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Stockbroker vanished; husband left town with kids

By Rupa Mikkilineni, Nancy Grace Producer
Susan Powell, a stockbroker and mother of two, has been missing since December 7.
Susan Powell, a stockbroker and mother of two, has been missing since December 7.
  • Susan Powell's two children, purse, wallet and cell phone left behind
  • Remains found recently in Idaho do not appear to be Powell's
  • Police consider her husband to be a person of interest; he is not cooperating
  • Know something? Call the West Valley Police tip line at (801) 840-4000

New York (CNN) -- Tom McLachlan, a police captain in West Valley, Utah, felt a surge of adrenalin when he received a phone call two weeks ago from authorities some 200 miles away in Idaho.

A motorist looking for a better cell phone signal had found female skeletal remains on a hilltop near Idaho Falls. McLachlan had a case on his desk involving a 28-year-old stockbroker and mother of two who vanished in December under suspicious circumstances.

Could the body be Susan Powell's?

McLachlan says he now has doubts. The skeletal remains seemed to have been there much longer than Susan Powell has been missing.

"Susan has been missing for five months, so the body is likely not her," he told CNN. "We need to wait until DNA tests come back, which could take up to a few weeks."

Susan Powell's disappearance is the kind of case that gets under an investigator's skin. Right now, police have plenty of suspicion but scant evidence.

Powell simply vanished, leaving her purse, wallet and cell phone behind in her home.

Her husband, Josh Powell, told police she was asleep when he left after midnight, taking their children, ages 2 and 4, on a camping trip in below-freezing weather.

Video: Powell's dad asks for help

He told police he spent the early morning hours of December 7 with his children in the family van in Simpson Springs Campground, a 90-minute drive from the Powells' home.

Police entered the case that Monday afternoon. The children had not been dropped off at day care and neither Josh nor Susan Powell had shown up at work. No one had heard from them.

"We were concerned that the family was in the house and some accident, maybe a gas leak, had injured them," said McLachlan. "So we broke into the home when no one answered the door."

Police sources told CNN that officers found a large wet spot on the carpet in the home. It was being dried by two fans, they said, but would give no further details.

West Valley police say Josh Powell is the only person they are looking at, but they are not calling him a suspect in his wife's disappearance. They say they have no physical evidence of foul play.

CNN called several times seeking comment from Josh Powell and his attorney, Scott Williams. The phone calls were not returned.

Police say they have been unable to confirm Powell's story about the camping trip. They searched the campground, but any potential evidence had been covered by heavy snow.

Police characterize Josh Powell as being uncooperative, saying he would not lead them to the exact location of the camp site. In January, he packed up his belongings and moved with the children to his parents' home in Puyallup, Washington.

Susan Powell's father, Charles Cox, told CNN she is not the kind of person who would go off on her own without contacting her family.

"She would never leave those two children behind," Cox said.

Susan Powell's father says there was trouble in the marriage, with financial pressures being the primary issue between the couple. Josh had been unemployed until just before his wife disappeared.

In the months leading up to her disappearance, Susan Powell had talked about getting a divorce, family and friends told CNN. They asked that their names not be published because the investigation is ongoing.

Police are asking for the public's help in solving this case. Susan Powell stands 5-foot-3, is 130 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Susan Powell is asked to call the West Valley Police Department tip line at (801) 840-4000. An $11,000 reward is offered.