- Associated Press - Monday, February 6, 2012

GRAHAM, Wash. — Josh Powell’s boys were coming for a visit, and he had preparations to make.

He boxed up their books and toys and brought them to a charity. He carried heavy cans of gasoline inside his house.

He thought about what to write in the final emails he’d send out: Where people could find his financial accounts, how they could shut off his utilities. He didn’t mention his wife, Susan Powell, missing for the past two years.

When the boys, ages 5 and 7, finally arrived in a car driven by a social worker Sunday, everything was ready to go. They ran inside to see him. He locked the door before the social worker could reach it.

She could smell the gas, which by now was splashed throughout the home. She called for help. The flames rose.

As authorities continued searching through the charred rubble of the home Monday, they released new details about what they described as Mr. Powell’s deliberation in killing himself and his children, who had been removed from his care - a horrifying climax to a long, bizarre saga. They found the two 5-gallon gas cans inside.

“This was definitely a deliberate, planned-out event,” said Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer.

Autopsy reports were pending, but Detective Troyer said there were no gunshot wounds.

The Utah police chief heading the investigation into Mrs. Powell’s disappearance, Buzz Nielsen of the West Valley City Police Department, flew to Washington state Monday and vowed that the case will remain open.

Detectives hope to interview Mr. Powell’s father, Steve Powell, who remains in jail on child pornography and voyeurism charges, Chief Nielsen said. He identified Steve Powell as a “person of interest” in the disappearance, but then said no arrest was imminent: “He’s not in our sights.”

Josh Powell had long been identified as a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance, and last week a judge denied another request for his boys to be returned to him.

Mr. Powell claimed that the night his wife vanished in December 2009, he took the boys on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures, a story her parents never believed.

Detective Troyer said that minutes before the fire, Mr. Powell sent emails to several people saying, “I’m sorry. Goodbye.” To others, including his cousins and pastor, he sent longer emails, with instructions such as where to find his money and how to shut off his utilities.

In at least one email, he wrote that he couldn’t live without his boys, Detective Troyer said.

But, he added, “There’s no indication about Susan in anything that we’ve found so far.”

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