WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) — The lawyer for the family of missing Utah woman Susan Powell said Tuesday that even as local police close the active part of their investigation into her disappearance, federal authorities continue to review the case — a claim that was denied by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City.
Anne Bremner made the announcement at a Seattle news conference a day after local officials in Utah said they had closed their active investigation into the Susan Powell case.
"This is not over," Bremner said.
Newly released police records show that Utah officials believe Josh Powell likely killed his wife in late 2009, and that his brother, Michael Powell, helped dispose of the body, but authorities felt they didn't have enough evidence to prove that theory in court.
Last year, as the investigation continued, Josh Powell killed himself and his two young sons in an explosive house fire, leaving nearly all of his life insurance proceeds to his brother, Michael, who later jumped to his death from a parking garage in Minnesota.
Bremner, who was joined at the news conference by Chuck Cox, Susan Powell's father, said she and Cox were apprised earlier in the day of the federal investigation by an agent who has been directly involved in the case. She said she requested permission to announce the development at the news conference, and the agent granted it. Bremner said the scope involved looking into what Josh Powell's father, Steve, knew about his daughter-in-law's disappearance.
In response, Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah, issued a statement saying that federal agencies in Utah had assisted in the investigation and would be happy to do so again should circumstances warrant.
"However, we do not have plans to conduct any further investigation," she said.
West Valley City Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell said he wasn't immediately aware of any ongoing federal investigation but would look into it.
Steve Powell had a sexual obsession with Susan Powell and thoroughly documented it in journals seized by police. He is currently serving a prison sentence after being convicted of voyeurism charges for secretly recording young neighbor girls.
Utah police said Monday that they do not believe he was directly involved with Susan Powell's disappearance but may know more about it than he has let on.
Both Bremner and Cox disputed the notion that prosecutors in Utah never had enough evidence to prosecute Josh Powell.
They cite his bizarre alibi — that he wasn't home when his wife vanished because he had taken their two sons, then 2 and 4, camping in the Utah desert in the middle of a snowstorm.
They cite his unusual behavior — that he showed little concern for her, couldn't explain why he had her cellphone with the digital SIM card removed, and, two days after she disappeared, he rented a car and drove it 800 miles.
They also cite potential motives: Josh Powell cleaned out Susan Powell's retirement accounts 10 days after her disappearance, and — as the newly released documents revealed — he had apparently had an affair with a woman he met through a dating service months before his wife vanished.
Cox said the police "came to the wrong conclusion on the circumstantial evidence. I think there was plenty."
Utah authorities have repeatedly said they didn't prosecute Powell because they did not have a body or a crime scene. While that makes it tougher to prove a murder charge, prosecutors across the country have won convictions in such circumstances.