‘Cold’: Interview casts doubt on claim Josh Powell confessed to a stripper
This is the 16th of a weekly series featuring highlights from a KSL investigative podcast series titled “Cold” that reports new information about the case of missing Utah woman Susan Powell.
A man who told West Valley police that Josh Powell confessed killing his wife to a stripper has shared his story publicly for the first time.
Andrew Colton Andersen, 32, spoke with the podcast “Cold” about the information he first provided to police while incarcerated on felony fraud charges in 2010.
“I was trying to get creeps off the street and to help a family get their daughter back,” Andersen said.
However, serious doubt remains in the minds of investigators about the veracity of Andersen’s story.
Andersen first told police that he had seen a man he later identified as Josh Powell with a woman named Summer at the Fat Cats bowling alley in South Salt Lake in July of 2009. The night at Fat Cats had come roughly five months before Josh Powell’s wife Susan Powell disappeared on Dec. 7, 2009.
“That’s where I first met him and then I’ve been to Wendover with him and a couple other places,” Andersen said. “Summer was a stripper and she was just using him ’cause he was paying, just giving money, money, money, money.”
Andersen said months later, Powell and Summer had been involved in an argument. Summer threatened to tell Powell’s wife of their affair. Powell had responded by telling Summer he’d murdered his wife.
“For some reason he spilled beans to her,” Andersen said.
Andersen said Summer relayed that story to him after he was incarcerated, so he could use the information to better his situation.
Search for Summer
Retired West Valley police detective Ellis Maxwell, who led the Powell investigation, at first found Andersen’s account persuasive, based on his track record of providing valid information in other cases.
“Some of his information sounded credible, sounded legit and we certainly followed up on it,” Maxwell said.
Detectives spent the better part of two years attempting to locate Summer. Those efforts included flying to Michigan with the U.S. Marshals Service to find and interview a possible associate of Summer’s, as well as numerous interviews in Utah and Nevada with exotic dancers who were named or using the alias Summer.
None of those women provided any information that could corroborate Andersen’s claims.
In numerous letters to investigators, Andersen said he could help them find the right Summer, if they’d only secure his release from custody.
“I said, ‘Well, I can’t do a dang thing sitting in here. How can I go find Summer? You get me on the street with a furlough or something, get me out of prison, then I could do it,’” Andersen said.
His cooperation did not result in an early release but it did allow him to secure transfers between various county jails, where he served a portion of his prison sentence.
Credibility in question
During his June 2018 interview for “Cold,” Andersen made several claims that directly contradicted known, factual information about the Powell case.
He claimed the Aug. 25, 2011, search warrant raid of Steve Powell’s home in Washington occurred thanks to information he provided to West Valley police.
“I give them that information and then they go up there and arrest him. They wouldn’t have gone up there otherwise,” Andersen said.
A search warrant affidavit authored by Pierce County sheriff’s detective Gary Sanders said the purpose of the raid was to retrieve Susan Powell’s childhood journals. Steve Powell, Josh Powell’s father, had displayed the journals during a national TV news broadcast a month prior. The affidavit made no mention of Andersen.
“There wasn’t anything that Andrew shared with us that benefited the investigation — nothing,” Maxwell said.
Police operational plans reviewed by “Cold” also confirmed detectives had for months considered seeking a search warrant for Steve Powell’s home as part of what eventually became known as Operation Tsunami.
“They go up there, I see it on the news. They come back and talk to me and they’re like, ‘Yeah, you were right,”’ Andersen said. “I said, ‘Well, am I getting out?’”
Find Summer, find Susan
Andersen insisted to “Cold” that Summer was a real person with critical information about the location of Susan Powell’s remains.
“There’s a lot to the story that Summer could add to it, that would close it, pretty much,” Andersen said.
Yet he said he gave up searching for Summer following his release from custody in 2014.
“The only way to do it is to start going to strip clubs and hanging out with escorts and strippers again,” Andersen said. “I don’t like that, so I’m far beyond that.”
Andersen also stated he believed Summer had died from a heroin overdose and that his searching for her now would prove futile. As for Susan Powell, Andersen said last he’d heard her remains were in a mine in Idaho. He couldn’t say precisely where in Idaho.
“From what I was told, there’s no way anybody’s going to stumble upon it, stumble upon her bones or anything,” Andersen said.
Ultimately, police decided his tip about Josh Powell spending time with a stripper named Summer was not credible.
“That’s a really good example of depleting your resources and burning up valuable time,” Maxwell said. “We had some very frank conversations with him through that time frame and eventually we shut the door.”
By Dave Cawley, KSL
Previous episodes of Cold:
Cold: Josh Powell’s brother lied under oath
Cold: Forensic psychologist shares impressions of Josh Powell
Cold: FBI warned Steve Powell that Josh might murder sons
Cold: Josh Powell’s ex-girlfriend speaks for the first time
Cold: Secret audio, video recordings of Josh, Steven Powell
Cold: Lead detective on Susan Powell investigation speaks
Cold: Looking into mystery evidence in Susan Powell case
Cold: Josh diagnosed with injury after wife disappeared
Cold: Police plot to introduce Powell to woman undercover
Cold: FBI fails to crack Powell’s computer encryption
Cold: All about “Operation Tsunami”