A month after a Utah mother of two small boys disappeared, Susan Powell’s friends have launched what they say is an unprecedented social media blitz in an effort to find her.
The organizers of the effort hope that the 72-hour blitz that began at 10 a.m. ET Monday can get millions involved in the search for Powell. The 28-year-old woman disappeared on the night of Dec. 6 while her husband has said he was on an overnight camping trip with their sons, ages 4 and 2.
“We’re asking everybody to send an e-mail to five friends and ask them to forward it to five of their friends so that the e-mail can spread all across the country,” Kiirsi Hellewell, coordinator of the effort, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Monday from Utah. “We’re also asking people to spread it on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube, on their blogs, podcasts — any way possible.”
While it has become common to set up Web sites and Facebook pages for missing persons, Hellewell said no one has ever sought to use every form of social media in a coordinated campaign to help find someone.
Taking to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook
“As far as I know, I don’t think anybody’s ever used social media like this before to find a missing person,” Hellewell said. “We’re kind of breaking new ground and trying to figure it out as we go along.”
As part of the blitz, Hellewell is asking people to view an 85-second YouTube slideshow made up of images of Susan Powell. The pictures show an attractive and apparently happy young woman with hair ranging from brunet to light blond.
People can follow @FindSusan on Twitter and tweet about her using the hashtag #findsusan. Anyone wishing to join the e-mail campaign is asked to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with “I want to help” in the subject line. Participants will receive a return e-mail with instructions about how to proceed.
But police say that Powell, who has moved in with his father in Washington state and plans to move his sons there permanently, has hired a prominent defense attorney and has declined to submit to questioning. On the day his wife was reported missing, Powell told police he returned with the boys from their camping trip to find she was no longer at home. Susan’s purse and cell phone were found in the home.
Holding on to hope
Susan’s friends and relatives continue to believe that she’s alive.
“I really hope so. We can’t let ourselves let go of that,” Hellewell told Lauer.
“I absolutely hold out hope that she’s alive,” Susan’s father, Charles Cox, said in a separate interview with NBC News. “As a father, I have no choice. I must maintain the hope that she’s alive.”
Cox told reporters that he was able to see his grandsons for several hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. “We went through the motions of Christmas, but it didn’t fill the emptiness,” he wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to his missing daughter.
“He says that they seem fairly happy,” Hellewell told Lauer. “They seem fairly OK. They miss their mom. They don’t know why she’s gone, but they’re doing OK.”
Josh Powell has attended a vigil for his missing wife in Puyallup, Wash., but he has seemed to avoid contact with his in-laws. Susan’s friends and family have been baffled by his unwillingness to talk to police.
“I don’t think anybody can understand why a husband would act this way. It’s very confusing and it’s hard to know what to think,” Hellewell said.
E-mail Family and Friends of Susan Powell at email@example.com with “I want to help” in the subject line. Follow @FindSusan on Twitter and tweet about her using the hashtag #findsusan. The Facebook page is located here. View the YouTube video. Call the West Valley, Utah, Police Department hotline with tips at 801-840-4000.