Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A year ago this month a young local wife and mom, Susan Powell, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Her husband, Josh, claimed he and their two young sons went camping overnight in the desert, on a below-freezing, snowy night, and came home in the morning to find her gone. She hasn't been seen or heard from since.

The husband came under suspicion immediately because his alibi was fishy. Camping in the middle of winter in the desert? Phew. Get out the room deodorizer because that excuse is stinking up the place. Even before Susan disappeared Josh was thought by Susan's friends and relatives to be controlling and a not-so-nice-guy. There was talk she was ready to leave him. So Josh shut up. He wouldn't talk to the police after his initial interview, which raised red flags amongst people watching the case. He won't talk because he knows they'd get it out of him that he killed her! He won’t take a lie detector test because that would trip him up! He moved himself and his sons out of state to live with his parents; he came back to town and cleaned out his house, then put it up for sale. That raised more talk: He knows she's not coming home! He knows she's dead because he killed her!

The latest coming from Josh is a claim Susan ran off with another man, Steven Koecher, who disappeared at the same time, and is also being currently sought. Both the missing wife's relatives and friends, and the Koecher family have pooh-poohed the notion the two knew each other, much less ran off together. Just a coincidence they disappeared at the same time, they say.

It's always the spouse who is most suspicious, isn't it? Cops look at them first, and sometimes cops get fixated on one person, to the exclusion of other potential suspects. In 1992 I worked with a man whose wife disappeared from her workplace. Six months later she was found buried in a shallow grave. He was under suspicion for years until a serial murderer was caught and confessed to killing her. Until that point the police were positive my coworker had murdered his wife. They had a theory of how he did it, but lacked the hard evidence necessary to arrest him and bring him to trial. Some of us who worked with him thought there was a strong possibility he did his wife in, as did his wife’s former employer. As it turned out, despite all their theories, the cops--and some of us who knew him--were wrong and my coworker was not a murderer.

In the case of Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped out of her home at age 14 in 2002, a man named Richard Ricci, being held in jail on other charges, was suspected of the kidnapping. He died in jail, still under suspicion, before Smart was found and the truth of her abduction came out. Cops weren’t working the case hard enough, thought Smart’s dad, Ed, who pushed them to look for the street person his other daughter identified. They still believed Ricci was the kidnapper. As it turned out Dad was right, the cops were wrong. A homeless street preacher and his wife, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, had kidnapped and held her.

Finally, Roger and Pamela Mortensen were not only suspected of the murder of Roger's father, retired professor Kay Mortensen in November, 2009, they were arrested and have spent the last six months in jail charged with homicide. They had notified the police of the death, claiming they were tied up by two men and held hostage, while the men stole a substantial number of the professor's 30 guns. Luckily the police didn't consider the case a closed book. Within the past couple of weeks, acting on a tip, they arrested two men who acknowledged involvement in the crime, killing Professor Mortensen by slitting his throat. Police found over 20 of Mortensen's guns in their possession.

In this case the Sheriff's Department admitted they'd made a mistake and dropped murder charges against the professor's son and his wife. That's more than a lot of police departments or prosecutors would admit to, preferring to fit their own theory to who they'd arrested, rather than look for someone else.

So, maybe there's still hope for O.J. Simpson, that the L.A. Police will find the real killer of his wife and Ron Goldman!

No comments: