WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – After suspending the active search for Susan Cox Powell, West Valley City police are revealing more details about the likely involvement of Michael Powell in Susan’s disappearance.
Deputy Chief Phil Quinlan, West Valley City Police Department, had in-depth knowledge of the case, and he shared more information about the close connection between brothers Michael and Josh Powell in the months after Susan disappeared.
Quinlan said there is strong circumstantial evidence that Michael Powell knew what Josh had allegedly done and helped him dispose of the body.
"And a pivotal point there was the discovery of a car he'd salvaged in Pendleton, Oregon,” he said.
Detectives learned Michael Powell had taken his Ford Taurus to Lindell’s Auto Salvage, which apparently specializes in crushing cars, in December of 2009—not long after Susan vanished.
"And we knew that Mike Powell had come down from Washington State and spent many days with Josh Powell here after Susan disappeared,” Quinlan said.
Police contacted the salvage yard in August of 2011, and were surprised to learn the car was still there. Police visited the yard with a cadaver dog.
"Dozens of cars, and the cadaver dog was let loose in the yard, and it went right to this car that Mike had salvaged and indicated there was an odor of human decomposition,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan’s team seized the car, and they went to interview Michael Powell, who had moved to Minnesota. He said Michael consented to the interview but became unnerved when the car was brought up.
"He was terrified! Absolutely terrified,” Quinlan said of Michael. “His physical demeanor and behavior was not consistent with someone who professed to have no knowledge of the case, regarding Josh's involvement or the location of Susan."
Quinlan said Michael told police he wouldn’t tell them anything.
"And he said he would not tell police what he knew about Josh's involvement or what he knew about Susan specifically. He didn't deny it,” Quinlan said.
Detectives later learned that Michael Powell was so rattled by the interview he contacted Apollo Mapping in Colorado and requested detailed satellite images of Lindell’s—apparently to see if his car was still there.
Police also learned that Michael had the car towed to Pendleton from Baker, Oregon—which is roughly 400 miles from West Valley City.
“And that's about half the distance on the rental car that Josh drove,” Quinlan said.
Just days after Susan disappeared, Josh Powell rented a car locally and put 800 miles on it in just a few days.
"Now, to this day we have no idea where Josh drove,” Quinlan said. “That's one of the burning questions of the investigation, a pivotal piece of information we wish we had."
It is unknown where Josh went in that rental car, and police said they never had probable cause to arrest Michael. Josh Powell later killed himself and his two sons.
Detectives began to refocus on Michael Powell earlier this year when Chuck Cox passed on a detailed tip to police about a property near Scotts Mills, Oregon. Chuck Cox said he believes Michael buried Susan’s remains.
Detectives said it’s curious that just five days after they started making inquiries about the property, Michael Powell unexpectedly committed suicide.