Susan Powell's Parents Granted Custody of Boys

Josh Powell Loses Custody of Kids
Josh and Susan Powell
Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune/AP; Amber Hardman/AP

09/29/2011 AT 07:45 AM EDT

After hearing concerns that Josh Powell caused his wife Susan's disappearance, a judge in Washington state Wednesday stripped Powell of custody of his two young sons.

Charlie Powell, 6, and Braden Powell, 4, will live with Susan's parents, Charles and Judy Cox, who have complained almost since the time of Susan's Dec. 6, 2009, disappearance that Josh would not let them see the boys, even though Josh lives only a couple of miles away.

"If he's responsible for that disappearance, those children have been through hell, frankly," John Long, an assistant attorney general representing Child Protective Services, told Pierce County Superior Court Judge Kathryn J. Nelson, who concluded that it was unsafe to keep the boys with their father.

Powell, 35, has only been named a person of interest in Susan's disappearance from their home in West Valley City, Utah, and her vanishing is still considered a missing person's case, not a homicide. Powell says he took the boys camping overnight in a snowstorm, and when he came back, Susan was missing.

Weeks later, Powell moved himself and the boys into his father Steven Powell's house in Puyallup, Wash. But a week ago, Steven, 61, was on 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of second-degree possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct after authorities searched the family's computers. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed on $200,000 bail.

Steven Powell's Past

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press from Steven Powell's 1992 divorce, his ex-wife, Terri Powell, accused him of keeping pornography, damaging his children's respect for marriage and inappropriately discussing sexual issues with the kids when they were as young as 6 and 8.

Long also told the judge that Josh Powell admitted to CPS workers that he has surreptitiously photographed people's legs, and that some of Steven Powell's information may be on his computer. Josh Powell disputed this claim in court.

All of this leaves Josh with minimal custody, at least until a Nov. 15 status hearing. Nelson said Josh could have three-hour, supervised visits on Sundays. She also ordered Josh to undergo psychological evaluations, including an assessment of whether he's a fit parent.

Reacting to the court orders, Josh Powell looked stunned, telling the judge he was "expecting to bring my sons home. I had no reason to expect they would not be placed back with me," reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

Josh also denied any involvement in his wife's disappearance. "I love my wife, I know my wife loves my children," he said. "I want my wife back as much as anyone else wants her back."
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