has been missing since 2009 but Utah authorities didn’t publicly label her disappearance as a murder until after Josh Powell killed his two sons and himself. Investigators also never formally called Powell a suspect.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.