For Jennifer Graves, Josh’s sister, the nightmare started long before Susan’s disappearance. From her experiences growing up in the Powell family to the terrifying moment when she first started to believe her brother was a killer, she relied on her faith to stay strong. She devoted herself to the safety of Susan’s boys, Charlie and Braden, whom she hoped to be able to raise as her own. When the boys were murdered by their father in February, 2012, Jennifer was more than devastated, but she had to believe there was a reason for it all—including the deaths of her beloved nephews.
In A Light In Dark Places, Jennifer shares her struggles and her triumphs. In coming to terms with such tragedy she finally was able to embrace the truth that we all have the power to choose our own path—and there is always hope, no matter how dark things may seem.
“I wanted to talk to you for a minute. Let’s go in the other room.” Josh didn’t act terribly surprised by the question, but my palms were slick with sweat. I wiped them on my jeans as we walked to the front of the house and went into my dad’s music room. Kirk stayed in the family room with the boys and tried to keep everyone else’s attention focused on him.
The music room was filled with an electric piano, a guitar, a number of microphones, and some recording equipment. It was cluttered with books and papers covering the desk and the bookshelves. The door was glass and framed by windows on either side. I closed the door behind us and glanced around the room, then forced myself to go forward. Josh leaned against one wall, where he could look out the window and down the hall toward the family room. I sat in the chair at the desk and cleared my throat.
“I’ve just been worried. I’ve been hearing rumors. You know, rumors about you that say you’re going to be arrested soon.”
There was the slightest bit of a flicker, and then Josh turned off the emotion again and was cold and calm.
“Where did you hear those rumors?”
“Oh, from reporters and stuff.”
Josh’s eyes were blue, but right then they appeared black. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but it looked like they were nothing but pupils, no color at all.
I continued trying soft ways of getting him to talk. Prodding here and there and watching his eyes all the time.
“Please, I’m your sister. Confide in me. I want to believe you. If you would only give me something to go on.”
There was no reaction. That first startle was his only hint of emotion.
“Don’t make me listen to rumors, tell me your side of the story.”
“If you don’t give me anything else to go on, you give me no choice. I’m starting to doubt your story. I don’t believe you anymore.”
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way.”
Michael came down the hall, opened the door and stepped inside. “Are you ready to go pick up the party stuff for tomorrow?” he asked. Had my dad sent him to intervene? I didn’t care. I had to keep trying.
“There has to be something more you can tell me. You know something.” His dark pupils made him look like a stranger. I rubbed my arms against a sudden chill. “Come on, Josh. I can see it in your eyes.”
He pushed away from the wall. “We need to go get the cake,” he said, nodding to Michael. It was a convenient excuse, and they left the room without looking back at me. I followed behind them more slowly.
I’d come all this way, endured all the stress and worry and expense for one purpose—to get a confession out of Josh. I couldn’t give up now. Josh was standing in the family room near the bathroom door, waiting for Michael to get his coat. I grabbed Josh’s arm and half-yanked, half-pushed him into the dark bathroom. Everyone else was still talking, and the boys were playing loudly. It was too much to hope that no one noticed what was going on.
“Josh, let’s just cut the crap. Tell me what really happened. Did you actually go camping? What did you do that night?”
Josh tried to squirm away, but I held on tighter to his arm and blocked the door. “My lawyer told me not to talk about it,” he said.
“That’s crap! I’m your sister. Don’t pull that lawyer thing with me. Just tell me what happened. Tell me where her body is. We want to have a funeral and have some closure here. Just tell me where you put her.” I half expected him to hit me, but instead there was still no emotion. He didn’t respond in anger. He didn’t respond at all. He shrugged his arm out of my grasp and pushed past me.
I stayed in the bathroom for a minute and tried to calm my breathing. My heart was racing, and adrenaline was pumping through my limbs, but it started to fade all too soon, leaving only disappointment and shaky weakness in its wake. I heard Josh, John, and Michael leave the house, heard the front door close. I knew that I wasn’t going to get any information out of him, but I also knew he was guilty. If someone had accused me of hurting my husband or my children, I would have punched them at the very least and kicked them out of my house or something. His lack of emotion was as telling as a confession to me.
Praise for A Light in Dark Places
I just finished reading "A Light in Dark Places" By Jennifer Graves and Emily Gray Clawson. I was impressed with how well written the book was. The descriptions are such that I felt I was part of the story. I was grateful that the message was one of hope and peace in tragedy. The book does tell the tale of Susan Powell, her boys and their demise but doesn't dwell on it. It was nice to see inside the life experiences of someone so close to them and to see things from Jennifer's perspective rather than what you see on the media. I highly recommend this book. It doesn't disappoint! – T. Hyde
I love true accounts of people overcoming challenges and helping others with the lessons learned from them. This story of Jennifer's experiences throughout her abusive childhood, and later the disappearance of Susan and the murder of her two sweet nephews is just that. She shares how she felt God's hand in her life, guiding her to make better choices than the rest of her family did. Though the book had so many sad details, it ended with hope, courage and love. ~D. Raymond
I had followed the story of Susan Powell very closely so I wasn't sure if the book was going to tell me something I didn't already know...but it sure did. Jennifer was very brave in writing this book and all she had done in support for Susan. I highly recommend the book it sheds a light on the whole situation that helps make things more clear. ~ Carolyn
This was a very informative read. I lived in Utah at the time of Susan's disappearance and followed the news every day. This book answered many questions that the news did not. Although it was very sad and I already knew the outcome it was a good read. I admire Jennifer for her part in the whole story and I am glad she had the fortitude to write this book to honor her sister in law. ~Katie O.
To finally read about details that were never shared brought closure for me about this insidious crime. While the book was an easy read, the message shared about breaking the cycle of abusive relationships is invaluable. It truly does take someone removing themselves from their abusive family's presence to stop the cycle. Praises to the author for sharing her perspectives. ~Arlene
Jennifer Graves is the mother of 5 beautiful children, 2 girls and 3 boys. She and her husband have been happily married for 19 years and together have been active in their community and church. Jennifer is the sister of Josh Powell who killed his 2 sons, Charlie and Braden, as well as himself in February of 2012, and is also believed to have killed his wife, Susan Cox Powell, in December of 2009. She is the recipient of the 2013 ChainBreaker of the year Award, given for breaking the chain of abuse and violence in her family. She enjoys homeschooling their children and mentoring in classes for the commonwealth school they attend. She also loves reading, playing card and board games, and learning new things. Most of all she loves to spend time with her husband and children. They currently reside in West Jordan, UT.
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