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Report: Training failure may have played role in Powell boy murders

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A panel of experts is releasing its findings after a 24 hour investigation into whether the system failed the Powell boys killed by their father in Washington state.
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A panel of experts is releasing its findings after a 24 hour investigation into whether the system failed the Powell boys killed by their father in Washington state.

Josh killed 7-year-old Charlie and 6-year-old Braden February 5 during a supervised visit.  He pushed their social worker away and locked the boys inside his home.  He was heard to say, “I have a surprise” moments before attacking the boys with a hatchet and setting the home on fire.

Officials determined carbon monoxide poisoning as their cause of death.  The "Child Fatality Review" reveals clear mistakes made that if corrected, could save the lives of other children in the future.

The investigation found a lack of communication between the "Department of Social and Health Service" in Washington and the West Valley City Police Department.

One mistake was made when the boys were checked into Washington’s system.  The Child Fatality Review document reads, "Children's Administration policy requires the intake workers to answer a universal screening question: "Has anyone used or threatened to use physical force against an adult in the home?""

The document continues, "...the intake workers answered "no"...”

This was the answer despite Josh Powell’s status as a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance.

The report continues, "...the Committee agreed that there was sufficient information provided by investigators regarding the disappearance of Susan Powell that social workers could have answered "yes"..."

The fatality review continues, "...the disappearance of Susan Powell was sufficient to prompt additional questions to gather more information about the existence of domestic violence."

The report concludes the state failed to train its social workers to property answer this question about domestic violence.

The simple answer of "yes" about domestic violence in the Powell home would have launched another series of questions and answers that would have led to more doubts about whether Josh should be granted supervised visits in his home.

West Valley Police would not release key information about Josh because it was evidence in a missing person’s case and could compromise a possible trial.

The document reveals West Valley Police apparently tried to help, "...officers told social workers that they believed Mr. Powell had killed his wife."

Despite this warning a Washington judge granted Josh supervised visits with his boys inside his home.

The report concludes,"...the lack of training on best practices regarding domestic violence...may have contributed to the lack of further exploration of domestic violence in this case.

The report also states, “The conduct and interaction of professionals involved in this case demonstrated the highest concern for the children’s health, safety and welfare.”

The report also makes clear social workers performed all their duties above and beyond the expected requirements by the state, and no one could predict that Josh would murder his own children.

The experts on this panel are:

Richard Anderson, Deputy Prosecutor, King County
Brett Ballew, Managing Attorney, Office of Public Defense
Randi Becker, Senator (R), 2nd Legislative District
Jim Doerty, Judge King County Superior Court
Jake Fawcett, Fatality Review Coordinator, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Brad Graham, Detective, Tacoma Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division
Natalie Green, Region 2 Deputy Regional Administrator, Children's Administration
Barbara James, Executive Director, Washington State Court Appointed Special Advocate
Jim Kastama, Senator (D), 25th Legislative District
Kevin Krueger, Chief Risk Officer, Depatment of Social and Health Services
Mary Meining, Director, Office of Family and Children's Ombudsman
Dr. Richard Packard, Licensed Psychologist and Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider

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