GRAHAM, Wash. (AP) — The sons of a missing Utah woman suffered severe chopping injuries to their heads or necks as they died in a house fire set by their father, authorities in Washington state said Monday evening.
Smoke inhalation was the primary cause of death for Josh Powell and his two young sons, the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office said. But the boys also suffered "chop injuries" that contributed to their deaths.
The Sunday blaze at Powell's home brought yet another twist in the very public scandal that began when Susan Powell vanished in 2009.
A social worker brought the two boys to Josh Powell's home Sunday for what was to be a supervised visit, and Powell let his sons inside — but then blocked the social worker from entering, authorities have said.
The social worker called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas. Moments later, the home burst into flames, igniting an inferno that neighbors said rattled their houses.
Investigators searched through the charred rubble of the home Monday and released new details about what they described as Powell's deliberation in killing himself and his children, who had been removed from his care — a horrifying climax to a long, bizarre saga. They found the two 5-gallon gas cans inside.
"This was definitely a deliberate, planned-out event," Pierce County Sheriff's Detective Ed Troyer said.
Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff in Salt Lake City and Martin Griffith in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report. Johnson reported from Seattle.