"He was so distressed, so despondent, so overwhelmed," says Powell's friend Wayne Hamberg, who met the 29-year-old Web site programmer about a year ago at a Salt Lake City computer club gathering.
"The reason he's not talking to police is he's just shut down," Hamberg, 49, a software engineer says about Joshua. "He's so emotionally drained and everybody's attacking him, making him out to be a Mark Hacking or a Scott Peterson. The Josh I know is not some kind of evil guy. I don't believe that's he's suicidal or anything like that, but right now, I don't think he's capable of doing much more than tying his own shoelaces."
Powell, whom police consider a person of interest (there have been no suspects named) in the case, has been under intense scrutiny since he told police he went on a midnight LINK "/people/article/0,,20331686,00.html" "desert camping trip"] in freezing conditions with his two sons, ages 2 and 4, on the night Susan Powell was last seen. Thus far, he has refused to retrace his whereabouts or give investigators an in-depth interview about the night's events.
Family Against Him"I told him Tuesday night, when he came to see me, not to say anything to me about the circumstances, only to talk to his attorney," says Hamberg. "I want to be his friend, not somebody snooping around for a scoop. I'm there to support him and I'd like to think that he's innocent. I'd like to think that of all of my friends."
Hamberg noticed that Powell was thin and pale, as though he hadn't eaten in days. "I offered to make him dinner, but he refused, saying he just had no appetite for food – that it was tasteless," Hamberg says. "I gave him a hug, then he just sat on the couch and cried. He said the only thing keeping him going right now was his two boys. He's latched on to them as his sole mental support because even some of his own family members have turned on him now."
Although Hamberg has never met Susan Powell, he says Joshua talked about her occasionally during their twice-monthly club gatherings. "Usually, when he had something to say, it was nice," he says. "I do know, though, that he thought Susan was overspending. So there were some financial problems. But that happens to a lot of families."
Needs SupportDuring their visit at Hamberg's house, Joshua Powell told his friend that he'd been fired from his job because of all the bad publicity, and that the only reason he'd hired an attorney was because "he was so overwhelmed and needed some help."
"He didn't feel that anybody was sticking up for him," says Hamberg. "I've never seen a guy look so beaten down and withdrawn. I think the reason he's not commenting is because right now, he's just incapable of it – not because he has something to hide."
Whether Powell had something to do with his wife's disappearance or not, "he needs some emotional support right now and I'm there for him," says Hamberg. "I don't want to think about whether he could have done the unspeakable. I don't even go there. But I'm worried about Josh as a person. He could really use some friends right now."