By Gene Johnson
SEATTLE — Josh Powell's surviving relatives want him buried at the same cemetery as the two young sons he killed, in a plot just overlooking their grave, the city manager in Puyallup said Wednesday.
Powell's relatives visited the public Woodbine Cemetery and selected a plot just up a hill from the boys, about 80 to 100 feet away, City Manager Ralph Dannenberg told The Associated Press.
The grave, which is in clear view of the boys' plot, has already been dug and was covered with plywood Wednesday. The Powells haven't paid for it yet, and any sale is being put on hold because the parents of Powell's missing wife have promised legal action, Dannenberg said.
"We don't have any rules or procedures regarding refusing plots to anyone," Dannenberg said. "We're going to wait to see what the outcome is in court."
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor and Detective Ed Troyer, who heads the anti-crime organization Crimestoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County, responded by buying the two plots on either side of the boys to make sure Josh Powell didn't wind up there. The cost is being paid by Crimestoppers, other organizations and private donations.
"We might not be able to keep Josh Powell out of the cemetery, but it's way better than having him right next to the boys," Troyer said.
Powell was a suspect in Susan Powell's 2009 disappearance from their home in West Valley City, Utah. He attacked his sons with a hatchet and exploded his house in a gas-fueled blaze, killing himself and the two boys on Feb. 5.
More than 1,000 mourners attended the boys' funeral Saturday. They were later laid to rest in a single casket at Woodbine, and the Coxes hope to bury Susan Powell there too if her remains are ever found. Troyer said Crimestoppers would allow Susan Powell's family to use the plots as they saw fit, and if Crimestoppers raises money beyond the cost of the plots, any extra could be spent on memorials.
Attorney Anne Bremner, who represents Susan Powell's parents, Charles and Judy Cox, says she will seek a temporary restraining order to block Josh Powell from being buried there. She said she could pursue claims against the city for emotional wrongs and outrage on behalf of the Coxes if the burial goes forward.
"For him to be buried near those kids is just unthinkable," Bremner said. "For God's sake, for them to lose Susan first, and then the boys, and now this? Just give these people a break."
Powell's sister Alina did not return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Steve Downing, another attorney for the Coxes, said his office received a series of anonymous calls Tuesday afternoon reporting that Josh Powell's relatives had visited the cemetery. Concerned, he emailed the city of Puyallup, south of Seattle, on Tuesday night and asked to be notified of any plans to bury Josh Powell there.
"Same cemetery, different destinations," was what he initially told his clients about the matter. But after speaking with the Coxes further, he said, they feared "they couldn't go see their daughter or their grandsons with any peace at all" if Powell's remains were nearby.
Josh Powell 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 Steve's home in Puyallup. After Steve's arrest on voyeurism and child pornography charges last fall, the boys were removed from the house and turned over to the Coxes.
On Feb. 5, a social worker brought them to Josh Powell's rental home for what was supposed to be a court-sanctioned supervised visit. Powell let the boys inside, locked the social worker out, and killed them. A judge had recently ordered that 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.
Steve Powell remains in custody, and authorities are interested in knowing whether he has information about Susan Powell's fate. On Tuesday, he filed a written notice in Pierce County Superior Court asserting his constitutional right to remain silent and not discuss any matters with Utah, Washington or federal law enforcement.
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