Dad who killed self, sons in blaze left voice mail

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Ultimately, Powell and both boys died of smoke inhalation, Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office investigator Melissa Baker said Monday evening.

But they also suffered “chop injuries” that contributed to their deaths — 7-year-old Charles was struck on his neck and 5-year-old Braden had injuries to both his head and neck, Baker said.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer said investigators found a hatchet that they believe was used on the boys.

“We recovered a hatchet — a small ax,” he said. “It was right there with” the bodies.

Authorities also said Powell had made thorough plans well ahead of the murders.

“This was definitely a deliberate, planned-out event,” Troyer said.

He said minutes before the fire, Powell sent emails to several people saying, “I’m sorry. Goodbye.” To others, including his cousins and pastor, he sent longer emails, with instructions on 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, Troyer said.

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

Nielsen said detectives want to question Powell’s father, Steve Powell, about Susan’s disappearance. He described Steve Powell as another “person of interest” but noted the elder Powell is “not in our sights” in terms of any potentially imminent arrest.

Steve Powell has been in jail on voyeurism and child porn charges since last fall after authorities found explicit images on his computers during a search of his home in the case of his missing daughter-in-law.

After his arrest, the state turned the boys over to Susan Powell’s parents, Charles and Judy Cox.

Steve Powell claimed on national television last year to have had a flirtatious or even sexual relationship with Susan — something her family has adamantly denied.

Josh Powell claimed that the night his wife vanished in December 2009, he took the boys from their West Valley City home, about 10 miles outside Salt Lake City, on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures — a story her parents never believed. Authorities searched the area in the central Utah desert but came up empty.

Less than a month after the disappearance, Josh Powell moved the boys to his father’s home in Puyallup, south of Seattle.

Sunday’s tragedy left the Coxes devastated. They spoke to reporters Monday to give a glimpse of the lives the boys led.

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