Josh Powell: Why the Courts and Press Need to Wake Up About PAS Fathers

What do parents at Carson Elementary School tell their children about the double-murder-suicide of Charlie (age 7) and Braden (age 5) Powell by their father Josh Powell?

Powell Family

Charlie and Braden’s mother Susan Cox Powell has been missing since December 7, 2009.   According to Cox family attorney Steve Downing, Charlie recently shared what he remembered about that night:

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.

Judge Kathryn Nelson

Josh Powell, who was a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance, wanted to regain custody of his sons.  Judge Kathryn Nelson ordered him to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation and polygraph test first.  But, she made the fatal mistake of allowing supervised visits to continue.

“Act of Evil”

Early yesterday afternoon, the boys dashed from the social worker’s car into their father’s house in Graham, WA.  Josh Powell prevented her from entering the home.  She smelled gas, but he blew the house up before she could possibly intervene to protect the children.

The bodies were found in the same room in the middle of the house.  Mr. Downing said the Cox family were afraid for the safety of their grandsons:

They were always very fearful of him doing something like this, and he did it.

Kirk Graves, Powell’s brother-in-law, told KOMO (ABC affiliate):

His world was falling apart around him and he was going to lose his boys and get arrested for Susan’s disappearance.  He’s a narcissist and he has no love for anyone but himself.

On CNN, he just said he believes this is Josh Powell’s admission of guilt in Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance.  Family members told CNN that the boys were possessions to Josh Powell.  They all knew he would harm the boys.

Judy and Chuck Cox

The Cox family did everything they knew how to do to protect their grandsons from Josh Powell and his father Steven Powell, who is in jail on 15 felony counts of child pornography and voyeurism.  They had two attorneys working arduously on their behalf.

Today they must be experiencing grief that most of us can’t comprehend.  We all express our condolences, but I think we need to do more.  I want you to join me in shining a bright spotlight on Pierce County, WA.

There is no acceptable excuse for the system’s failure to protect Charlie and Braden Powell.  Josh Powell was a textbook PAS father and pit bull abuser.  Judge Nelson never should have placed the burden of protecting these innocent boys on a social worker.  And, the Seattle area press needs to stop playing lap dog.  We don’t need any more collective hand-wringing.  We need solid investigative journalism.  We need everyone to get their heads out of their asses about PAS.

Update:  A jury awarded the Cox family $98 million in their lawsuit against Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services on July 31, 2020.

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18 responses to “Josh Powell: Why the Courts and Press Need to Wake Up About PAS Fathers

  1. There are a huge number of mothers in the exact same situation across this country. The MYTH is that “best interests” dictate what happens to children – but the sad part of this story is that it IS NOT UNUSUAL AT ALL. And, these decisions are not made as a result “judicial discretion” these decisions are dictated as a result of Federal Funding. These federal policies are established and funded by the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Child Support Enforcement through what is (ironically) known as the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative. $4 Billion a year, plus whatever amounts are garnished out of child support accounts, fuel a huge non-profit industry providing court ordered services in cases in the Family and Juvenile Courts. That is from ONLY ONE set of grants. These policies are draining our pockets. And who was the wizard that introduced and implemented this legislation via “welfare reform” with his Contract with America? Remember? That bastion of family values and best interests – Newt Gingrich.

  2. Thank you, Ms. Farkovitz. I did not know that Newt Gingrich was the father of this “family value.” I think this story shines a bright spotlight on the whole PAS father myth as well as the court’s failure to protect the children. I hope the attorney who represented Josh Powell ~ for free ~ is questioning his own values today. There are WAY too many of these stories.

    Sending hugs,
    Anne Caroline

  3. Oh, Mildred, I am humbled that you left a comment on this story. You probably understand the grief and frustration the Cox family have experienced better than anyone. You have walked in their shoes. You had to go to inordinate lengths to keep your own children safe.

    There is no excuse for the judicial failure in this case. No excuse.

    Sending hugs and best wishes,
    Anne Caroline

  4. Well, it’s certainly been an education for me. He is from the county where I had identical problems with the courts failing to address my issues of concern. My county apparently was a pilot location for these subsidies. I get the impression that he came up with this idea while he was persecuting first wife Jackie while she was suffering with cancer. Such a nice family guy that Newt Gingrich. The act was called “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996” as part of his Contract With America campaign. It’s a lot like that “I’m Not Selling You Out as a Lobbyist” deal he had with the mortgage industry.

    As Speaker of the House, he appointed the judge in my case, Judge Adele Grubbs, to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention as a “practicing member”. This organization is led by the Attorney General, who happens to be Eric Holder right now. However, Clinton was in office and she was appointed as Republican. This group oversees the non-profits that work in tandem with the Juvenile Courts, just like Family Courts are funded the same way through DHHS OCSE does in this example. Basically, if Family Courts do not manage to finish your family off, this one has programs that dovetail with the “participating father” programs.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think wonderful men, and many great fathers are out there. The problem we have is that a few men, who share the values of Newt Gingrich, created a program that would allow them to escape financial responsibility for their kids. The “strategic marketing plan” was that mothers who went for welfare had to agree to pursue “unpaid child support”. Reasonable, fair, good use of tax dollars right? Hell, I voted for it!

    But what they DO NOT SHARE, is that the federal dollars pay for an “Attorney of the Day” through non-profits that are funded with DHHS dollars – and advises fathers of the many many programs that they qualify for if they “agree” to participate and become “responsible fathers”. If they don’t want to participate, they can always go to jail, and stay there, until the child support is paid. But if they do participate – well they may get a free attorney to help switch custody from someone who doesn’t really want their kid to be the next Internet Child Porn Star… like the missing mother above. There are 10 petitioners before an International Body now (IACHR) as a result of this LONG STANDING policty.

    Fathers receive this assistance regardless of financial need – because it’s our priority to have all fathers rich or poor – be “responsible”.

    Good fathers, do not need “rights”. They need to show up.

    In these programs, fathers given financial and legal aid without the knowledge or equivalent aid for mothers win custody 70% of the time. Attorneys strongly advise not to bring up issues of domestic violence, child abuse or especially sexual abuse. Mothers who have, were entirely stripped of parental rights. (Titleman v. Titelman, Sacks v. Sacks are two cases entirely ignored by the US Supreme Court in the last five years.)

    Supervised Visitation is a fatherhood program, so is parenting coordination, and a slew of other ones too. Last month I calculated the loans given out in my state – and discovered that Judge Grubbs, sits on the Board of an organization which has received $178,000,000 in “mentoring grants” but doesn’t list it consistently on any of her public website – and does not disclose this appointment as a “fiduciary responsibility” in her Financial Disclosure Form filed with the state ethics commission one time since her appointment in 1998. Hello? Anyone out there doing any OVERSIGHT? I find it astonishing that she is on this council with the Attorney General, and every cabinet member and that none of them are aware that she is on the Board of Boys & Girls Clubs of America…and if it weren’t so horrible I think I would just laugh at the irony of it.

    By the way this Judicial guide you have over here? This organization receives most of their training from the AFCC – which is one of three national organizations that provides training to Father’s Rights non-profits that shares 40% of that $4 Billion in Federal Grants. A friend of mine shared their training materials with me last summer. They advise judges NOT to listen to the court appointed evaluators and to listen to Social Workers about sexual abuse. Interestingly – DHHS is in charge of managing sexual abuse issues like the one in this case in WA State. They give the cases to police AT THEIR OWN DISCRETION. Cases where the perpetrator is a third party (outside of the family) there is a lot of funding for investigation and prosecution. Where sexual abuse exists – it is VERY OFTEN originating in the family. The kids are often supplying child trafficking rings with porn, auctions, sexual activity, etc. That means then, that OUR FEDERAL TAX DOLLARS are fueling this heinous behavior and no one wants to talk about it or sees the reporting family as “vindictive” instead of “protective”.

    So there is no money to properly investigate incest issues through DHHS, none through the Office on Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, and no money through the VAWA act either – because it does not provide money for sexual abuse programs. Police do not know what to do with family cases and consider Domestic Violence “episodic” as opposed to ongoing, pervasive and a coercive method to deprive victims of their liberty and their civil/human rights. Big fat problem per Stark.

    I have spent over 5 years and 5000 hours researching this and there are a small core of people who have grown past the trauma of losing their children to abusive fathers that are starting to work together. We would be happy to have you learn as much as you can stand to learn.

    Best Regards.

  5. Ms. Farkovitz,

    Whew! Did you notice the comment from Mildred Muhammad?

    Her ex-husband was the D.C. Sniper, who went on a cross-country shooting rampage killing dozens of people to create a smokescreen for the murder of Ms. Muhammad and her children. It all started in Pierce County, WA where a police chief fatally shot his estranged wife in front of their kids before turning the gun on himself.

    These stories and their progeny are why I shine a bright light on Pierce County.

    The purpose of this site is to share the best practices of survivors of child abuse and domestic violence. I have written several posts about people who achieve temporary victories in PAS cases. This is why I was so devastated to hear that the Cox family ultimately did not prevail.

    The primary author of the Judicial Guide is former NH judge Susan Carbon, the head of the violence against women office at the Department of Justice. I have noticed that many of the authors of the guide do not recognize PAS in their own court rooms. And, I have noticed that Ms. Carbon is far more interested in sexual assault than she is in preventing domestic violence or child abuse.

    I was profoundly disappointed that some protective mothers insisted that Nancy Carroll delete her phenomenal Rights for Mothers blog which IMHO went a long way in helping create a level playing field for protective mothers.

    Best wishes,
    Anne Caroline

  6. Hi Anne Caroline, if you are on Facebook, please feel free to connect there. I am in touch with HUNDREDS like Ms. Muhammad and she and have I spoken about this before. I have documentation that her ex-husband received assistance from an attorney that was funded through these programs. It’s very unfortunate.

    You may want to contact Janice Bashford in the office of Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee about what you have experienced there, they are developing sexual abuse legislation.

    VAWA has a caveat – as I said most of their grants, if not all – do not cover child sexual abuse – only sexual assault of adult women. If you take their money, from what I have been advised, that you must agree that if you are too much of a rabble rouser (i.e. too vocal) against the actions of police, prosecutors, etc., that they can shut you down and take your funding. So if you happen to disagree with DHHS’ assessment of sexual abuse cases in your area, and you are funded by VAWA – say buh-bye to your funding. Makes it kind of hard to influence change of the courts when they want to stay in the dark, doesn’t it?

    Have you read Erik Stark’s “Coercive Control”? Really interesting legislative and policy history on this issue in this book. Reminded me quite a lot of a Social Work text book from way back when, but really does get at the root of why our values appear to be out of sync of what we SAY we believe about child sexual abuse. We can whine all day. Congress and the Senate can pontificate and they can write pretty little judicial guides all day long – (and they do of course), but if you don’t literally “put our money where our mouths are” then no one investigates these crimes and the priority is rehabilitation of sexual offenders. Sexual attraction is very difficult to change, and someone that has the motive to hide their crime is much more likely to discredit the victim and say they are “crazy” than they are to admit their wrong doing, give up their money and their liberty and make things right with their victims.

    I have never seen it happen so far.

    So, if DHHS wants to be sure this behavior stops, they better change their appropriations patterns and show us that it’s true. What are they funding. The rights of men who are sexual perpetrators like Josh Powell – to have full and unfettered access to their children.

    For more information go to Stop Family Violence Now and review the International Petition Protesting the Violation of Human Rights filed by a group of 10 victims (mothers and children) filed on Mothers Day 2007.

  7. Pingback: FATHER – PLEASE OPEN OUR EYES « Spiritual Side of Domestic Violence·

  8. My narcissistic ex-husband is also using PAS. I am being failed by our system and so our my daughters. This tragedy is my worst nightmare and one that is a reality for me unless the courts start doing their jobs: protecting our children. The courts are too set on giving 50/50 custody instead of looking into what is in the best interest of the children.

    My prayers are with the grandparents– horrific. Tina

  9. I have watched the courts give visitation to batterers over and over, stating that “he is a good father” and not listening to mother’s. How can he be a good father if the children are watching him abuse his mother? What is this teaching his children? This is not a decision made in the best interest of the children. It is actually colluding with the violent batterer and not holding him accountable for his behavior. And it’s not just the courts, it’s the police, prosecutors, etc. that are being manipulated by the charming individual he presents to them and looking at the woman in his life who is naturally feeling crazy, like anyone would living in that situation. It is preventable if the courts, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and other agencies would come together & learn about domestic violence and work on holding batterers accountable for the behavior they choose to use.
    I am so sorry that Josh Powell was allowed to have the freedom to destroy a family. My heart goes out to them.

  10. I have been living this hell for 4 years. I have divorced a pit-bull narcissist. It is only by the grace of God that he has not killed me and my children yet. After 4 years – and $50K in attorney’s fees, and other court ordered fees, that I now have sole custody, and he has no visitation. I have fled my home state – and started new in a new state. He will not stop until I am dead. What we have lived through has given us all PTSD. To see what Josh Powell was allowed to do – THROUGH THE COURTS – makes me want to scream. Change is needed, but how and where.

  11. Hello,
    I got here after reading several rants defending Josh Powell on the basis of “Fathers’ Rights” I’m trying to educate myself about custody issues and found this article and the comments very informative. Without divulging too much personal information, I will say that I currently share custody of my daughter with her father and I have no knowledge of abuse, but some things seem a little strange.
    That aside, I have a question that may seem very ignorant: What’s “PAS”?

  12. Parental Alienation Syndrome = PAS
    Something abusers use in court to gain full or shared custody of children who have been abused, or witnessed abuse of their mother. Google it – it is absolutely disgusting.

  13. Maria, you are a warrior. You should be so proud of your endurance and of what you have done to protect yourself and your kids. Although I know you have to take precautions, I’m glad you spoke up. In time, you might turn your experiences into the exact change our system needs. It’s people like you that wind up doing it. As T.D. Jakes says, we are to turn our misery into our ministry.

    I wonder if your state has an address confidentiality program. Please don’t say you’re in one if you’re already a member since we’re on a public forum. These programs are usually administered through the secretary of state’s office.

    Also, have you completed an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit? Please see I’m sure you’re used to documenting things, but every abuse and stalking survivor needs one of these.

    You might find Susan Murphy Milano’s “Time’s Up” book, a guide to leaving bad relationships, useful still. It’s mentioned on her website below. I’ll list some other websites you might find handy as well. On the Time’s Up blog, Barry Goldstein addresses the exact issues you speak of.

    Most of all, I hope that you are surrounded by people of faith and have spiritual support. In my faith the Manufacturer’s Handbook says we are more than conquerors in Christ– I believe that and will pray that you emerge victorious!

  14. I already said this, but Barry Goldstein on the Time’s Up crime victims advocacy blog just posted a lengthy post having to do with PAS. I don’t always agree with him but find his insights valuable.

  15. Thank you Maria. Looks like a good way to distort the situation and put the guild back on the victim, as ever.

  16. Emily,
    Keep your eyes and ears open. Document everything! What may seem small now – will be important later. Have your daughter draw pictures – keep them and date them. If it turns out to be nothing, great. If not – you will be glad you kept record of all the strange stuff.

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