A young wife and mother goes missing. A husband acts suspiciously. He has an unconvincing alibi, which can't be checked to anyone's satisfaction. He won't talk to police, but "lawyers up." Vigils are held for the young woman; the husband shows up but won't speak with his in-laws.
Doesn't sound good for the husband, does it?
That's the case of Susan Powell and her husband, Joshua. Joshua's story, that on the Sunday night of December 6, 2009, he took his two young boys, age 2 and 4, camping at midnight to a remote spot in the West Desert of Utah, and came home the next day to find his wife gone, doesn't sound very convincing to the public or police. Police would like to talk more with him, but he won't talk to them. In his initial contact with the media his answers were incomplete and vague. He appeared shell-shocked, blindsided by the attention.
For some reason this story has legs. The national media has picked it up. Why? Well, pretty wife for one thing, very young children for another, bumbling, suspicious husband with a history of controlling behavior. Reporting the story has lead some of the public to a rush to judgment. Unfortunately, unlike TV shows CSI or Law and Order, it isn't that simple. Police have some things they've taken from the Powell home, and they have the suspicious actions of the husband, but apparently they don't have evidence that Susan Powell is dead or being held somewhere against her will or the husband would be in custody.
She could have left on her own. But that wouldn't be her, her family and friends say. She'd take her children, she'd take her cell phone and her purse, for cryin' out loud. And what the hell kind of story is that the husband tells? Taking two young children camping at midnight on a winter night of sub-freezing temperatures?
Everyone has an opinion, and most opinion settles on the husband's guilt.
I don't know. I don't have any more information than is released by the media. I only have the experience of having personally known the principals in a past case where the public damned the husband of a missing woman only to find out a couple of years later they were wrong when another man confessed to murder.
Warren and Margo were my coworkers in the 1980s and early '90s. Margo went missing on a February morning in 1992, only to be found in a shallow grave six months later. I told the story here, and I also made a point that if a wife goes missing, a husband had better have some sort of alibi that can be easily checked. Otherwise suspicion will automatically fall on him. Everything he's ever done wrong--and let's face it, there aren't any perfect husbands--will be used against him, either by police or the court of public opinion.
It will take time for police to come to some sort of conclusion one way or another. Maybe Susan Powell will walk in the door. Maybe someone will find her body covered by snow in the West Desert. Like most people I'm sure her husband isn't telling the truth, but whether the truth leads to a body I don't know. Neither does anyone else, so we should probably all just shut up. Human nature being what it is, shutting up is the exact opposite of what we'll do.