Horrific details surface in lawsuit over death of Susan Powell’s sons

Feb 19, 2020, 6:48 AM
Susan Powell lawsuit...
A lawsuit filed by the family of Susan Powell began this week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

“These two precious boys ladies and gentlemen … this is the last chance they’re going to get for justice,” Attorney Ted Buck told jurors as opening arguments got underway at the Pierce County Courthouse in the lawsuit against DSHS, filed by Susan Cox-Powell’s parents over the murder of their grandsons by Josh Powell.

Family of Susan Powell still holds hope 10 years after her disappearance

Chuck and Judy Cox had to leave the courtroom as Buck shared the horrific details of the murders of their grandsons, Charlie and Braden, by their father.

“On February 5, 2012 these boys were on a supervised visitation to go and see their father – an employee of the defendant of the state,” Buck told jurors, explaining the state was obligated to the boys that day in two ways.

“First, they owed them the obligation of having a supervisor who was trained and capable of doing the job of being able to intervene for the benefit of saving these boys,” Buck said. “Second, the state owed these boys an obligation to have this visitation at a place that was safe, that ensured their safety,” Buck continued, pointing repeatedly to the fact that visitation had been moved from a secure facility to Josh Powell’s Graham home, where he had all the control.

On that day when the social worker arrived to bring the boys for their visit, Josh was able to grab them and get them inside the home while locking the social worker out of the home.

That left the boys defenseless as they experienced “incredible terror” at the hands of their dad, as Buck described to jurors what happened when Josh Powell got the boys locked inside the house that day.

“He took a hatchet … he struck those boys again, and again, and again,” Buck explained.

“The fear, the betrayal, the pain, the confusion,” Buck said, suggesting to jurors what the brothers experienced.

He went on to explain that Charlie and Braden, while both injured from the attack, were still conscious lying on the floor.

“Their own father, the man who the state believed was an imminent risk to them, took gasoline and poured it on them, poured it on their faces,” Buck said, explaining in detail how their dad doused the entire home in gasoline and then lit it on fire, causing the home to erupt in flames, and killing Josh and the boys.

Buck argued DSHS failed to meet its obligation to protect the boys under their care and custody that day, and instead delivered them without warning to their father’s house.

“The place where he had complete control,” Buck explained going on to point out multiple other failures on the part of DSHS regarding Charlie and Braden, including not following up on multiple requests to investigate the home situation, ongoing warnings from the Cox family that Josh was a threat to the boys, or take into account Josh was consistently under suspicion in his wife’s 2009 disappearance.

But Lori Kooiman, the attorney representing DSHS, countered in her opening remarks that all involved were aware of the bad blood between Josh and the Cox’s with both sides slinging allegations at the other.

She also explained that DSHS does not have the authority to go take kids out of homes because it wants to, and in fact must follow strict state law which leans heavily in the direction of keeping kids with or working to reunite them with their parents.

Josh Powell’s uncle was person of interest in Susan Powell case

Josh Powell lost custody of the boys after his now dead father, Steven Powell, who Josh and the boys lived with, was convicted on voyeurism and child pornography charges. He quickly worked to meet all the conditions required to get custody back, including moving out of his dad’s house and getting his own place in Graham.

Charlie and Braden were living with their grandparents in February of 2012, and Josh had been confident he was about to get the boys back until suffering a setback in court just four days before the killings, when police in Utah finally revealed bizarre sexual images they had found on one of his hard drives during the investigation into his wife’s disappearance. That prompted a judge to order him to undergo a psychosexual evaluation and keep the boys with their grandparents.

Kooiman also made a point in her opening statement to the jury to lay out the different people working on the boy’s case noting some were outside contractors not DSHS staff so the agency could not be held liable for any mistakes the contractors made.

And while Kooiman agreed the murders were a horrific tragedy, she encouraged jurors not to let their emotions take over.

“Don’t allow your thought process to be clouded by the facts of the brutal murders,” she told jurors instead urging them to focus on the evidence.

“You’ll see who is responsible for the murders of Charlie and Braden, and when you test that evidence there’s only one answer, and that answer is Josh Powell,” Kooiman said.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Local News

SDOT Light Rail Ped...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Pedestrian struck, injured by Link light rail train in south Seattle

A pedestrian was struck and injured by a Link light rail train Wednesday afternoon in south Seattle.
1 day ago
(Photo courtesy of King County)...
Frank Sumrall

King County executive initiates plan to conserve and save the region’s wilderness

King County executive announced a plan to protect 65,000 acres of forests, farmland, and greenspace, raising property taxes in the process.
1 day ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Drought may impact most of Pacific Northwest this summer

Drought is expected to impact much of the Pacific Northwest this summer, impacting areas throughout eastern Washington, southern Oregon and southern Idaho.
1 day ago
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)...
Frank Sumrall

SPD report discovers 80% of 911 calls were for non-criminal events

After reviewing more than 1.2 million 911 calls from 2017 to 2019, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) found 79.7% of calls were for non-criminal events.
1 day ago
KIRO 7 News Staff

9-year-old boy shot by younger brother in Federal Way

A 9-year-old boy was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after being shot by his younger brother in Federal Way.
1 day ago
The US government will fly in baby formula on commercial planes contracted by the military in an ai...
Heather Bosch

A guide to locate baby formula from Washington’s Department of Health

Washington's Department of Health has put together a list of resources to help find nutritious food to feed your newborn.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Horrific details surface in lawsuit over death of Susan Powell’s sons