Grieving grandfather Chuck Cox told TODAY Friday morning that he was unaware son-in-law Josh Powell had been investigated for having animated images of incestuous sex between parent and child on his computer two years ago — and if he had known, it might have changed the course of the tragic events that led Powell to kill himself and Cox's two young grandsons.
Speaking with Lester Holt just after TODAY aired a report on the pornography investigation, Cox said it was the first time he’d heard about it. At a court hearing last week, Powell was ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation, but the Cox family and its attorneys were not aware of the root cause.
"I just heard it," Cox told Holt. "At the court hearing, they were not discussing what was on the things they got off his computer; they were all being very careful about that."
‘Much too hazardous’
On Sunday, just days after the court hearing, Powell did the unthinkable when he locked a social worker out of his home as she dropped off the boys for a supervised visit at Powell's home outside Seattle. He apparently used a hatchet on his children, and then set his home ablaze using gasoline and Sterno as accelerants.
Cox attorney Steve Downing told the Associated Press he would have lobbied to change the terms of the supervised visitation if he had been made aware of materials found on Powell's computer by police in Utah, where Powell and his wife Susan made their home. Susan Powell went missing more than two years ago, and authorities had regarded Powell as a suspect in her disappearance.
Downing said if he had known, "I could have gone into all the reasons why the visitation could have or should have been restricted."
On Friday, Cox told Holt it "very possibly" could have changed the horrific end result if Powell had been required to have his visitations with sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, in a public setting rather than at the home that became their place of death.
"I believe he should not have been allowed visitation in his own home," Cox said. "It was much too hazardous."
He added he believes Powell may have felt authorities closing in on him after being compelled to undergo evaluation and take a lie detector test in the case of his missing wife, leading to his desperate act.
"I believe that he understood that there was no way he was going to be able to bluff his way through this, not with the lie detector test on top of the examination," Cox told Holt. "The truth was going to come out. "
Still, Cox said he is not pinning blame on authorities for their handling of the case.
"I think everybody underestimated what he was capable of," he said. "I could not believe that he would have taken a hatchet to his own children.
"I've known him for quite a while ... I don't think anybody can understand why he did this. The authorities, it would have been better if they had better security or had the visitation at a different place, but there was just no accounting for this. This is just such a strange twist."
Because of the high interest in the murder-suicide that's being called "an American tragedy," grandfather Cox and his wife Judy are moving Saturday's memorial for Charlie and Braden to a larger venue and allowing TV coverage as well as Web streaming at the service.
Cox said he wants all who are moved by the story to be able to grieve together.
"We've had great support from many people, and it's clear people all over the world are affected by this horrendous act," he told Holt. "We want to share with them and allow some other people to have some closure."