This was written after Josh Powell killed himself with his two sons. I didn't write anything while the police were building a case against Josh Powell. My opinion of the West Valley Utah Police Department was and still is rather disappointing. Telling this story to friends over the last few years has also brought me some "your crazy" looks, but now, given the outcome, you can see why it was so important to me. I knew finding Susan would put Josh in prison and save the two boys from their father. On the night of Sunday, Dec. 6th, 2009, Josh Powell murdered his wife Susan. His defense was a ridiculous story of a camping trip with his two sons. He says he left on a Sunday night around mid-night to go camping. He claimed he forgot it was Sunday and that he even forgot about a job interview the following day. The temperature that night was probably near zero degrees out in the desert.
WillhiteWeb.com - Hiking, Climbing and Travel
Where is Susan Cox Powell?
This shaded area is Dugway Proving Grounds, fenced and very restricted.
Dugway Military Base
Simpson Springs Campground
Area in yellow is where I believe Susan Cox Powell is located
This area has several private ranches and fences that he would avoid
Pony Express Road
To Salt Lake
News of this was shocking to me, as I was probably the most prolific camper with children in Utah at that time. My two children who were similar age to the Powell children. Although I didn't find the midnight departure to un-usual, when combined with a Sunday night, the extremely cold temperatures and the wife disappearing, it seemed pretty obvious to me.
As I looked into the case further, I found other ties to the case that drew me in. I had moved around the same time from Washington to Utah. Back in Washington, I was living near the Cox family who attended the same church building as me, and their media spokesman was a good acquaintance of mine. I should do something I thought, I am here in Utah, and I know the Western Desert better than most. I've been up a good hundred mountains out there.
Exactly seven days after the disappearance, on a Monday morning I went out to find Susan. I knew this was the only chance before the winter storms hit. The first had already hit earlier that week but most of it melted. I could not understand why the police were not out there looking. They did a good job searching the Simpson Springs Campground but that was mainly to confirm if he was or wasn't there.
Let me say that he was camping there! If anyone else was in that campground and he wasn't, it would be obvious and reported. You know it if you are around someone else while there. Given it was a Sunday night in winter, you could guess nobody would be there but it would still be risky. Anyway, he did camp somewhere with his kids. He didn't return until someone contacted him mid-Monday. He was sleeping from his long night in that campground on his return back from further in the desert.
The police gave the excuse that the desert was too large to do a search. This is just bull, it was nothing but laziness and ignorance. The police weren't even interviewing Josh, they kept saying "we plan to talk with him soon" about this or that. Now days it's been spun that "he initially refused to cooperate with authorities". They are small town and ill-equipped for this case.
So there I was, searching for Susan before the police. Based on what little I knew of Josh, he seemed lazy. I was looking for something wrapped above ground, well hidden out of view from the road. Looking for a tarp or rolled up carpet type scenario. Out in this high-elevation desert, you have pockets of Juniper trees that make for some good cover. These are areas I targeted. I also knew that Josh was driving a basic car and wouldn't want to get stuck going too far off-road. Imagine you had a dead body in the trunk, would you want to get stuck! Rain and snow had loosed up the soil in places so sticking to the Pony Express Road or short distances on off-shoots was where I focused. Unfortunately, with my kids in the car, they got bored and didn't let me go all day. It snowed hard the following day covering the desert in several inches of snow.
To locate the body, I would need to get in the mind of Josh. Through my connections with the Cox family, I tried to get as much info about Josh as I could. I had put a timeline together, now I just needed to test it. It would have to wait until the snow melted in a week or two. Then, one night I was laying in bed and I felt the need to go out there, to test the timeline. A few minutes later at midnight, I was doing the drive exactly as Josh would have been. I had been up all day and now going on adrenalin into the dark western desert on a cold night. By the time you pass the Simpson Springs Campground, you start realizing you would really like to just bed down there for the night. It was 2 a.m. or so, and every mile beyond starts really wearing on you when you are tired. The Pony Express road beyond the campground was also really bumpy for a long stretch during that winter. I am imagining he didn't want his victim in the trunk much longer. About an hour beyond the campground the road goes over the small Dugway Pass and Dugway Range. The geode beds are not much further, a spot he was familiar with and would know gets most of the visitors in the area. I believe he turned off the road somewhere between this pass and the campground. It was when he was on the return he camped at Stimpson Springs, because it was too exhausting to get all the way home. He originally planned to get home, in order to stage the disappearance, remove her purse or maybe her running shoes from the home. How shocked he must have been to find out her co-workers called the police after only a few hours not being at work. Who does that!
As I drove that night, I marked on paper the odometer readings of each spot that my headlights shined a cluster of bushes or mounds that could be good cover for hiding a body. I would hit these places on my return after I slept for a few hours at Dugway Pass. When I arrived at Dugway Pass, I was about to park and go to sleep. As I turned the corner of the pass where I could look down the other side, I noticed headlights of a truck. The truck was sideways blocking the road, half fallen off the road over an embankment with a trailer attached below holding it down. I had not seen another car since I left Lehi, 3 hours ago. Nervously, I parked and walked down the road, which was icy from the compact snow on the west side. What was I getting into I thought as I was out investigating a murder! The engine was running and I saw two people sleeping inside. I knocked on the window and they awoke. They were very happy to see me as I was the first person to come by in 9 hours.
After driving one of them the 3 hours back to Lehi to get help, I went home exhausted from the all night adventure. What felt like a prompting to go find the body turned out to be a rescue mission. A week or so later, I went back and checked all those spots I had marked with my odometer readings. No luck.
When spring arrived, the general public finally started doing searches in the area. The police still weren't doing any real searches. They only started doing some targeted searches two years later when they had "credible tips". One was in Ely, Nevada. This location is way to far for my timeline but it is in the right direction, just too far. The other spot was Topaz Mountain in the Thomas Range, a good possibility. Of course, they got everyone excited when their cadaver dogs found a body, but it turned out they only found some charred wood. They called out the BLM archeologist, he is probably still laughing at the West Valley Police.
Continued Below Map
I hope she is found soon, whether she is in this search area or not, she needs a proper burial. I will be extremely shocked if it was outside this area on the map. My hope is a hunter, rock-hounder or sheep-herder finds something in the near future.
Table Mountain mid-way between Simpson Springs Campground and Dugway Pass
East side of the Dugway Range near Dugway Pass
Location of best search area