Washington faces lawsuit over handling of Powell case

Print
Email
|

by Associated Press and KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 2, 2012 at 9:10 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 2 at 5:29 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Attorneys are preparing to sue the state of Washington over how social workers handled the children of Josh Powell.

Lawyer Anne Bremner said the case will be filed Friday on behalf of Susan Cox Powell, who went missing in 2009. A guardian ad litem has been appointed to represent her. Josh Powell killed himself and the couple's two young children during a supervised visit earlier this year.

Bremner has represented the parents of Susan Powell. She says they want to see changes in how the state handles these cases, such as less focus on trying to immediately reunify parents with their children

Bremner's announcement came the same day that a task force made recommendations on how social workers could improve their handling of similar cases in the future.

A panel reviewing the deaths of the Powell children said state social workers did not consult with law enforcement before allowing Powell to host visits at his home.

A report released Thursday says the Department of Social and Health Services should "make concerted efforts" to check with detectives prior to making changes in parent-child contacts when there is an active investigation. Authorities had been investigating the 2009 disappearance of Powell's wife, Susan. Read the full report here

During a supervised visit at his home in Graham earlier this year, Powell set fire to the house, killing himself and his sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5.

Powell had been locked in a custody dispute at the time of the killings. A few days before the fire, a judge ordered him to undergo an intensive psycho-sexual evaluation.

The child fatality review committee also says social workers should immediately reassess visitation policies whens someone is ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation.

Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, got a copy of the DSHS report Thursday morning.

"(It) didn't go far enough for me," said Cox.

DSHS responded with a press release, saying the review committee also “concluded that nobody could have anticipated that Joshua Powell would murder his two sons. According to the committee, the work of all agencies and individuals involved demonstrated the highest concern for the children’s health, safety and welfare.”

"There is no arrest, there is no charge. Everyone can speculate all they wanted to about what happened to Susan Powell. But was there document evidence of domestic violence in the home? And the answer to that is no," said Thomas Shapley, DSHS spokesperson.

But there was a criminal investigation into Susan Powell's disappearance.  DSHS said the problem is, police often withhold information to ensure a successful prosecution. Sometimes it can conflict with protecting the children involved, as it did in this case.

"If they bring it into court, we have to share it with the parent. Then you have a defendant and a defense attorney who have a road map to what the prosecutor is doing," said Shapley.

The review also found case workers should have consulted with law enforcement before allowing Josh Powell to have visits with his boys at his home.

"Is it a mistake in policy or practice? No. In hindsight, would it have made a difference? That's impossible to tell," said Shapley.

In the end, the review panel found that none of these things may have saved the children's lives.

"The blame rests with Josh Powell, who killed his sons. That's who the blame rests with," said Shapley.

Meanwhile, Susan Powell's father said DSHS had the wrong priority.

"Reunification at any cost is a primary goal, versus what it should be," said Cox. "The primary goal should be the best interest of the child."

DSHS says state law requires the Department to conduct a fatality review when a child death or near-death injury is suspected to be caused by abuse or neglect and the child has received services from Children’s Administration in the previous 12 months.

The committee interviewed seven people and reviewed more than 2,700 pages of documents, said DSHS.

 

KING 5's Elisa Hahn and Liza Javier contributed to this report.


Print
Email
|