Monday, February 6, 2012

To err on the side of imprudence

The final act of revenge (Photo by Laura Graham)

Josh Powell had maintained all along that he hadn't killed his wife. Even after offering the most questionable of alibis, his stone face denials continued. You may remember that while his wife, Susan Powell-Cox, a beautiful vibrant brunette was busy vanishing in 2009 from her home in West Valley City, Utah, he had taken it upon himself to take his two young boys camping in the middle of a snowstorm. According to Powell, when he returned, she was gone. It made little sense to the Utah authorities who considered Powell a person of interest in the disappearance. But there was no evidence of the crime withstanding and so, without the corpus delecti being able to be proven, all the police and judges could do was wait and hope that Powell would trip up in some way and make a case for them. To his credit, he did not. Meanwhile his father Steven became an unwitting tool in this drama, suggesting to ABC News that the victim had been sexually flirtatious with him and, more to the point, was a trollop. Perhaps his thinking was that he could persuade the public that Susan had found a more attractive man than her husband, which would explain to a few delusional supporters of Josh that he was right. Susan, the tramp, had run off with some other guy and left Josh alone to rear her two young sons. Yeah, that made a lot of sense. Steven eventually got arrested in September and now faces some steep jail time himself for child pornography. By putting the spotlight on himself, authorities focused their attentions on his own lifestyle and found compromising video images of neighborhood children and Susan that were apparently taken without their knowledge in addition to images of young children engaged in sexually explicit conduct on his home computer. But with the paternal grandfather hauled off to the hoosegow, authorities had a problem. The mother was missing. The father was the subject of a criminal inquiry and the grandfather was accused of serious crimes himself. Neither of them was an appropriate person to take charge of the two littlest victims of this tragedy, the two little boys. Quite rightly, Utah child protection services stepped in to take custody. Chuck Cox, Susan's father, filed for custody the day after Steven Powell was arrested and he was granted temporary custody. If only the court had seen fit to make that condition permanent. Josh petitioned the court to get his children back. To their credit the court refused to grant him any relief. In fact it was just this past week that a judge denied Powell the right to regain custody of his two sons. So a recalcitrant Powell petitioned the court for a weekly supervised visit. The judge reluctantly agreed that a four-hour supervised visit would be allowed. Child protective services was ordered to bring the two boys to Josh Powell's home for the first time yesterday. The court apparently saw no implied threat to the children and so the social worker was ordered to observe Powell with the boys and to bring them back after the visit was over. When the social worker arrived with the boys without a police escort, Powell took the children inside and barred the woman from entering the house. She immediately called her supervisor for police intervention and to complain the house smelled of gasoline fumes. No sooner did she make that call, the house burst into flames, the explosion shaking neighbors' homes and sending flames high into the air. The propellant used killed all three Powells and forever ended the possibility that Josh Powell would ever be brought to justice for the suspected murder of his wife. Powell sent a tersely worded e-mail to his attorney just prior to the explosion: "I'm sorry. Goodbye." Some police consider that an admission of guilt and will now use all speed to close the case of his missing spouse, which has cost millions of dollars. There is no doubt here, though. Josh Powell was a murderer. His two boys will never get to experience what could have been long and productive lives. This senseless act of rage against authority should serve as a cautionary tale. Never should children be allowed to be used as innocent pawns by selfish sociopaths whose parental rights should not be restored without the most rigorous series of protective acts put into place. Powell should have been made to go to a neutral site where authorities could have kept a better eye on him and not put the children in harm's way. But I guess this is all good with 20-20 hindsight. No matter what provisos authorities had put in place, Powell would have bided his time until he passed muster with the courts and then carried out his nefarious plan of double murder and suicide. I care not for Powell, but I do mourn for those two kids who lost their mother and were used by their father and grandfather to further their own agendas. No one is left to mourn for Susan Powell-Cox except for those of us who shake our heads in dismay and disgust and her father who should take the court to task for two wrongful deaths. Perhaps now the courts will be prompted to err on the side of caution knowing that such a tragedy could make an already bad situation even worse. In the future when a defendant asks why his children are not allowed to visit in his home, all authorities need to do is show two photos - one of the two innocent boys and the other of the burned out remnants of the Powell home. I anguish over this senseless tragedy and want to cry out "never again!"

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mama Glo

The news for the New Orleans arts community is sad today. Gloria Powers, the executive director of the Big Easy Entertainment Awards, is about to take to the heavenly stage after her busy life here on earth. In recent days some have begun to refer to her as "Mama Glo," perhaps a tribute to her deeply nurturing spirit or to acknowledge the fact that she is to many in the New Orleans music, theatre and dance communities a second mother. Gloria suffered a debilitating pontine stroke a week ago and doctors have advised that her chance for recovery is slim. Although she is breathing on her own, the family has girded itself for what they believe will be her final transition. Like no one else that I know, Gloria can move easily from one artistic sphere to another. She is equally at home talking to a Mardi Gras Indian Queen as she can be to a member of the New Orleans Opera Association or to a local ballet mistress. Her ability to integrate with such widely divergent artists is one of her great strengths. Her ability to empathize with artists and to petition on their behalf has been nothing short of amazing. Gloria has been a tireless promoter for all things that are unique to New Orleans including its Creole heritage, its history and its vibrant music scene I, myself, owe a great deal of my journalistic career to Gloria's insistent push that I be a member of not one, but two Big Easy Awards committees (Theatre and Opera and Classical Music). She never failed to make me feel special in what I was doing and to let me know that my dedication was appreciated. Gloria is a force of nature and it is sad to think of her as in the process of leaving. Her special friendship has been extended across New Orleans to hundreds, if not not thousands, and I pray that she is surrounded now by the positive energy of well-meaning family and friends who hope for the best for her.