GRAHAM, Wash. — The maternal grandparents of Josh Powell’s two sons said Monday that the boys played happily and didn’t want to visit their father when the time came for their weekly Sunday visit.
But Charles and Judy Cox told KIRO-TV that the grandmother talked them into a court-ordered, supervised child custody visit with their father — a decision she now regrets.
When the boys arrived at Powell’s Washington state home, their father barred a social worker from entering and then torched the house. All three died.
"Look what happened," Judy Cox tearfully told the station. "But I knew that they’re supposed to be able to see their dad."
Charles Cox said he didn’t think there was any more the court could have done legally to protect his grandchildren, but he wished there had been.
"There were too many warning signs that I feel were known, but due to legal limitations were unable to be acted upon," he said.
The Coxes opened their home to news reporters Monday to give a glimpse of the boys’ life with them. Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, had been living with them since last fall, when the state removed them from their father’s custody.
Josh Powell had long been a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance from their home in West Valley City, Utah, two years ago. He claimed he had taken the boys on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures when she vanished.
Police who arrived at the home to look for the family found two fans pointed at a damp spot on the floor, but no trace of Susan. Her body has never been found, despite intensive searches in Utah and Nevada.
Powell maintained custody of the boys as the scrutiny upon him intensified over the years. He moved to his father Steve Powell’s home in Puyallup. Last fall, when the elder Powell was arrested in a voyeurism and child pornography case, the state turned the boys over to the Coxes.
On Monday, authorities continued sifting through the smoking rubble of the home looking for evidence, and the medical examiner’s office was working to determine cause of death.
It remained unclear how the deaths might affect the investigation into Susan’s disappearance. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office planned an afternoon news conference.
On Sunday, the lawyer for Susan Powell’s parents said the children had started talking to their grandparents about things they remembered from the night their mother vanished.
"They were beginning to verbalize more," said attorney Steve Downing, whose clients had custody of the children. "The oldest boy talked about that they went camping and that mommy was in the trunk. Mom and dad got out of the car and mom disappeared."
Associated Press writer Martin Griffith contributed. Skoloff reported from Utah, Johnson from Seattle.