Josh Powell Had 400 Cartoon Sex And Incest Images

Published February 18, 2012 9:54AM (EST)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Three weeks before Josh Powell killed himself and kids in a violent inferno, Utah authorities disclosed to social workers for the first time that his computer once contained some 400 images of cartoon sex and incest.

Investigators had initially told Washington state officials that there were only a half-dozen images, seized in 2009, but the social worker tasked with keeping the kids safe sent off a note to a psychologist saying "it is now clear there are many more images than initially indicated." The psychologist who had previously praised Powell's strong parenting skills found the images to be a "great concern" and quickly suggested a more intense evaluation of the father.

Powell killed himself before that assessment took place.

Many of the approximately 400 images described in documents released under Washington state public records laws Friday included sexual depictions of popular cartoons, including child-focused characters such as Rugrats, Dennis the Menace and SpongeBob SquarePants. Another 15 images showed 3-D depictions of sex involving parents and their children.

Powell had initially told the psychologist that he visited only pornography sites featuring adults.

"Given the gaps of information about Mr. Powell there seems reason to conclude he may not presently be a stable and appropriate resource for his children," wrote Dr. James Manley in a follow-up report dated Jan. 31.

Washington officials overseeing the care of Powell's children first got word of the graphic content in November, when a Utah investigator wrote in an email that they were looking to disclose to social workers about 5-6 images recovered in 2009 shortly after Susan Powell's disappearance.

But two months later, social worker Forest Jacobson wrote that the images weren't received until mid-January and were far more extensive. Powell had full custody of his kids up until last summer, when his father was charged with voyeurism. After that, he had consistent supervised visitations with the children.

It wasn't clear why it took so long for authorities to reveal the information. A spokesman for the West Valley City police in Utah declined comment Friday.

In other documents released under Washington public records laws, social workers detailed how they were concerned that Josh Powell would speak disparagingly of his in-laws, Chuck and Judy Cox, in front of his children.

The documents also state that Charlie Powell was beginning to remember about his mother, and that he said "he remembers she left because grandpa was mean to her" — apparently a reference to Susan Powell's father. Caseworkers believed that Charlie was repeating what his father had been saying.

In interviews with mental health professionals, Powell said he feared a "militant faction" of the Mormon church might kidnap his two sons. Braden and Charlie were overheard saying that "Mormons" were "trying to steal" them and "harm" them. When Charlie told his father that they were "good Mormon boys," Powell abruptly responded that they were not Mormon and not to let anyone tell them they are.

Charlie once told school personnel how to bury an animal so it wouldn't be discovered. Personnel only noted this because of their mother's disappearance.

Powell was a suspect in Susan Powell's 2009 disappearance from their home in West Valley City, Utah. He had always claimed that he didn't know what happened to his wife. He took the boys — then 2 and 4 — on a midnight camping trip in freezing weather in the Utah desert, he said, and when he returned home the next day authorities were at the house looking for her.

Weeks later, he moved the boys to the home of his father, Steve Powell, in Puyallup. After Steve Powell's arrest on voyeurism and child pornography charges last fall, the boys were removed from the house and turned over to Susan Powell's parents.

A social worker brought them to Josh Powell's rental home for what was supposed to be a court-sanctioned supervised visit. Josh Powell let the boys inside, locked the social worker out, hit them with a hatchet and set fire to gasoline, authorities said.

The records indicate that Susan Powell remained a focal point in the family. Charlie talked about how her favorite color was purple. Powell talked about how she made tasty pumpkin pies from pumpkins that they had grown themselves.

As they ate pancakes, bacon and orange juice one day in early November, Braden looked at Powell and said: "I wish mommy was here." Powell said he did, too.

The next month, as they decorated for Christmas, Charlie showed the visit supervisor a stocking with "SUSAN" lettered across the top. He later found his mother's favorite stained glass ornament, and Powell said he could hang it on the tree.

In notes from Jan. 29 — the day of the last visit before Josh Powell killed his children — the social worker wrote that the boys made Shrinky Dink toys with him. When the visit was over, Josh Powell walked Charlie and Braden out to the car, buckled them into their booster seats, told them he loved them and said he would see them as soon as he could.

"Be happy and have a good time," he said.


Baker can be reached at


Associated Press writer Manuel Valdes contributed to this report.

By Salon Staff

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