Missing woman's father-in-law arrested on child voyeurism charges

Story highlights

  • The missing woman's father says arrest "vindicates" his portrayal of his daughter
  • Steven Powell is charged with 14 counts of voyeurism, involving two child victims
  • His arrest comes nearly a month after his home was searched in a missing woman's case
  • His arrest in unrelated, beyond the fact that material seized prompted a new probe
The father-in-law of a missing Utah woman is under arrest, having been accused of voyeurism involving children, police said.
Steven Powell, 61, was taken into custody less than a month after authorities from the Pierce County, Washington, sheriff's department and West Valley City, Utah, police department searched his home as part of the investigation into the case of Susan Powell-Cox, who has not been seen in nearly two years.
His arrest on Thursday is "not related" to the woman's disappearance, West Valley City police said in a statement.
However, material seized in the August 25 search of the Puyallup, Washington, house shared by Steven Powell, his son Josh Powell and the two young sons of Josh and the missing woman -- including several photos and video recordings -- set off a different investigation.
On September 13, West Valley City detectives told their law enforcement colleagues in Pierce County, which includes Puyallup and Tacoma, "that they had discovered numerous images and recordings of adult and juvenile females," according to a release from the Pierce County sheriff's department.
Those pictures "appeared to be obtained without the consent or awareness" of those depicted, the department added, with some "taken in public places" and others in private homes. Some of the videos and images had nudity, including focusing on private areas.
Four days later, Pierce County authorities got another search warrant, allowing them to review the material seized by the Utah police.
That culminated in charges being levied this week against Steven Powell, including 14 counts of voyeurism involving two child victims, and one count of possessing depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
"Pierce County sheriff's detectives were able to identify and contact several victims, including minors and adults," the department said. "None of the alleged victims said they had granted permission to, or were even aware of, being photographed or videotaped in their homes."
The accused man's son, Josh Powell, says he last saw his wife on a cold December night in 2009 as he and his two sons -- then ages 2 and 4 -- left after midnight to go camping in below-freezing weather in a desert area in Tooele County, Utah. Powell-Cox's sister eventually reported the mother, who would now be 29 years old, as missing.
A month later, Powell and his children moved to the state of Washington.
In the time since, authorities in Utah have conducted a sweeping investigation and intensive search in the case.
While there have been no arrests or charges filed in the case, Josh Powell is the lone "person of interest," according to Sgt. Mike Powell -- no relation to Josh or Steven Powell -- of the West Valley City police.
Steven Powell has spoken publicly on the case, including claiming in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" that he and the missing woman, Susan Powell-Cox, had a flirtatious relationship.
"(The arrest) certainly vindicates our position that Susan was not anything like the person he was portraying her to be," Chuck Cox, the missing woman's father, told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell on Friday. "She is a loving mother and a devoted wife trying to make her marriage ... work.
Cox called the development "just unbelievable," adding that the whole scenario -- including the fact his grandchildren had been living with Steven Powell -- is "really a sad situation." He said that he hasn't drawn any conclusions as to what happened to his daughter, and who, if anyone, might be responsible.
"I just can't go there," he said. "I just pray that we can do things that are best for the (Powell's two) children, and that police can get the investigation done and bring justice."