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911 operator in Josh Powell case: 'It was horrible'

In an exclusive interview with Dateline NBC, the 911 dispatcher who took the first call from the social worker outside of Josh Powell's home tells Keith Morrison that he wishes he had better understood what the circumstances were and "the lethal quality" of the call.

David Lovrak, one of the 911 operators who took a call from a social worker outside Josh Powell's house, said in an interview with NBC’s "Dateline" he had no idea of the severity of the situation.

In an exclusive interview broadcast Friday night, Lovrak, who has been criticized for his questions when Elizabeth Griffin-Hall called him on Sunday, said that like so many others in this case, he didn't recognize the kind of man they were dealing with.

"Especially for somebody who has done this for as long as I have, to relisten to the call and hear how clumsy and faltering I sounded," Lovrak said. "It was horrible. This has been a nightmare."


In this bank surveillance photo released by the Pierce Co. Sheriff's Dept., Josh Powell, left, is seen making a withdrawal at a bank in Puyallup, Wash on the day before he and his sons died.

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Powell killed himself and his two young sons in a gas-fueled inferno on Sunday in the town of Graham, Pierce County, Washington state, authorities say. Pierce County authorities said they consider the murder-suicide an admission that he killed his wife, Susan Powell, who disappeared in Utah in 2009. At the time, Josh Powell said he took his two sons ice camping in subfreezing temperatures.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department said the first call Sunday came in at 12:08 p.m. Five minutes later, at 12:13, information from that call was transferred to the radio dispatcher. At 12:16, two deputies were sent to the scene. The first unit arrived at 12:30. By then, the house was a raging inferno.

In the interview broadcast on Friday, Lovrak didn’t say why it took 22 minutes to get a deputy to the scene, only that no one could have predicted what happened.

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"Realizing what we all know now, I wish I had recognized the urgency of the situation," he said.

Griffin-Hall said Josh Powell told his sons he had a "big surprise" for them as they ran to his home, shortly before he assaulted them with a hatchet and then set fire to the home.

"He caught my eye, his shoulders were slumped. He had a sheepish look," said Griffin-Hall, who had been taking the boys, Charles, 7, and Braden, 5, on visits for three months. "He just shrugged his shoulders and slammed the door."

Also on Friday, Pierce County detectives reported finding a gray-blue-pink comforter with a stain. Search warrant documents say the comforter tested positive for blood. Investigators planned to perform further tests.

In addition, the Sheriff's Department released a timeline that spans from last Saturday, the day before the blast, to Monday, the day after. Among the details that police are trying to determine is if Powell bought the gas cans at a local Fred Meyer store the night before the house fire.

This past week, investigators have tried to piece together Powell's last days, serving search warrants for his sister's cell phone and a local Bank of America branch where security cameras captured him withdrawing money.

Police also received tips from the public, such as a woman who noticed donated books that Josh and Susan Powell had written in.

On the blood found on the comforter, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said that presumptive tests are conducted with a field kit and that a determination of blood won't be confirmed until the item is examined in the lab.

"Field tests are not infallible," he said.

Lindquist said he expects the finding will be something law enforcement will share with colleagues in Utah who have been investigating Susan Powell's disappearance.

The comforter was the only item police kept from what they found in the storage facility, located in Sumner, a city about 12 miles from Graham, where Powell rented a home.

Investigators also found toys and kids' clothes in garbage bags, as well as framed pictures. Those items were given to Susan Powell's family.

This article includes reporting from NBC station KING5 of Seattle and The Associated Press.

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