Supervised Visitation Leads to Tragedy

Josh Powell with sons Charlie and Braden

Shortly prior to the tragic death of Charlie and Braden Powell this week, Pierce County Superior Court Judge, Kathryn Nelson, ordered a psychosexual evaluation of their father, Josh Powell, as a requirement of regaining custody of his children aged 5 and 7. According to Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney, Mark Lindquist, the situation may have been untenable to the control-obsessed father: if he refused to take the test, he would lose custody of the children; if he flunked the exam or refused to fully cooperate, he would also lose custody. Sometimes referred to as a sexual-deviancy examination, a psychosexual evaluation is lengthy and intrusive, taking upward of 30 hours to complete. Often used in testing sex offenders who have been civilly committed, the exams assess an individual’s personality, sexual history, potential risk factors and other patterns in determining and identifying possible sexual addictions.

Powell initially lost custody last fall in a battle with the state and his in-laws after his father, with whom he and the boys resided, was arrested on voyeurism and child-pornography charges. These allegations and other revelations about Josh Powell’s upbringing led to the judge’s decision to order the psychosexual evaluation prior to determining whether Powell could regain custody of the two boys.

During a court-ordered supervised visit on Sunday, Josh Powell attacked his children with a hatchet before setting fire to his home. Supervised visitation can be ordered by a judge when there are concerns about the protection and safety of a child in the company of a parent. A neutral third-party is required to be present during the visitation period to monitor the parent-child interaction. Usually the judge will specify the time and duration of the visits, the individual who will be the neutral-third party supervisor, and determine where the visits will take place.

When the boys arrived at the home with the supervisor, Elizabeth Griffin-Hall, the boys rushed into the home where their father shut and locked the door, preventing the supervisor from entering.  Moments later, the home exploded. Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for Child Protective Services, told The Associated Press that Powell was allowed visitation because there had been no indication that the children were in any danger, despite Powell being a person of interest in the disappearance of their mother. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) will now conduct a child-fatality review to determine if there is anything that DSHS can do when providing services to prevent another tragedy of this nature.

For more information on this tragedy, click here.  For more information on Supervised Visitation, click here.