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Co-worker says Powell described snowy camping trip

April 7, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A former co-worker of Steve Powell’s in Washington state says she contacted authorities about a snowy camping trip he says he took with his son and grandchildren in Utah around the time his daughter-in-law disappeared in 2009.

However Jennifer Silva, who was laid off from her job at the Department of Corrections more than a year ago, told The Associated Press on Friday she doesn’t know exactly which days Steve Powell might have taken the trip. Silva’s comments are the first suggestion that Steve Powell may have been in Utah in late 2009.

Susan Powell was last seen Dec. 6, 2009. Her husband Josh Powell had said that he took a late-night camping trip in Utah with his two boys on the night Susan Powell disappeared. Josh Powell killed himself and the couple’s two young children in a home fire earlier this year.

While authorities have never named a suspect in the case, they had consistently called Josh Powell a “person of interest.” Steve Powell has never been charged in the Susan Powell case, but is being held in Washington state on voyeurism charges. However, the Salt Lake Tribune has said that Utah’s West Valley City police Chief Thayle “Buzz” Nielsen has said Steve Powell was “absolutely” being considered as an accomplice in Susan Powell’s disappearance.

Silva said Steve Powell told her “it was cold and snowy” when he went camping with his son, Josh, and grandsons. “He enjoyed sitting around the campfire with them, roasting marshmallows and throwing snowballs,” she said.

Silva said she initially didn’t consider that Steve Powell might have had an involvement in the case. Then, after Steve Powell claimed having a flirtatious relationship with Susan last year, she began considering her conversations with him in a different light and wondered whether the camping trip was linked to Susan Powell’s disappearance.

“I believe it is,” Silva said. “It all fits.”

Powell took time off of work on Thanksgiving week in 2009 but didn’t have any more days off until after Susan Powell disappeared, according to Department of Corrections records.

He called in sick from his job on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 of that year. He did appear to remain engaged at work, continuing to send emails to colleagues around that time, according to documents obtained by AP.

West Valley City Police Sgt. Mike Powell declined to comment about whether investigators knew about the co-worker’s account and its relevance wasn’t immediately clear. Mike Powell said Steve Powell is a person authorities are interested in speaking with.

“Pretty much from the onset he’s been uncooperative,” said Powell, who is not related to the family.

Silva said she reached out to Pierce County authorities last summer, asking them to forward information to Utah investigators. She then made direct contact with Utah authorities after Josh Powell killed himself and the children.

An attorney for Steve Powell did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Utah investigators told Silva in emails that they were looking into the matter, and she said in the interview that they indicated in phone conversations that the material was new.


Johnson reported from Seattle.


Mike Baker can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/mikebakerap

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