A woman who has known a missing Utah woman and her husband since the couple were married eight years ago is not surprised that Josh Powell has been named a person of interest in his wife Susan’s disappearance, saying that his increasingly controlling behavior had put the couple’s marriage on the rocks.
“His story just doesn’t add up,” Rachel Marini told TODAY’s Ann Curry Monday from her home in American Fork, Utah. “I think it was only a matter of time before it came to this.”
It has been two weeks since Josh Powell told police he took the couple’s two boys on a late-night camping trip, leaving Susan behind in their suburban Salt Lake City home. When he came home, she wasn’t there, he told police.
Since then, Josh has hired a prominent local defense attorney and has not responded to police efforts to interview him further. Last week, he took sons Charlie, 4, and Raden, 2, back to his parents’ home in Puyallup, Wash., for the holidays. On Sunday evening, he attended a prayer vigil for Susan with his older son but did not acknowledge his wife’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, who stood just a dozen or so feet away from him.
Marini said that behavior seemed strange. “Her parents are hurting just as much as he is. I would have hoped that he would have been comforting to them, as I know they would have been to him,” she said.
Debts and deterioration
Marini said that what had been a happy marriage began to deteriorate several years ago when the Powells moved from Washington to Utah. The couple had financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy in 2007, citing nearly $200,000 in debts.
“Josh became more and more controlling, and it was harder for her to remain herself, or remain the happy person that she was,” Marini said.
“Josh was very controlling. He controlled everything in their marriage, from the money that Susan spent to what groceries she could buy to what she could eat. There was a lot of fighting and belittling on his part. It just reduced her to a very unhappy and different person than she was when he first met her,” Marini told Curry.
Marini said that Susan had spoken about her unhappiness and had even discussed leaving her husband. But, she said, it’s unthinkable that her friend would have gone without her children.
“Susan talked many times about escaping her unhappy marriage, but there’s no way she would have left her boys,” Marini said.
Police have focused on Josh’s account that he decided to go camping near midnight on Sunday, Dec. 6. He said he went to a park in the desert west of Salt Lake City, despite sub-freezing temperatures and a snowstorm moving in. He and the boys slept in the family van, he said.
Police have said that Josh was vague about the exact location of his campsite. An overnight snowstorm also eradicated tracks and made it impossible for police to check Josh’s story.
Curry asked Marini whether Josh’s story about an impromptu camping trip is credible.
“I don’t know, but I do know that if he had told Susan, ‘Hey, I’m going to take the boys out camping, and it’s 10 degrees out, it’s a blizzard, and we have school the next day,’ she would have said, ‘No way,’ and she wouldn’t have let him,” Marini said.
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints