The search for the remains of Susan Powell, a West Valley City woman who disappeared in December 2009, will reconvene this winter in the West Desert near Simpson Springs.
Following a recent credible tip, there will be a new search of mines in the Simpson Springs area, according to Karra Porter, co-founder of the Utah Cold Case Coalition. Depending on weather conditions, the search is expected to occur within the next six weeks.
The private search will be funded in part by donations for debris clearing and spelunking, Porter said.
Powell, who was 28, disappeared on Dec. 7, 2009. The primary suspect in the disappearance — her husband, Joshua Powell — claimed to have been camping with their two sons near Simpson Springs at the time of her disappearance.
Joshua Powell, the only named suspect in Susan Powell’s disappearance, later killed himself and their sons in a home fire in Graham, Washington, in February 2012, according to media reports.
Porter said the coalition receives numerous calls and tips on cold cases, but spends a lot of time researching the tips before taking action. The credible tip in the Powell case was vetted for several weeks before the decision to search the mine was made, she said.
An April 2010 search in the West Desert didn’t turn up any clues to solving Powell’s disappearance and suspected murder, according to an April 13, 2010, Transcript Bulletin article. Several hundred volunteers were estimated to participate in the initial search, which was then turned over to Bridgerland Fire Company, which searched about 20 miles of the West Desert with ATVs, aircraft and on foot.
Porter said the abandoned mine shaft in the credible tip appears to have not been searched completely.
“To the extent it was searched, it was a partial search,” Porter said.
While the search of the abandoned mine described in the tip, as well as other adjacent mine shafts, will not be open to the public due to safety concerns, there will be a surface search on April 6.
Porter said surface searches should be done periodically in cold cases, if the suspects buried the bodies in shallow graves or other concealment that can be worn away by erosion or disturbed by animal activity over time. Porter cited the case of Theresa Greaves, who disappeared in 1983, but her remains were discovered in a shallow grave along U.S. Highway 89 in 2015.
“You have to redo surface searches,” Porter said.
In the public surface search, the area will be divided up into grids that will be searched by volunteers under the guidance of the Utah Cold Case Coalition. A Facebook event for the search lists 873 people planning to volunteer, with another 6,000 interested in attending.
Anyone with information in a possible cold case or missing persons case can contact local law enforcement, or the Utah Cold Case Coalition anonymous tip line at 385-258-3313.