ALL NEWS

COLD: Computer at heart of Josh Powell custody dispute did not belong to him

Dec 11, 2019, 8:52 AM

josh powell computer custody...

Screengrab: Pierce Co. Superior Court

WEST VALLEY CITY — The computer on which investigators found cartoon pornography that was later used in a custody dispute involving Josh Powell did not, in fact, belong to him, the Cold podcast has learned.

The computer

For the last decade, police believed that a computer they seized from the West Valley City home of Josh and Susan Powell the day after she disappeared belonged to Josh. That belief extended to the unusual pornographic images — many depicting cartoon characters in incestuous relationships with children — on that machine.

Anne Bremner, a lawyer representing Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, reacted to the story a year ago as part of “Cold.”

“It’s very, very disturbing, and so that was something else that they knew about him. And that was found by the West Valley police on his computer,” Bremner said.

The psychosexual evaluation

The thumbnail images were the grounds for a judge in Washington to order Josh Powell to undergo a psychosexual evaluation, and then deny him custody of his sons. Many people close to the case have said that day in court, back in early February 2012, broke Powell.

“When he was not only not given custody, but then the stipulations that they put on him, the psychosexual and some other things, I think that kind of cracked him,” Gary Sanders, a detective sergeant with Pierce County, Wash.

“The psychosexual evaluation was the end of the road for him,” Chuck Cox, Susan Powell’s father, said.

Indeed, it was just days later when Josh Powell killed himself and the boys, Charlie and Braden, during a court-authorized visit at his rental home in Graham, Wash.

Uncovering the truth

However, a review of Susan Powell’s own emails has revealed the computer in question — a Dell desktop — didn’t actually belong to her husband. It turns out, Susan purchased it used about three months before she disappeared.

The pornography wasn’t Susan’s either, though. An independent examination of the digital evidence by “Cold” revealed that the images of cartoon pornography that were so concerning to the Washington judge were likely downloaded six months before Susan purchased the machine — long before the computer entered the Powell household.

In other words, those images that many people, including Susan Powell’s own parents, have called a catalyst for the murder-suicide did not actually belong to Josh Powell.

Decryption efforts

That computer is not the only piece of technology with great importance to the case. A backup hard drive removed from the Powell home at the same time remains encrypted. Efforts to break into that drive have been ongoing for years.

“Everything that we’ve done on this, everyone that’s participated in helping us, no one’s been compensated for it,” said Trent Leavitt, the former co-owner of Decipher Forensics who’s been involved in the efforts since 2013.

Richard Hickman, who, like Leavitt, is another Decipher co-owner, remains involved to this day as an employee of Eide Bailly, the firm that bought Decipher.

“Just because the resources on technology are a little bit better today doesn’t change the fact that that encryption, in the first place, was top-notch,” Hickman said. “It’s still going to take that many permutations to get through it.”

Leavitt, Hickman and others working to decrypt the hard drive have never spoken publicly before, as they were subject to a non-disclosure agreement with West Valley City police. The police department released them from that NDA in order to talk with “Cold.”

Learn more

Hear more about how Eide Bailly and others are working to break into the encrypted backup hard drive in a bonus episode of the Cold podcast.

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:

Listen to Cold on the KSL NewsRadio website or on Apple Podcasts. Look for additional information and resources at https://thecoldpodcast.com

Listen on Apple Podcasts

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The OLRGC released an analysis of the expected topics to be discussed during a special session of t...

Simone Seikaly

Extending state flooding emergency, firearm restrictions, among topics for Utah special session

The OLRGC released an analysis of the expected topics to be discussed during a special session of the legislature.

10 months ago

A video recorded by Facebook user Larry Jacquez shows the police response following the shooting in...

Jamiel Lynch, CNN     

At least 3 people killed and 2 officers wounded in a shooting in Farmington, New Mexico, police say

Multiple people were shot and at least three killed in a shooting in Farmington, New Mexico, police said in a Facebook post.

10 months ago

A new release from Intermountain Healthcare shows that younger adults are becoming more susceptible...

Waverly Golden

Younger adults are becoming more susceptible to strokes

A new release from Intermountain Healthcare shows that younger adults are becoming more susceptible to stroke.

10 months ago

If you plan to camp over Memorial Day Weekend, you may want to begin the planning process now....

Allessandra Harris

Camping over Memorial Day Weekend? Plan ahead

If you plan to camp over Memorial Day Weekend, you may want to begin the planning process now.

10 months ago

slcpd on the scene of the deaths...

Josh Ellis

Police: Teen killed by father in murder-suicide in SLC office building

Police responded to the office complex near 3000 S. Highland Drive on Saturday after emergency responders received a call from a community member who reported finding a body.

10 months ago

Melissa Coleman crouches next to her husband, , Brad Coleman, of North Ogden, who sits in a wheelch...

Jenny Carpenter, KSL.com

Young stroke victim survives with quick, lifesaving treatment in northern Utah

After a 36-year-old man had a stroke, he and his wife say to be aware of the signs of stroke and that young people are also at risk.

10 months ago

Sponsored Articles

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Group of cheerful team members high fiving each other...

Visit Bear Lake

How To Plan a Business Retreat in Bear Lake This Spring

Are you wondering how to plan a business retreat this spring? Read our sample itinerary to plan a team getaway to Bear Lake.

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...

BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...

Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.

Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.

COLD: Computer at heart of Josh Powell custody dispute did not belong to him