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Blood and ominous note link Josh Powell to missing wife

By James Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A Utah police probe of Josh Powell, who killed himself and two sons last month in an explosion that drew national attention, found his missing wife's blood at the family home and an ominous note from her in a safe deposit box, newly released court documents show.

Josh Powell had long been considered a suspect in Susan Powell's disappearance and presumed death, due in part to his unusual alibi of a midnight camping trip. But the search warrant documents released on Friday reveal fresh details.

The records show that police found Susan's blood on a tile floor near a recently cleaned sofa at the family home in West Valley, Utah, and her last will in a safe deposit box that said if she disappeared it "may not be an accident."

The evidence of Josh Powell's possible role led a prosecutor in Washington state, where Josh Powell and his sons later lived, to say he would have charged the husband with murder if the crime had occurred there.

Powell killed himself and his sons on February 5 by chopping at the boys, 7-year-old Charles and 5-year-old Braden, with a hatchet and blowing up the family house in Graham, Washington.

The description of evidence discovered at the Powell home in West Valley, Utah, came from a search warrant Washington state authorities filed as part of a homicide investigation into Susan's disappearance.

The document recounts the findings of detectives after Susan was reported missing on December 7, 2009, by a family friend. That day, a police detective interviewed Josh, who handed over his wife's cell phone but without the SIM card that stores crucial information about the device, the document stated.

Josh Powell did not have an answer for investigators about why his wife's cell phone was in his vehicle.

He also rented a car while police were searching his vehicle, and when he returned the rental two days later it had traveled 800 miles, the court documents stated.

Susan's body has never been discovered.

MESSAGE FROM A BOX

The "blood evidence," which was later identified as Susan's through a lab test, was discovered at the Powell home in West Valley, Utah, when police searched it the day after she was declared missing, according to the court documents.

The safe deposit box, which only Susan could access, was at a Salt Lake City bank, the documents state. Inside was a folded letter stapled at the edges and addressed to family and friends.

The letter from Susan dated June 2008 stated that Josh had threatened to "destroy" her if they got divorced and said that they had been having marital problems and that if she died "it may not be an accident, even if it looks like one," said the search warrant document.

Josh's description of his actions around the time his wife went missing had long been considered suspect by Susan's family and friends. For one thing, he said that at 12:30 a.m. on December 7 -- the day she was declared missing -- he and his two sons went on a camping trip and left her behind.

"We would have charged Josh Powell with Susan Powell's murder if it occurred in Pierce County, but it didn't," said Mark Lindquist, prosecuting attorney for Pierce County, Washington, where Josh Powell moved in late 2009 and where investigators took part in probing the case.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sam Gill told local television station Fox 13 his office was working with West Valley police on the case.

Gill could not be reached for further comment on Saturday.

A judge earlier this year denied Josh Powell, 36, custody of his sons because of "extreme child porn" found last year in the family's residence at the time in Puyallup, Washington, about 30 miles from Seattle, authorities said.

The pornography, consisting of thousands of photos and videos of women and girls taken without their knowledge, was believed to have belonged to Josh Powell's father, Steven Powell, 61, who is now awaiting trial on charges of voyeurism and possession of sexually-explicit pictures of children.

Steven has filed a challenge seeking to dismiss the charges, which is what led to the release of the search warrant documents on Friday with more details about his son.

Josh Powell's boys had just arrived at his home in Graham, Washington, for a visit permitted by a court when he blew up the residence on February 5.

A former attorney for Josh Powell could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune)

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