Nancy Grace’s Susan Powell Special: Light on Content, Heavy on Graphics!


“Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play, Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day. The sun is up, the sky is blue, It’s beautiful and so are you, Dear Prudence won’t you come out to play?” Dear Prudence-Lennon/McCartney-The White Album

In order to nullify writer’s block, I had to pull out of a rabbit’s hat The Beatles’ White Album for inspiration, it’s that serious. Susan Powell’s radiant smile reminds me of these lines referenced above, or maybe it’s the other way around.

Anyway, Nancy Grace: America’s Missing featured the Susan Powell case on Friday evening. As familiar as I am with the case, I learned a few new things, thought it was well produced, but will (nevertheless obstinately) level some criticism, that only came to me painfully, through a process of decoding the ‘data sensation methods of delivery,’ utilized by these crafty television moguls.

The hook to the production seems to be, that while on the surface, Susan Powell appears to have had a wonderful life – a contradiction exists when taking a closer look – in reality, her “life was not picture-perfect at all.” Thus, a premise is asserted. How so? Prove it for me please with evidence from archival records, preserved from earlier investigations. This never happens.

susan powell smiling
Susan Powell is always smiling when a camera is taking her picture. But was there something else going on behind the scenes?

That quote is how the narrator (which I believe is Sam Champion) characterized the story he was about to tell. This made me think the show would address the problems that Joshua and Susan were having with their marriage, in the several years immediately preceding her ‘vanishing act,’ which can be traced to a date of December 7, 2009.

Lo and behold, the pronounced difficulties of their marriage were never given proper coverage in this one hour special. After watching it four times (I had recorded it), I sensed something was amiss in the way the tale was being told. I scratched my head with mottled befuddlement! Nothing had ever been mentioned about some of the controversies that came up with their marriage.

(In this state of stupor) I sojourned over to my case-file cabinet and pulled out a manila vertical file entitled: “Powell-Josh and Susan.” One of the first articles I found in this rather thick folder was a piece that appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune on December 22, 2009 (Susan Powell mulled divorce, plan to escape husband, friends say).

There wasn’t anything really wrong with the evidence that was presented on the show. However, they gave as their premise the subject of wanting to deal with Susan’s less than ‘picture-perfect life.’ As important as this is, it was completely brushed over.

For me, the issue of the problems with the marriage gets at the heart of what went terribly wrong with these people. What motive would Josh have for killing Susan? His psychology in the time leading up to Susan’s disappearance wasn’t addressed at all.

Even Chuck Cox reinforces the idea that in those final days the marriage seemed to be on the mend. This hardly supports what has been previously reported, such as Susan was starting her own bank account, or how ‘controlling and emotionally abusive’ Josh could be.

At that time, I sensed that Susan must not have told her father everything that was going on behind the scenes. Judy and Chuck were led to believe (in the fall of 2009) things were getting better. This is one of the most obvious conundrums of the Susan Powell case!

Nothing could be further from the truth, if we read the tealeaves of evidence presented in newspaper articles (December of 2009), such as The Salt Lake Tribune. So the premise given in the Nancy Grace show introduction was entirely overlooked as the show progressed.

Granted, it had some strengths, though. Some of the guests were helpful in what they had to say. Criminal profiler Pat Brown was the best, I thought. Her line it’s “not a missing person’s case, it’s a missing body case” hammers the nail smack down on its iron head!

They did adequately feature the most damning physical evidence that the West Valley City police possess, and that’s the puzzling ‘wet spot on the carpet with fans left blowing on it,’ that was found when the police first entered the house.

Nancy Grace’s producer, Natisha Lance, spoke about the carpet enigma, and mentioned that the police have been rather tight-lipped about the laboratory results of this blatant stain left behind, when Josh took off with his kids on the chilly camping excursion.

Pat Brown framed this carpet bit as a “damning piece of evidence,” as if Susan would take off with another man, but think to give the carpet a proper cleaning as an expression of courtesy to her nowhere to be found (in a blizzard) husband.

josh powell at utah home
Josh dodges the media in those early days right after Susan went missing. She’s somewhere.

One would think that it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, since they haven’t moved against Josh in any way; in fact, he’s moved away to Washington, shortly after Susan vanished. Powell is hassle-free from the cops now!

Towards the end of the special, Chuck Cox said he believes the police are making progress in the case, but in what way? He didn’t elaborate any more, probably because he simply doesn’t know anything more about in what ways they are ‘making this progress.’

I’m skeptical, I must tell you. And what about the issue of the rental car? This was neglected also. However, Anne Bremner, Susan’s family attorney, did bother to mention it. At the time I always thought the rental car was the key to breaking the case wide open.

It seems as if the fact that Josh put 100s of miles on the rental car would be enough to call him in for further questioning. Granted, this is circumstantial evidence, but couldn’t it be enough to play the card of ‘probable cause,’ that could warrant further questioning?

susan powell anne bremner

The MO of the Nancy Grace show is to bombard you with images, text and sound bites, nearly to excess, and hope that the audience can internalize all this data-stimuli efficiently. Snippets of the ‘Navy Blue Cap Interview,’ then the candle-light vigil (for Susan), millions of pics, the brimming smile of a seemingly blissful Susan (deceptively so), all out of synch with regard to time or place.

susan powells car
Look at how the color is played with (on this Nancy Grace production) in this still image of Susan’s Powell’s abandoned car.

That is, a barrage of data (presented as it is) will contribute more by bending the truth, than in exposing it to the light of day. What I’m saying, is that the means of delivery are inappropriate for the subject content. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, my friend!

But this is show biz, not a documentary on the Susan Powell case. A cogent, sober narrative would probably produce paler ratings, I surmise. Anyhow, a deep narrative of the case, that would probe a motive or background into the couple’s troubled marriage, is better left to traditional print journalism. This also might explain why I’m turning my attention to this traditional medium, if I hope to probe the truth with the Susan Powell case.

For a good light show I’ll look around for footage of the Fillmore West in the late 1960s or the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, where Janis Joplin and Big Brother rocked the house (so many years ago). For new developments on the Susan Powell case I’ll stick to the tried and true newspapers of old (if they all don’t go under), like The Salt Lake Tribune.

Had I not taped the show, I wouldn’t have known that their (the producers) premise at hand to tackle was “life not picture-perfect at all.” Come to think of it, this wasn’t touched on whatsoever. But as Josh once said: “She’s somewhere.” “Back in the USSR” is blaring, another irony amongst millions with Susan, Josh and even Nancy!