Susan Powell father-in-law pleads not guilty to voyeurism
Steven Powell, the father-in-law of missing Susan Powell, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of voyeurism, including two cases involving children.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Powell charging documents
Guilty or not, Steven Powell is not likely to be welcomed back to his gated and manicured Puyallup neighborhood where he was arrested Thursday on charges of voyeurism and possession of child pornography.
Powell, whose son is the only person of interest in the disappearance of a Utah woman nearly two years ago, is accused of photographing daughters of a former neighbor as the girls bathed, changed clothes and used the toilet.
"If you want to see a show, see what happens if he comes back here," said Jason Wells, who lives across the street from Powell's home in the 18600 block of 94th Avenue Court East.
Prosecutors say in charging documents filed in Pierce County Superior Court that Powell videotaped and photographed his neighbor's daughters while they were in the bathroom. The images included photos of the girls' genitals and breasts, charges say.
In addition to the photos and videos of those girls, who were as young as 8 and 10 when the images were taken, police say they found thousands of images of other women and girls. All appeared unaware they were being photographed or videotaped, prosecutors say.
Among them were images of Powell's daughter-in-law, former Puyallup resident Susan Powell, who vanished from her West Valley, Utah, home in 2009. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said the "creepy, but not criminal" images of her were not part of the charges filed.
The images were discovered in an August search of the Powell home by police investigating the disappearance of Susan Powell.
Steven Powell, 61, pleaded not guilty Friday to 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of possession of child pornography. He was ordered held in lieu of $200,000 bail.
He was fired from his job with the Washington Corrections Department on Friday, said corrections spokesman Chad Lewis.
Since 2006, he's worked for Washington State Correctional Industries, a division in which inmates learn trades like furniture-making. The department says Powell sold furniture built by inmates.
Police say Powell's arrest isn't tied to the missing-person's case, but Susan Powell's family is unconvinced.
"If he wasn't involved directly, he knows what happened," said her sister, Denise Cox, after Steven Powell's arraignment.
In 2009, Susan's husband, Josh Powell, told police he took their two sons, then 2 and 4, camping in the mountains west of Salt Lake City after midnight on Dec. 7. When he returned, his wife's purse, cellphone and car were at home, but she was missing.
West Valley police have said Josh Powell, who has since moved with his sons into his father's home, has been uncooperative.
He has denied any involvement in the case, however.
Steven Powell told ABC's "Good Morning America" he'd had a flirtatious relationship with his daughter-in-law, 28, and believed they were in love.
The Powells also published excerpts of Susan's diary against the wishes of her parents, who sought a civil order to restrain the Powells from releasing further information.
At another court hearing Friday, a Pierce County judge issued a permanent injunction forbidding Josh and Steven Powell from publishing anything else from the diary.
The search of the Powell home came after police wrapped up a search for evidence in a network of abandoned mines outside Ely, Nev., about 30 miles from where Josh Powell says he went camping the night his wife disappeared.
Susan's dad, Chuck Cox, said Friday that though his family knew Susan was uncomfortable around Steven Powell and that he'd made advances, the criminal charges were a surprise.
"We had no idea about any pictures or child pornography," said Cox, of Puyallup.
Cox told The Associated Press that his daughter claimed years ago "something had happened" with Steve Powell: "something about Steve had wanted to her to be a common wife for him and Josh."
After Powell's Thursday arrest, Josh and Susan Powell's sons were taken into protective custody by the state.
A spokeswoman for Child Protective Services confirmed the boys' maternal grandparents were seeking custody in family court, but Cox declined to discuss it other than to say he was acting in the boys' best interest.
Before a custody hearing on Friday, Josh Powell sat in the back row of the small courtroom wearing a blue jacket, jeans, white sneakers with the treads worn off — and his wedding ring.
He flipped through a thick stack of legal documents and told a reporter "no" when asked if he had anything to say about his dad's arrest. He ignored other questions.
Steven Powell's arrest prompted a Cox family lawyer to directly accuse Josh, for the first time publicly, of involvement in his wife's disappearance.
"The time has come ... we have to stop playing cat and mouse games: Josh Powell had something to do with the disappearance of the mother of these children," attorney Steve Downing told the court commissioner Friday.
Powell responded: "Everything they said is patently false. I am a good father to my sons."
Cox said he was pleased with the court ruling barring the release of his daughter's journal entries, saying "no one has the right to publish a personal journal." Another neighbor of Powell's, who asked not to be named, said that while he is refraining from making a judgment on the allegations, he also thinks Powell should move.
"I've always had a good relationship with Steve, but I can't imagine the neighborhood will be very friendly to him now," the man said. "I suspect the house will be for sale soon."
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or email@example.com.
Times staff reporter Steve Miletich and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from
The Associated Press.
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