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Originally published February 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM | Page modified February 7, 2012 at 3:55 PM

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Cousin wants FBI to probe 'cyberbullying' of Josh Powell

A cousin of Josh Powell is imploring the FBI to launch an investigation into Facebook postings that he claims might have contributed to Powell's final act.

Salt Lake Tribune

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SALT LAKE CITY — A cousin of Josh Powell is imploring the FBI to launch an investigation into Facebook postings that he claims "cyberbullied"Josh Powell and possibly contributed to the man's decision to kill himself and his children in a dramatic Washington house fire over the weekend.

Nathan Leach contacted the Seattle division of the FBI with screen shots taken from the "Where is Susan Powell?"and "Friends and Family of Susan Powell" Facebook pages in recent months.

Leach said he and others have been monitoring the pages and were disturbed that some postings included suggestions to contact Child Protective Services in Washington with bogus claims so Josh Powell's children would be taken away from him.

"Josh is guilty of the final act, but there are people who are responsible for bringing him there and they need to answer for it,"Leach said Monday. "I'm worried this is just going to be 'case closed.' And that thought be a very convenient conclusion to all of this. Nobody would pay for what they've done to bring it here."

Ayn S. Dietrich, a public affairs specialist with the FBI's Seattle office, said she couldn't comment on whether there is an active investigation into Leach's claims.

Leach submitted a series of screen shots to the FBI, which he also provided to The Salt Lake Tribune in an email.

He cited a posting by one Facebook user who wrote, "Who wants to rattle their cages even more and call CPS (Child Protective Services) on Josh and Steve (Josh Powell's father) to look in on the boys?"The posting received three "likes"on Facebook and was followed by comments that included, "I know it's been done already a few times, but sure why not try again?"

Leach also focused on a Sept. 27 posting in one of the Facebook groups from Kirk Graves, Josh Powell's brother-in-law, which stated that the Powell siblings living in Steve Powell's home had been receiving death threats. Graves' post asked the public to be respectful with their comments about the Powell family.

"I found out that there have been serious death threats being sent to and directed at the Powell siblings living in Steve's home. I realize that members of the group are not the source of those threats, but if you could pass on the following as you view and post on other sites I would take it as a personal favor,"Graves wrote.

"There is no one that is more intimately involved in the pain caused by Susan's disappearance than the Cox family, Susan's closest friends, and Jennifer and myself. None of us have any animosity or wish any ill will toward those living in that house. Jennifer in particular is ill to think that her siblings would have to be subjected to such threats.

"I suppose it is hard to believe, but we still love and wish the best for all of them (including Josh). We do want to see justice done, but that needs to happen in the courts, in a civil manner,"Graves wrote.

Leach said he's aware that the Powell family conducted their own cyber attack on the Cox family and West Valley City Police Department at www.susanpowell.org and more recently, at their website, "4thekidzz,"which seems to have been removed following Josh Powell's death.

But while Leach said he disagrees with the manner in which his relatives have aired their views about the case, he is critical of the way the Facebook pages hounded his cousin.

He noted he doesn't believe the Cox family initiated what he believes were cyber attacks on Josh and that many of the comments may have been from people who believed they were behaving helpfully.

"I don't know that this was necessarily an organized effort. I would hope people would be decent enough not to band together. But nobody reported (the effort to make false CPS reports on Josh Powell) and it happened multiple times,"Leach said. "The Powells did a lot of things that people disagreed with, but is that a justification for pounding a guy until he goes over the edge? How much can one guy take?"

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