NEWS of the Day - February 6, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - February 6, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From Los Angeles Times


Explosive fire kills husband, two sons of missing Utah woman

Police believe Josh Powell deliberately set the blaze after a state social worker brought the boys for a supervised visit near Graham, Wash.

by Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

February 5, 2012

Reporting from Seattle

A case whose sad twists and turns perplexed authorities for more than two years took a last, tragic turn Sunday when what was left of missing Utah stockbroker Susan Powell's family died in a powerful and apparently murderous fire.

Her two young sons had just arrived for a supervised visit with her husband, Josh Powell, when an explosive fire ripped through his home near Graham, Wash., killing him, 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles.

Authorities said Josh Powell, who has been a person of interest in his wife's 2009 disappearance from their Utah home during a snowstorm, is believed to have set the fast-moving blaze.

"This is pure evil. This was not a tragedy. This is the murder of two young children," Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told reporters.

A state Child Protective Services worker had dropped off the boys for what was to have been a supervised court-ordered visit. She was about to follow the children into the house when Powell blocked her entrance and locked the door, said Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.

The worker called her supervisor from her car, reported that she had smelled gas in the house, and was ordered to call 911. She did.

"And then the house blew up," Hill said in an interview.

Gary Franz of Graham Fire and Rescue said the house was "fully involved" in a scorching blaze by the time firefighters arrived. There were no other victims, he said.

Powell's lawyer, Jeffrey Bassett, had received an email from his client only moments before, although he didn't find it until two hours later. It read: "I'm sorry, goodbye."

The story of the Powell family has unfolded in increasingly improbable details since the night Josh Powell, then living with his wife in West Valley City, Utah, packed his two boys into the car in the middle of the night in the midst of a heavy snowstorm purportedly to take them camping.

Susan Powell, 28 at the time, has not been seen since.

Josh Powell told authorities his wife may have decided to disappear, or perhaps committed suicide.

Now, it appears that the two boys, who have been living since September with Susan's parents, Charles and Judith Cox of Puyallup, Wash., were starting to share recollections of the night their mother disappeared.

Steve Downing, the Cox family's lawyer, told the Associated Press on Sunday that the boys "were beginning to verbalize more."

"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," he said.

Josh Powell initially had custody of his boys and moved with them to his father's house in Washington state not long after his wife's disappearance. But last September, police executing a search there discovered 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.

Authorities said the pictures included images of Susan Powell, with whom the elder Powell has said he had a flirtatious relationship. Her parents have vigorously denied that claim.

Josh Powell rented a home of his own after his father's arrest and returned to court last week in a bid to regain custody. "I have proven myself as a fit and loving father who provides a stable home even in the face of great adversity," he wrote in an affidavit.

But a Washington state judge ruled that in light of the computer images found in the home, Powell would have to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation before she would consider returning custody to him.

Hill, the social services spokeswoman, said Powell was entitled to visit with the boys every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

"This was a regularly scheduled, supervised visit, and the court had ordered those," she said.

"We had no indication that there was going to be any harm to the children, or a suicide. And had we suspected any of those things, we would have gone immediately to the court and addressed those concerns."

Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, said the social worker pounded on the door and windows after the fire broke out, but she couldn't help. She is being treated for "grave emotional trauma," a department statement said.

The email to Powell's lawyer arrived 10 minutes before the fire, but Bassett told the Associated Press that he didn't see it until two hours later, after he had been notified of the conflagration.

That anyone could have helped is doubtful police say the fire appeared to have been set with the aid of an accelerant that resulted in a hot, fast-moving blaze that swept through the house and killed all three occupants in the same room.

"The whole thing went up really, really fast in large flames, and burned really hot and really quick," Troyer said in an interview.

Although neighbors reported an explosion, he said that was probably the sound of windows popping and breaking in the blistering heat.

"There's no doubt about what happened here," he said, asserting that the fire leaves little doubt about Susan Powell's fate either.

"This is a guy who murdered his two kids and probably murdered his wife. I don't know what Utah police think, but as far as we're concerned, this is pretty close to a confession to the crime," Troyer said.

Police in West Valley City have said it is too early to draw any conclusions, but they were scheduled to fly to Washington state for new consultations. In a statement Sunday night, they said the case would remain open as they tried to find Susan Powell.

Downing told the Associated Press that the Cox family was "devastated by this horrific event."

"They were always very fearful of him doing something like this," Downing said. "And he did it."



Police call fire Powell's virtual confession to wife's murder

Police say the fire that engulfed Josh Powell's home in Washington state Sunday, apparently killing him and his two young sons, was deliberately set -- and as far as they're concerned, that concludes the long-running investigation into the disappearance of Powell's wife, Susan.

"This is not a tragedy. This is a double homicide," Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told The Los Angeles Times.

Josh Powell had been a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, then a 28-year-old stockbroker who vanished from their former home in Utah in December 2009. He had denied any involvement, brushing off questions about why he took the boys camping in the middle of the night during a snowstorm on the night his wife vanished.

"This is a guy who murdered his two kids, and probably murdered his wife. I don't know what Utah police think, but as far as we're concerned, this is pretty close to a confession to the crime," Troyer said.

Powell had been seeking the return of the couple's two boys, 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles, who had been living, on court orders, with Susan Powell's parents since September.

A social worker was delivering them to Josh Powell's home near Fredrickson, Wash., for what was to have been a supervised afternoon visit. Police said Powell let the boys in but then barricaded the door against the social worker. The social worker immediately called a supervisor, saying she smelled gas, and at that point the home exploded into a hot, fast-burning fire.

"What probably happened was he used accelerant throughout the residence," Troyer said. "The whole thing went up really, really fast in large flames, and burned really hot and really quick."

Though neighbors reported the sound of an explosion, Troyer said that was likely the sound of windows popping and breaking in the blistering heat. The bodies of Powell and the two children, believed to be his sons, were found in the same room, Troyer said.

"There's no doubt about what happened here," he said.

Powell's lawyer, Jeffrey Bassett, told the Associated Press he had received an email from his client several minutes before the explosion but didn't read it until later. It said: "I'm sorry, goodbye."

Authorities removed the boys from Powell's custody after his father, with whom he and his sons had been living after Susan Powell's disappearance, was arrested on charges of child pornography and voyeurism. In court papers filed in December, Powell accused his wife's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, of conducting an "irrational vendetta" that was turning his boys against him.

Powell rented a home of his own several blocks from his father's residence, but last week lost a bid to have the boys returned to his custody. A Washington state judge said Powell would first have to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation.

Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, said in an interview that Powell was entitled to visit the boys every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

"This was a regularly scheduled, supervised visit, and the court had ordered those," she said.

"We had no indication that there was going to be any harm to the children, or a suicide. And had we suspected any of those things, we would have gone immediately to the court and addressed those concerns."

It was not clear how Powell's death would affect the investigation into his wife's disappearance, being conducted by police in West Valley City, Utah.

"Quite frankly, this has obviously quickly unfolded up in Washington and we're obviously just working through the details ourselves here," West Valley City Police Sgt. Mike Powell, who is not related to the Powell family, told the Salt Lake Tribune. The police chief there was expected to fly to Washington on Monday.



Helping your parents stay out of the nursing home

Aging parents and their children sometimes disagree over the issues of safety versus independent living. Here are steps you can take to make your parents' home safer.

by Karen Ravn, Special to the Los Angeles Times

February 6, 2012

Your parents say they couldn't bear to lose their independence. Their hearts are set on staying in their own home for the rest of their days. And you understand. It's what you'd like for them too. But they're not as young as they used to be. Not as strong and on top of things. And you can't help wondering if their plan is really wise, or even feasible. So you worry.

The question of what's best for mom and/or dad is one that bedevils many children with aging parents, says Dr. David Reuben, chief of the geriatrics division in UCLA's Department of Medicine. "One of the things older people want most is to stay in their own homes. But there's always a tension between autonomy and safety. Children may want to err on the side of safety, but parents may want to err on the side of autonomy."

Of course, the time may come when physical or cognitive limitations make independent living impossible. But until then, there are steps you can take to make your parents' home safer, their lives in it easier and your concerns about them a little less daunting.

To make a home more elder-friendly, a safety assessment is a good place to start, says Myra Hyatt, a specialist clinical social worker at the Landon Center on Aging at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. That means having an occupational therapist inspect your parents' home for safety concerns and suggest ways to deal with them. These are some of the main issues that often come up in such assessments.

Stuff happens, so be prepared. If they have a personal emergency response system, your parents can call for help, 24/7, with only a push of a button. Newer systems can detect when a person has fallen down, so even if they're too injured to push the button, the system will automatically alert an operator, Hyatt says.

Being prepared can prevent stuff from happening. An emergency response system is a very fine thing, but in the long run it's more important to create an environment where such a system is needed as rarely as possible, says Linda Ercoli, director of geriatric psychology at UCLA. "If you fall and break your hip, you might be able to push a button and get help, but the fact remains that you'll have broken your hip."

Indeed, your parents' home may be booby-trapped with all sorts of falls waiting to happen including slippery showers or tubs (add grab bars), slide-prone throw rugs (get rid of them or tape them down) and fate-tempting steps and stairs (consider installing ramps or even chairlifts). Poor lighting is another open invitation for your parents to take a tumble or bang their heads or stub their toes. With brighter, better-positioned lights, you'll be sure they can see what they're doing and where they're going.

Be an alarmist. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be standard in every home. But your parents might also benefit from other, more specialized alarms, Hyatt says for example, an alarm that goes off if a pot has been left unattended on the stove for too long, or one that reminds them to take their medications (and alerts someone else if they don't).

Life-simplifying devices. Clothing that fastens with Velcro instead of buttons or zippers can make a welcome difference for fingers stiff with arthritis. And for backs no longer terribly keen on bending, an extra-long shoehorn can be a real blessing. Speaking of recalcitrant backs, a handy-dandy reacher/grabber allows for bend-free retrieval of items that fall on the floor as well as stretch-free retrieval of objects from high shelves.

Staying connected. Isolation can be a problem for seniors, especially as they become less mobile. If their hearing has also gone downhill, talking on the phone may be difficult. But a phone with amplified speakers can help, Hyatt says. And if their eyes aren't so sharp anymore, big buttons can help too. So can email with big fonts.

Senior centers and adult day care are other good options for those who can get to them as are pets, at least in the right circumstances. "They make great companions," Reuben says. "People relate to them exceptionally well." On the other hand, he warns, "if your parents can't walk very well themselves, they obviously won't be able to walk a dog. And pets can get underfoot." Tripping over a leg-rubbing cat or toy-chasing dog can cause falls. Think goldfish?

Food. Nutrition can be problematic for seniors, Ercoli cautions. "Will they eat right or even at all?" Perhaps your parents are eligible for Meals on Wheels services. Also, senior centers often offer no- or low-cost lunches. You might even hire someone to shop for groceries and prepare meals.

Professional services. Staying in their own home can be a lot easier for your parents if they don't need to worry about keeping it clean or keeping the yard looking good. You can hire professionals to do those and almost any other chores your parents might no longer feel up to.

Taking care of business. Maybe it's time for you to take charge of your parents' finances pay their bills, balance their checkbook. And it's important for them to consult an elder law specialist, Hyatt says. How they handle their assets can have big-bucks repercussions down the road, affecting their eligibility for programs like Medicaid, to name just one example.

Take care of yourself too. Worrying about and caring for your parents can wear you down, Hyatt says. "You can become isolated yourself and find yourself thinking, 'I want my life back.' Part of the challenge is the guilt you feel." That's where caregiver support groups come in, she says. You can be open and frank there, even about the feelings you're least proud of. "Everyone there will get it," she says. "They won't think you're a monster."

Resources. Countless agencies and organizations are dedicated to providing invaluable but often free or low-cost senior services. Information about many of these is available from your local Area Agency on Aging, which in Los Angeles County can be reached at (800) 510-2020 or css.lacounty.gov (click on the "Programs" tab). There you can find help with many of these issues, as well as others. Also, for a thorough "Housing Safety Checklist for Older People," visit and click on the "Housing" tab.

"Find help," Hyatt says, "because it's out there. And it can mean you stay the course and keep your parents at home as long as you can."