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Susan Cox Powell estate battle is settled

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SALT LAKE CITY -- One of the biggest cases in Utah has apparently reached a final chapter.

In a brief court hearing in 3rd District Court, lawyers for the families of Susan Cox Powell and her husband, Josh Powell, announced a settlement in the lengthy and sometimes contentious battle over her estate.

"We mediated late in to the evening, resolved the issues and will withdraw the motion," Powell family attorney Josh Lee told Judge Barry Lawrence at a hearing Thursday.

"You take the wind out of my sails, counsel," said Judge Lee, who had braced for hours of arguments. "Does that resolve all disputes?"

It apparently did, as lawyers confirmed to FOX 13 outside court. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but an attorney for Susan's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, did confirm some details:

  • Chuck Cox will remain in control of her estate;
  • Chuck Cox will make any determination of when to ask a court to declare Susan legally dead, not the family of Josh Powell (who had filed a lawsuit over it);

The battle over control of Susan's estate, and potentially millions in life insurance money had stretched all the way to the Utah Court of Appeals and the Utah Supreme Court. Josh Powell's mother, Terrica, and sister, Alina, had filed a lawsuit seeking to declare Susan legally dead in order to obtain a share of any life insurance money.

As they left court, Chuck and Judy Cox declined to comment on the settlement.

"I believe the Coxes are ready to move on," Cox family attorney Evan Bariault told FOX 13 on Thursday. "I believe the Powells are ready to move on. Both parties recognize it and I believe this allows them to do that."

Susan Cox Powell vanished from her West Valley City home in December 2009. She has never been found and the police investigation went cold in 2013. Susan's husband, Josh Powell, was labeled a "person of interest." He killed himself and the couple's children, Charlie and Braden, in a Washington house fire in 2012.

Searches for Susan stretched across the western United States, with no sign of the missing mother.

Kiirsi Hellewell, Susan's best friend, said the end of the court battle was a "relief."

"I know that the court stuff has taken a significant toll on Chuck and Judy -- on their health, on their energy level and their time," she said. "So with all of that over with, it should be able to give them a lot more time to look for Susan, because that's always what they want to do."

With the battle over the estate finished, there remains only one major question unanswered in the case: What happened to Susan Cox Powell and where is she?

Hellewell told FOX 13 she continues to receive tips about Susan's disappearance that she forwards to West Valley City police.

Bariault said ending this legal battle will let the family try to answer that question.

"I think they're very pleased with the fact that they can move on with their lives and focus on what's most important and that is Susan," he said. "Figuring out what happened to Susan and remembering her. Unfortunately, I think a lot of this has turned into a battle about families and the original focus is Susan, and it allows this to get back to that."