"I'm sorry, goodbye," Josh Powell wrote in an email to his attorney just before he apparently ignited an explosive fire Sunday that took not just his life but those of his 5- and 7-year-old sons, authorities say.
The tragic events at Powell's home in Graham, Wash., came nearly three years after the disappearance of Powell's wife Susan and the emergence of Powell as the only "person of interest" in the case. Throughout, he maintained his innocence.
But it was just last week that a custody battle over the brothers between Powell and the boys' grandparents — Susan's mother and father — took a turn that started the chain of events that ended with an explosion and blaze on Sunday.
As Fox 13 News in Salt Lake City (the family was living in Utah when Susan Powell disappeared), reported Thursday, a judge just last week ordered that Powell undergo a "psycho-sexual evaluation" before getting back custody of Braden and Charles. Powell was caring for the boys most of the past two years, but last September authorities found "thousands of pornographic pictures and videos — including furtively taken shots of neighbor children in various states of undress — on a computer belonging to Powell's father, Steven Powell, then 61," the Los Angeles Times writes. Josh Powell and his sons were living with Steven Powell at the time.
But the judge also said Josh Powell could continue to have "twice weekly supervised visits with the boys," Fox 13 News writes. And that's what was to happen on Sunday. A social worker brought Braden and Charles to Powell's home. The boys, according to The Associated Press, "rushed toward the home, leaving the social worker behind. By the time she got to the door, Powell had let his sons in but locked her out, Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Franz said.
"The social worker called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas. Moments later, the home burst into flames, igniting an inferno that neighbors said rattled their houses."
What if ... the supervised visits had been suspended or could only be held somewhere besides Powell's home?
What if ... the boys hadn't run ahead? Would the social worker's presence in the home have kept tragedy from happening, or only added another victim?
Meanwhile, the AP adds that "on Sunday, the lawyer for Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, told the AP the children had started talking to their grandparents about things they remembered from the night their mother vanished. 'They were beginning to verbalize more,' said attorney Steve Downing, whose clients had custody of the children. 'The oldest boy talked about that they went camping and that Mommy was in the trunk. Mom and Dad got out of the car and Mom disappeared.' "