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Detective: Josh Powell computer depicted parent-child sex

Nightly News

Josh Powell and his sons.

SEATTLE -- A computer in Josh Powell's former home in Utah had animated images that depicted "incestuous" sex between parent and child, Pierce County authorities said, and a state official said the material prompted a judge to order Powell to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation just days before he killed his children and himself.

Pierce County Sheriff's Detective Ed Troyer told The Associated Press on Thursday night that the images collected by investigators in Utah two years ago were realistic computer-generated depictions of "incestuous" parent-child relations.

The documents and images were recovered by police in West Valley, Utah, and sent to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department under a restrictive court order on Feb. 1, NBC station KING 5 reported. According to Washington's Department of Social and Health Services Public Affairs Senior Director Thomas Shapley, the material prompted the court to stop a process that likely would have returned Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, to their father's custody.

Shapley said the material found on the computer was so disturbing that it prompted the state psychologist consulting in the custody case to change his opinion and recommend that the court prevent the return of the children.

An attorney for Powell's in-laws wasn't invited to see the materials before a custody hearing last week, the AP said. Lawyer Steve Downing told the AP that he might have asked the court to change the terms of Powell's supervised visitation with the boys -- if he had seen the images.

Meanwhile, the state social worker who brought Powell's two boys to his house said she heard the father tell one son he had a "surprise” for him, according to ABC News.

Elizabeth Griffin-Hall said in an interview to air on ABC's "20/20" on Friday that Powell slammed the door on her after he had the children inside the house on Sunday. Hall said she knocked on the door to try to get inside and heard Powell tell 7-year-old Charlie: "I've got a big surprise for you."

She also heard 5-year-old Braden cry out, but she said she thought the child had hurt his foot.

“The door slammed in my face,” Griffin-Hall said.

“I saw Josh for just one second, his eyes caught mine. He had a look in his eyes. If I were to describe it, it was friendly enough. It was just kind of sheepish. He shrugged his shoulders up."

Authorities said Powell used a hatchet on his children, then set a house fire that killed them all.

Powell's wife, Susan, vanished in Utah two years ago. Josh Powell had been a person of interest in the case but maintained that he had taken his boys — then 2 and 4 — on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures when she disappeared from their home.

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Griffin-Hall said Charlie and Braden loved being with their father.

She described Powell as a devoted dad, who always had surprises for his boys.  

"One of them said what he wanted to do was go home and live with his daddy," she told ABC, adding that the boys would "light up" during visits with Josh Powell.

'I did everything'
After he got the boys inside and locked the door, Griffin-Hall said she kept banging on the door and asked Josh Powell if she could help him or the boys. She said she realized she didn't have her phone and walked back to her car, which was 10 steps away.

She then called 911 and her supervisor to tell them what was going on. The 911 dispatcher's handling of that call has been criticized, and an investigation has been launched into the emergency response.

The social worker said she told her boss "something terrible is happening here, and I was on the phone with ... when the house exploded."

"I wanted to get to the kids," she said. "I wanted to get to the kids. I would have broken in if I could."

But Griffin-Hall told ABC she doesn't think she could have saved them.

"How this happened is that Josh Powell was really, really evil. I couldn't have stopped him," she said. "I did everything I was supposed to do. I did everything right and the boys are still dead."

This post contains reporting from NBC News, The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff.

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