Possible bill to prevent another Josh Powell incident

I have already written extensively about the very sad disappearance of Susan Powell and the even more infamous aftermath. Well, I just found out that Utah’s legislature has approved a bill in part because of Josh Powell’s murder/suicide of his two children, which would allow children to be taken into protective custody if their parent is a suspect in a murder:

Nothing in the bill changes the presumption of innocence, said sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, said a child should never have to live in a home where a parent, guilty or not, is the primary suspect in a homicide because of the emotional stress it would cause.

I’m not sure this will go anywhere — it has to be voted on, and if passed into law it may be challenged in court. Nor am I sure the bill is a good idea, because sometimes it turns out a suspect was totally innocent, and this fact isn’t discovered for years, during which time an innocent person might be separated from their children to the detriment of both. Richard Ricci, who was long the prime suspect in the Elizabeth Smart case, is an example that comes to mind. Richard Jewell, the guy whom for awhile everyone was blaming for the bombing at the 1996 Olympics, is another.

The bill, if it had been in place in Washington State (and the article mentions they tried and failed to enact a version of it there) would not, in any case, have saved Charlie and Braden Powell. Those boys were ALREADY in protective custody when Josh murdered them, staying with their grandparents. In fact, it appears he killed them for precisely that reason — a sort of “if I can’t have them no one can.” It’s like how, in abusive relationships, women are most likely to be killed if they leave or try to leave the abuser than if they stay.

I think in a situation like that — where there is a suspect in a homicide but not enough evidence for charges, and that suspect happens to have minor children — it’s a no-win situation.

8 thoughts on “Possible bill to prevent another Josh Powell incident

  1. Burt March 5, 2014 / 9:52 am

    Sounds like a horrible idea. There’s no way this law could be constitutional.

  2. Kat March 5, 2014 / 12:25 pm

    This is a foxtrot waiting to happen, if it hasn’t already. I’m all for the general idea, but a law saying “we know you did it, we just can’t prove it” is rife with issues. I know this is a huge hot button issues and what happened to those kids (not to mention Susan) is awful, but this bill is a lawsuit on wheels. All it takes is one jackwagon who no one likes and something happens and…boom. I applaud the idea though, and what about fixing some of the failures that led to the children’s death? The endless loopholes in CPS and the like, as well as the system itself that allowed this man, and his dad, access? I would think that would be somewhat easier to fix than a supposed cure all. This reads to me like a restraining order. Good in theory but……….

    • Meaghan March 6, 2014 / 11:38 am

      There’s a phrase I heard once that reminds me of this proposed bill and what you’re saying about it: “Dead children make bad laws.” Meaning that, in the aftermath of a tragedy, in the white heat and emotion, people will pass laws that, in retrospect, don’t make any sense and don’t do any good, they’re just angry and feeling helpless and want to do SOMETHING to make it feel like those kids did not die in vain.

  3. Melissa March 5, 2014 / 2:27 pm

    I don’t think this is a great idea. I remember the Jaclyn Dowaliby case where they actually arrested her parents for her murder (and convicted her dad) and it turned out they were innocent. I live in WA and remember the day this happened, it was absolutely tragic. However, as you mentioned, the Powell kids were already in protective custody. It seems like this would only hurt those who were innocent because if someone is going to do something so heinous they don’t really care about laws.

    On another note… I’m so excited to find your blog! I have been a long time reader of Charley and had no idea this even existed! It’s great to know there are other people like me who are into true crime and missing people like me. 🙂

    • Meaghan March 6, 2014 / 1:13 pm

      I hope you have fun reading it. I’ve been keeping it since late 2008. You’ll learn a lot about me in addition to my thoughts about missing persons.

      Do you know that Charley also has a Facebook Page here: https://twitter.com/charleysmissing and a Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/charleysmissing The FB page is mostly just a repository of missing persons articles I find (and the blog posts feed into there), and the Twitter feed posts two random Charley Project MPs — one male, one female — every night.

  4. Jesper Wachtmeister March 6, 2014 / 3:47 am

    Hi Meaghan
    I’m a Swedish documentary film maker who presently is doing research for a film about people who have chosen to disappear. I’m aware that this kind of cases are not the main purpose of your website, rather missing people, but since you seem to be an absolute enyclopedia in disappearing cases I thought I could perhaps at least ask.
    I am looking for people who have chosen to “disappear”, change identity, life, location. I am fully aware of the fact that the people who still are gone, I will not be able to get in contact with. But I know there are people who have reappeared – either because they have been found by someone, or they have reemerged/come back. I’m interested in finding people who have been gone for at least more than a year.
    You probably come to think of many such cases, and I don’t know if there are any cases that you feel stand out. Perhaps there is someting about the reason they chose to try to disappear, or the way they came back, or that they didn’t abandon (or have) a family they left behind.
    Would really apreciate any suggestions you might have.
    Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions for me,
    Best regards

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