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Possible clues, no quick answers in Powell caseNew tips, bloody comforter, recycled papers: possible clues, no quick answers in Powell case
SEATTLE (AP) ' The deaths of Josh Powell and his two sons in a gas-fueled fire this month have left investigators with a flood of potential clues in the disappearance of his wife two years ago, but it's not clear whether they're any closer to finding her.
New tips have been pouring in. Detectives discovered a comforter ' apparently stained with blood ' he left at a storage locker. And on Sunday they found books and an unmarked map that Powell dumped at a landfill before he attacked his boys with a hatchet and ignited the home Feb. 5.
"We'll take what we have and analyze it," Pierce County Sheriff's Detective Ed Troyer said Tuesday. "If he wrote a confession for where the body was, we'd have gone there to find it by now."
Susan Powell disappeared from their home in West Valley City, Utah, in December 2009. Josh Powell, long considered a suspect, claimed he didn't know where she went; he had taken their boys ' then 2 and 4 ' on a midnight camping trip in freezing weather, he insisted.
Powell moved his two boys into his father's home in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle, within a few weeks after his wife vanished. But when his father was arrested in a voyeurism and child pornography investigation last fall, the state removed the boys from the house and placed them with Susan Powell's parents, Charles and Judy Cox, who also live in Puyallup.
A social worker brought Charlie and Braden, 7 and 5, to their dad's rental house for what was supposed to be a supervised visit Feb. 5. Josh Powell locked the social worker out, then killed himself and the boys.
The Pierce County prosecutor in Washington said he considered the double murder-suicide an admission of guilt in Susan Powell's death, but authorities in Utah say the case remains open.
New tips continue flooding into the West Valley City Police Department, Sgt. Mike Powell said. He declined to discuss any in detail, but said a team of detectives are assigned to evaluate them.
"We do have a fairly good number of tips coming in," Powell said Tuesday. "It can be challenging, but it's fairly well-organized," he said.
Among the new information detectives have received lately: A hotel worker in Sandy, Utah, 17 miles south of Salt Lake City, told them Josh Powell and the boys showed up for a continental breakfast the day Susan Powell was reported missing.
The worker, Robin Leanne Snyder, 53, oversaw the free breakfast for guests at the Comfort Inn there. She called a tip line set up by police after Susan Powell's disappearance began to make news, but at the time, she never heard back, she said.
"Charlie looked right up at me and he says, 'Do you know what happened to my mom?' So I say, 'No, what happened to your mom?'" Snyder told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
She never got an answer. She was called to fetch coffee for guests and when she returned, Josh Powell had left with his boys.
"He didn't even give the kids time to eat their sweet rolls ' each had a small bite on them," she said.
Snyder said Josh Powell kept his face down as his older boy spoke up unexpectedly.
It wasn't until two weeks ago that a West Valley detective interviewed her, she said. By then, the hotel's security tapes for the day had long been recycled.
It was unclear if the interview took place before or after the deaths of Powell and the two boys.
Snyder learned from her bosses that Josh Powell hadn't taken a room in his name, although he was in the breakfast room when she arrived for work about 6:30 a.m.
Snyder said she volunteered to take a polygraph test but that police believed her story. They haven't been able to confirm it, however, she said. She believes Josh Powell showed up at the hotel after returning from what he called a camping trip with his boys in Utah's west desert.
"What if Charlie had told me his dad killed his mom? Maybe it's good he didn't tell me. Maybe it saved his life for a couple of years," Snyder said.
On Sunday, volunteers combed through more than 10 tons of paper at a recycling center after detectives received a tip that Powell might have dumped papers there before the killings.
They found paperback books with his wife's name on them and a Utah map. An item described by detectives as a "testament" with Powell's name on it turned out to be a Mormon religious book, Troyer said.
The comforter at the storage unit tested positive for the presence of blood in a field test, but further lab results are pending.
More than 1,000 people mourned the boys at a public funeral Saturday in Tacoma.
Association Press writers Paul Foy and Brian Skoloff contributed to this report from Salt Lake City.
Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle .
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