SOUTH HILL, Wash. — Ten years ago marks the last time anyone saw Susan Cox Powell alive. For her parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, it marks the beginning of a living nightmare.
The Coxes sat down with Dave Cawley, the host of the investigative podcast, “Cold,” to reflect on the last decade without their daughter. They say it’s made them advocates in their community — and changed their family.
A waiting game
Susan Powell disappeared sometime between the afternoon of December 6 and morning of December 7, 2009. Her husband, Josh, who died by suicide in 2012, remains the sole suspect in the case. He killed their two sons, Charlie and Braden, when he blew up the house he was renting in Graham, Wash.
Susan’s parents say the intervening years between December 2009 and now have brought a lot of ups and downs. But what they do not have — and aren’t sure they will ever have — is closure.
“Every time there’s a, you know, cadaver found somewhere, we wait here,” Chuck Cox said. “You kind of start wondering, well, is this the one? Is our wait going to be over? Will we be able to put whatever’s left of her to rest with her children? I don’t know.”
“But we’re thankful for whoever is found,” Judy Cox added, recognizing other families who await the end of their own nightmares. “That’s good for the family.”
That’s even though someone else’s resolution means a longer wait for the Cox family.
“It’s hard,” Judy acknowledged, “but I think it is harder not knowing.”
The pain, she says, is still fresh even ten years later.
“It was hard for me because I’m reliving the emotions. I mean, the days came back, the day the boys died, or problems, and they’re not pleasant, you know? But I’ll get through this. It’s OK. Her story needs to be out there, and I can deal with that,” Judy Cox said.
Susan Cox Powell, ten years later
What’s been unexpected for many people connected to Susan’s story is the impact it has had on so many other people — especially people experiencing domestic violence.
A number of “Cold” listeners have reached out to Cawley since the podcast launched to thank him for being a voice for victims. Many are women who have left violent relationships. Chuck and Judy Cox say, that’s been their experience, too.
“Now we become spokespersons against domestic violence and our path is kind of set out before us. I wondered, when I retire from the FAA, that – what would I do? I don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Chuck Cox told Cawley. “I’m going to keep doing what I can to help other people.”
“I want people to know this story so it doesn’t happen to them,” Judy Cox added.
It’s a motivating factor we’ve heard expressed by a number of other people touched by Susan herself or the case. The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s Jennifer Oxborrow says she has witnessed it, too.
“We take over 40 thousand crisis calls every year and we hear people, just about every day, who identify with some aspects of the high-profile cases in the news, especially Susan’s case,” Oxborrow said in a live event with “Cold” host Cawley in May.
The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online: udvc.org.
Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: Utah’s confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
- YWCA Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
- Utah’s statewide child abuse and neglect hotline: 1-855-323-DCFS (3237)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Holding out hope
For Chuck and Judy Cox, the hope that Susan Powell may one day be found never fades. They revealed for the first time on “Cold” that their portion of a life insurance settlement in the names of Susan and her children is held in reserve until they know for sure what happened to her.
“My official answer is, she’s alive until we find her,” Chuck Cox said.
The Coxes say they appreciated learning the different perspectives of people who’ve helped search for Susan and investigate her disappearance. They believe everyone involved gave the case their all.
“I do believe the West Valley City police gave it their all, and they tried real hard. And they did do a lot of searches, and they did do a lot of work,” Judy Cox said. “And a lot of people, well, they messed up. We can always mess up. And do you think they planned that? No. They were doing everything they could think of that made sense, and they wanted a happy ending. Well, it hasn’t happened. But they tried.”
Hear the conversation with Chuck and Judy Cox in a bonus episode of “Cold,” available today.
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