The man who killed his two sons in an explosive house fire in Washington state will not be buried in the same cemetery as the children, his family said Thursday.
Kirk Graves, the brother-in-law of Josh Powell, told The Associated Press that his mother has decided to give up a plot tentatively reserved at Woodbine Cemetery overlooking the boys’ final resting place.
“We felt very strongly that it wasn’t appropriate to put him anywhere near the boys, and we did our best over the last 48 hours to convince her to do something different,” he said. “It wasn’t that hard to convince her — she just got started off on the wrong path.”
Powell, the husband of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, killed his 5- and 7-year-old sons and himself in a gas-fueled blaze Feb. 5 at a home he was renting in Graham.
More than 1,000 mourners attended the boys’ funeral Saturday. They were later buried in a single casket at Woodbine, a municipal cemetery in Puyallup.
Powell’s mother, wracked by grief, realized early this week that no one else was planning for what to do with Josh Powell’s remains, Graves said. She visited a funeral home and a few cemeteries, he said, she “cluelessly” picked a gravesite just up the hill from where the boys are buried.
The decision prompted a public firestorm. The parents of Susan Powell threatened legal action to keep Josh Powell from being buried so close, and the anti-crime organization Crime Stoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County purchased the plots on either side of the boys to ensure that he didn’t wind up next to them. Crime Stoppers raised about $20,000 in donations for the effort in less than a day.
Attorney Steve Downing, who represents Susan Powell’s parents, Charles and Judy Cox, said they were immensely relieved. However, he said he would continue preparing to file a temporary restraining order blocking Josh Powell’s burial at Woodbine until his mother, Terri Powell, issued a public statement disavowing the plan.
The statement was expected later Thursday, Graves said.
Josh 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 his father’s home 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 the Coxes.
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.
A judge had recently ordered that Josh Powell undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation if he hoped to regain custody, and in a last-minute message to his sister he said he couldn’t live without his boys.