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Officials: Powell children had head and neck wounds

Josh Powell took the lives of his two sons in a house fire. Powell was a 'person of interest' in his wife's 2009 disappearance. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Updated at 10:07 p.m. ET: The preliminary autopsy results of Josh Powell and his two sons show that they suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the boys also suffered from other injuries.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner tells KING 5 TV that 7-year-old Charles suffered "chop" injuries to the neck and 5-year-old Braden suffered similar injuries to the neck and head. Both the wounds and carbon monoxide poisoning were contributing factors in their deaths, the medical examiner said.

Pierce County sheriff officials say a hatchet was recovered next to the bodies in the home.

Powell, the husband of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, died along with his children in a fire at his house Sunday, just days after he was denied custody and ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation. Police say Powell deliberately set the fire.


Updated at 5:53 p.m. ET: Josh Powell methodically planned the deadly fire that killed himself and his two young sons for some time and sent final emails to multiple people, a sheriff’s spokesman said on Monday.

"We believe he planned this event out and had taken certain steps. This is definitely a deliberate, planned out event," Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ed Troyer said during a press conference in Graham, Wash.

Authorities recovered two, five-gallon cans of gasoline inside the rented Washington home. Gasoline from one five-gallon can was spread throughout the house and used as an accelerant in the huge blaze. The other can was found by the three bodies, Troyer said.

"I'm sorry, goodbye," Powell wrote to his attorney just minutes before he set fire the house.

Troyer said Powell sent longer emails to other people, including his cousin and pastor, with instructions such as where to find his money and how to shut off his utilities.

But none of the emails said anything about what happened to his wife, Troyer said, adding, “there was no indication about Susan.”

Updated at 5:19 p.m. ET:  GRAHAM, Wash. – The maternal grandparents of Josh Powell's two young sons say the boys were playing happily Sunday at their home and didn't want to visit their father, KIRO-TV reported.

“They were having a good time and didn’t want to stop and see daddy,” Chuck Cox told KIRO TV in Seattle. “They seemed to be losing interest in going to see him. They liked it here.”

Kirk Graves, the brother-in-law of Josh Powell, said Powell, who killed himself and his own children in a home explosion, "used the boys as a tool" to hurt his family. Sgt. Ed Troyer talks about what law enforcement has done.

But their grandmother, Judy Cox, told KIRO-TV that she talked the boys into a court-ordered, supervised child custody visit with their father — a decision she now regrets.

"Look what happened," Judy Cox tearfully told the Seattle station. "But I knew that they're supposed to be able to see their dad."

Authorities say Josh Powell set his home ablaze Sunday, killing himself and his sons -- 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles -- shortly after the boys were brought to the home by a social worker for a supervised visit. By the time the social worker got to the door, Powell had let his sons in but locked her out, Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Franz told The Associated Press.

"What happened here was an act of evil. Do not call it a tragedy because that sanitizes it. This was a terrible act of murder involving two young children," Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told The Seattle Times on Monday.

Powell was under investigation in the disappearance of his 28-year-old wife, Susan Powell, from their home in West Valley City, Utah, in December 2009.

'Warning signs'
Charles Cox said he didn't think there was any more the court could have done legally to protect his grandsons, but he wished there had been.

"There were too many warning signs that I feel were known, but due to legal limitations were unable to be acted upon," he said.

Charlie and Braden Powell shared a bedroom in the Cox's Puyallup home since last fall, when they were removed from their father's custody.

Just days before the fatal blast and fire, a judge ordered Powell to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation, which included taking a polygraph test, as part of his petition to regain custody of his sons.

During the hearing Powell's attorney, Jeffrey Bassett, said Powell was extremely upset and described the decision as a “total shock.”

Earlier: 

GRAHAM, Wash. -- The two boys of a Utah man suspected in his wife's disappearance and then of killing himself and his sons in an intentional fire were starting to talk about what happened the night their mother vanished, with one noting she was "in the trunk" of the car, an attorney said.

Authorities say Josh Powell set his home ablaze Sunday, killing himself and his sons -- 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charles -- shortly after the boys were brought to the home by a social worker for a supervised visit.

Powell was under investigation in the disappearance of his 28-year-old wife, Susan Powell, from their home in West Valley City, Utah, in December 2009.

"It's the most horrifying thing you can imagine happening," said lawyer Steve Downing, who represented Susan Powell's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, in a custody fight for the boys. "The Coxes are absolutely devastated. They were always very fearful of him doing something like this, and he did it."

Downing also told The Associated Press that the children had started talking to their grandparents about things they remembered from the night their mother vanished.

"They were beginning to verbalize more," Downing said. "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."

Police say Josh Powell, the lone person of interest in the two-year-old disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell, deliberately set his house on fire Sunday, killing himself and his two young sons. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports from Graham, Wash.

'Acting like little boys again'
Kirk Graves, 39, of West Jordan, Utah, Josh Powell's brother-in-law, said he and his wife, Jennifer (Josh Powell's sister), were stunned by the news.

Appearing on Monday's TODAY, Kirk Graves confirmed that his nephews were opening up about their memories of the day their mother disappeared.

“We saw over the last six months or so was a transition in Charlie and Braden where they were becoming more fun, more vocal, they were acting like little boys again, which we hadn’t seen for a while," he said. "The specific story you’re talking about (the night Susan disappeared) is one that we were aware of and I imagine that part of Josh’s motivation was what could he do to hide that story to avoid dealing with the consequences of the things he had done.”

Graves said he believed Powell was determined to "hurt everybody around him, and used the boys as a tool to do that.”

"I’m convinced that Josh was going to do something like this and there’s absolutely nothing anybody could have done to stop him. … The only person at fault, the only person who is to blame, is Josh," he said.

Jeffrey Bassett, Josh Powell's attorney, said his client "never once admitted doing anything regarding Susan. In fact, he denied it."

Powell claimed he had taken the boys on a midnight excursion in freezing temperatures when Susan vanished. The inquiry into her death took an odd turn last year after Powell's father, Steven, was arrested for investigation of voyeurism and possessing child pornography. Josh Powell was living at his father's home at the time, and a judge gave the Coxes custody of the boys.

View images of the fire at NBC station King5.com

Last week, a judge ruled that the children must remain in the custody of the Coxes, and that they would remain with them unless their father agreed to undergo psycho-sexual evaluation.

'I'm sorry, goodbye'
When the boys came to Powell's home for their visit on Sunday, he let them in, but then blocked the social worker from entering, said Graham Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Franz.

The social worker called her supervisors to report that she could smell gas, and the home erupted in flames.

Neighbors had reported hearing an explosion, but Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said the home was destroyed by a blaze that blew out several windows and was aided by some sort of accelerant.

“He was lying in wait, he had this pre-planned. He had everything ready to go and this was going to happen no matter who dropped those boys off," Troyer told NBC's TODAY on Monday. "This is basically a double-murder suicide and he’s the one that’s solely responsible for it.”

Bassett told The AP that he got a three-word email from his client just minutes before the fire. It said, "I'm sorry, goodbye." The email arrived at 12:05 p.m. Sunday, but he didn't see it until two hours later, when others informed him of the fire.

'This has become a crime scene'
Authorities said they found three bodies in the home late Sunday afternoon as fire crews and police continued to search the rubble.

"Everything we know right now, this has become a crime scene," Franz said.

Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social and Health Services, said the social worker who was with the children was not a Child Protective Services employee but a contract worker with a private agency that supervises visits for the state.

"The visit supervisor for this particular agency had taken the children to the home. When she does that, she sits through the visit and might take notes on her observations," Hill said. "She pulled up in the car, and the kids ran out ahead of her. He closed the door and locked it. She wasn't able to get in, and that's when she smelled gas."

More photos: Blaze at Josh Powell's home

Troyer said the elder Powell was put on suicide watch in custody after he was told of the deadly blast. "Steve Powell didn't seem very upset by the news, but was angry towards authorities who notified him," he said.

NBC station King5.com said a memorial had sprung up to the boys at the elementary school that Charlie attended in Puyallup, Wash. Dozens of people gathered to place candles, stuffed animals, balloons and messages out front.

"They were fun loving, they had a great attitude," Graves said of his nephews. "We’d seen some of that disappear as they’d been living with Josh in Steve’s home and it was starting to come back."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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