What motivated Josh Powell?

As I awoke to news reports this week, I was crestfallen to hear that Josh Powell, accused of murdering his wife, had taken the lives of himself and his two young sons by setting his house afire. What motivated Josh Powell? Why did he do this? He had executed the perfect example of ultimate power and control. He had the final say. The innocent precious sons’ funeral was all over the news. It was heart-wrenching, to say the least.

The three died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Now reports are stating each of the two little boys had received “a chop injury” to the head/neck area, quite likely with a hatchet or ax that was lying near their bodies. Even more recently, findings are coming forth of “incestuous sex” material found on Josh Powell’s computer, and a comforter has been found with blood stains. One must wonder if the DNA will show it to be Susan Cox Powell’s blood?

While I have my own opinions as to whether or not Josh Powell was guilty of murdering his wife, I have decided to forego the typical crucifixion process that takes place in the public against such an abuser. There seems to be no contradiction that he is responsible for murdering his two babies and taking his own life, and that is what I will address.

I consider a large part of what motivated Josh Powell to conduct such a heinous crime was a driving need for POWER & CONTROL. For those of us who have worked any length of time in the field of advocacy for victims of domestic violence and abuse, we are quite familiar with the Duluth Model Power & Control Wheel. We are taught very clearly that the driving force of domestic violence and spousal abuse is the need by the abuser to maintain power and control over their victim. That is probably what motivated Josh Powell. Much more than a matter of temper or anger management, it is power and control by one human being over another. Beat them down verbally, emotionally and if let go long enough, beat them down physically. One of the young sons is now being credited with commenting that Mommy was in the trunk, both parents took off during a camping trip, but only Daddy returned.

This is what raises my anger. An abuser is so intent on maintaining power and control over their victim that they are not only willing to commit murder, but then follow it with suicide, oftentimes taking the lives of the children in the process. This is their way of having the final say, the end-all power and control over those who are left behind, with nothing left to do but mourn, suffer and deal with the helplessness and void that are now there. I believe that is what motivated Josh Powell to strike such a lethal blow. It was a final attempt to wield devastation upon his sons’ maternal grandparents, their caregivers, the ones he may have felt took his boys away from him. Power and control are forceful avengers.

Was Josh Powell mentally ill? That is quite possible. But that is not the issue. I hope the Powell family does not see this as a sacrificial act on Josh Powell’s part. It was not. It was a man who wanted to quite literally go out in a blaze of glory, carrying with him all the power and control that could be contained within two 5-gallon buckets of gasoline—carrying his two young innocent sons with him. The typical, “If I can’t have you, then nobody will have you” mentality.

  1. Marilyn Runyon says:

    Carolyn I think you may be right. How can someone be so curl and yet I know it is possible. The situation makes me want to throw up!!

    • Carolyn S. Hennecy says:

      It is such things, in spite of my own experiences and all the training I’ve been through, I just can not wrap my head around this. He looks so clean-cut, so pure and kind. We can NOT go by appearances. Look at Ted Bundy. God bless these families.

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