GRAHAM, Wash. (AP) — The long, bizarre case of a Utah woman missing for two years took a horrific turn Sunday when a powerful house explosion killed the woman's husband and his two young sons, moments after the boys arrived for a visit that was supposed to be supervised by a social worker.
Authorities say it appears the husband, Josh Powell, blew the house up on purpose.
The Child Protective Services worker brought the two boys to Powell's home, and Powell let his sons inside — but then blocked the social worker from entering, Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Franz told The Associated Press.
The social worker called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas, and moments later the home exploded. What's left of the house was still smoking Sunday afternoon, and fire crews were mopping up the scene.
Sgt. Ed Troyer, Pierce County sheriff's spokesman, said emails Powell sent authorities seemed to confirm the Powell planned the deadly blast. Troyer didn't elaborate on the contents of the emails.
Jeffrey Bassett, who represented Powell in the custody case, said he received a three-word email from his client just minutes before Powell and the two boys died. It said, "I'm sorry, goodbye."
The email arrived at 12:05 p.m. Sunday, about 10 minutes before the explosion, but he didn't see it until two hours later, when others told him Josh and the boys had been killed. He said he knew Josh was upset after being ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation recently, but he didn't see this coming.
Powell was under investigation in the disappearance of his 28-year-old wife Susan from their West Valley City, Utah, home in December 2009. He claimed he had taken the boys on a midnight excursion in freezing temperatures when she vanished.
The children, 5 and 7, had been living with Susan Powell's parents since Josh Powell's father Steven was arrested on child porn and voyeurism charges last fall. On Wednesday, a judge had denied an attempt by Josh Powell to regain custody, saying she wouldn't consider returning the two boys to their father until he underwent a psycho-sexual evaluation.