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State social workers faulted on young sons' visits in Josh Powell case

Steve Powell, the father of Josh Powell, who remains a person of interest in his wife Susan’s disappearance, says his daughter-in-law has “two sides” and claims she left her family to be with another man. Dateline’s Keith Morrison reports.

Ted S. Warren / AP file

Josh Powell, husband of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, speaks during a court hearing on Sept. 28, 2011, in Tacoma, Wash. Powell killed his sons and himself on Feb. 5 in Graham, Wash.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A panel reviewing the deaths of Josh Powell's two young children says state social workers did not consult with law enforcement before allowing Powell to host visits at his home.

A report released Thursday says the Department of Social and Health Services should "make concerted efforts" to check with detectives prior to making changes in parent-child contacts when there is an active investigation. Authorities had been investigating the 2009 disappearance of Powell's wife, Susan.

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During a supervised visit at his home in Graham on Feb. 5 this year, Powell set fire to the house, killing himself and his sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5.

Powell had been locked in a custody dispute at the time of the killings. A few days before the fire, a judge ordered him to undergo an intensive psycho-sexual evaluation.

The child fatality review committee also says social workers should immediately reassess visitation policies when someone is ordered to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation.

The DSHS responded Thursday with a press release, saying the review committee also “concluded that nobody could have anticipated that Joshua Powell would murder his two sons. According to the committee, the work of all agencies and individuals involved demonstrated the highest concern for the children’s health, safety and welfare."

King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Richard Anderson, a review panel member, told the Seattle Times that nobody “had dropped the ball” or made a mistake or skipped an oversight.

"There are some people who do terrible things in life,” Anderson said. “The 'Batman' incident (the theater shootings in Aurora, Colo.) is a perfect example. You can't explain things like this. I think Mr. Powell had this in his mind and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it."

Denise Revels Robinson, assistant secretary for DSHS Children's Administration, told The Associated Pres that the recommendations provided by the committee "will be of great help in our ongoing efforts to improve our practice in keeping children safe."

"The violent death of any child, especially at the hands of a parent, is always a tragedy," Robinson said. "But few of us who have served in child welfare have had to deal with such a horrific experience as the loss of Charlie and Braden."

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DSHS says state law requires the Department to conduct a fatality review when a child death or near-death injury is suspected to be caused by abuse or neglect and the child has received services from Children’s Administration in the previous 12 months.

The committee interviewed seven people and reviewed more than 2,700 pages of documents, the DSHS said.

This article includes reporting by The Associated Press and NBC station KING5 in Seattle.

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Newly unsealed documents tied to the disappearance of Utah mother Susan Powell have many people questioning why charges were never filed against the woman's husband, Josh Powell, who later killed himself and the couple's young sons. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.


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