After Josh Powell murdered his two sons on Sunday, as well as killing himself in the process, Pierce County, Washington, Sheriff Paul Pastor summed it up best. "What happened here was an act of evil. Do not call it a tragedy because that sanitizes it. This was a terrible act of murder involving two young children," he said."
The murder of Charlie and Braden Powell affects most of us so much because it's a horrible part of a larger story that has consumed Utahns for 26 months. In December 2009, Susan Powell disappeared from her West Valley home. Her husband, Josh Powell was always considered the only person of interest in the case. After he moved to Washington, the case involved a lengthy custody dispute with his missing spouse's family. After Josh Powell's latest legal setback in that dispute, in which he was ordered to submit to a psychosexual evaluation and polygraph exam. On Sunday, after receiving his two boys as part of a supervised visitation, he pushed a social worker out of his home, locked himself and the boys inside, and set fire to the home. Autopsies show the boys suffered "chop injuries," which indicates the vicious nature of the crime.
It was an act of tremendous evil; the actions of a remorseless sociopath who saw his children as possessions to be bartered, rather than human beings to be loved. Josh Powell may fit what some experts have called the "Family Annihilator" profile, possessive husbands and fathers who equate love with pride and are driven by hatred and later revenge to deny their "possessions" to others. Certainly, time may answer questions that remain after the murders. Time may also answer the question as to whether Josh Powell killed his wife.
What's important to remember after this act is that it was in no manner unique. It was a banal act that is replicated often. Evil is banal. It is the alternative chosen by the cruel, the unfeeling, the sociopathic self-pitying. What Powell did to his two boys is something that is always a risk when our social orders and institutions try to deal with dysfunctional situations. Josh Powell takes forever the mark of murderer and destroyer of those who trusted him the most.