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Social Workers Could Have Done More To Prevent Josh Powell Murder-Suicide, Says Report

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Aug. 2 2012, Published 5:00 a.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Reporter

It has been 18 months since Josh Powell killed his two young sons and then himself, and a new report Thursday concluded that social workers could have done more to prevent the tragic murder-suicide.

A panel found that the Washington Department of Social and Health Services should “make concerted efforts” to check with detectives prior to making changes in parent-child contacts when there is an active investigation, such as Powell still being the prime suspect in his wife, Susan's disappearance in 2009, reported the Washington Post.

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As previously reported, Powell heartlessly attacked his children, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden, with a hatchet before torching his home in Washington state last February. All three died of smoke inhalation.

The horrific act occurred during a supervised visit with social worker Elizabeth Griffin-Hall. As she returned with the boys Josh snatched them and slammed the front door in her face.

"I couldn't have stopped him," said devastated Griffin-Hall. "I did everything I was supposed to do. I did everything right and the boys are still dead. It took just a second. When I close my eyes I see him and he was so normal. He did not look like a monster."

Powell had been locked in a custody dispute at the time of the killings, and a judge had recently ordered him to undergo an intensive psycho-sexual evaluation. In the future, the child fatality review committee concluded that in such cases social workers should immediately reassess visitation policies.

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It is too late to save Braden and Charlie, but Denise Revels Robinson, assistant secretary for DSHS Children’s Administration, said the recommendations provided by the committee “will be of great help in our ongoing efforts to improve our practice in keeping children safe.”

The violent death of any child, especially at the hands of a parent, is always a tragedy,” she went on to say. “But few of us who have served in child welfare have had to deal with such a horrific experience as the loss of Charlie and Braden.”

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The committee deemed that while "nobody could have anticipated that Joshua Powell would murder his two sons," the DSHS could have been more vigilant and the disappearance of Susan Powell should have prompted the workers to further explore the potential of domestic violence.

One barrier in the supervision of Powell's visitation rights was the lack of information disclosed by detectives investigating the suspected murder in Utah, where he claimed she had gone missing from their home while he was off on a middle-of-the night camping trip with their sons.



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