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Parental rights vs. child safety: Should boys have been visiting Josh Powell? (+video)

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For nearly two years after Ms. Cox-Powell disappeared from their Utah home, Powell retained custody of the couple’s two young boys, Charlie and Braden, and moved with them to Washington state shortly afterward.

He only lost custody when authorities discovered that Powell’s father – with whom Powell and the boys were living at the time – had child pornography in the house and arrested him.

Since then, the boys had been living with their mother’s parents, and Powell was granted twice-weekly supervised visitation. Powell and his attorney argued it wasn’t fair for him to be punished for his father’s crimes, and said that he had proved himself in the visitations to be a fit parent.

But on Sunday, he sent his attorney a three-word message: “I’m sorry. Goodbye.”

When the court-appointed social worker brought the boys to his home that afternoon, Powell was waiting for them outside. He locked the social worker out once the children were inside. Minutes later, the house exploded.

“If there had been any indication of suicidal thoughts, or anything that we would have thought there was an intent to harm the children, we would have taken immediate action,” Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for the Children's Administration at the Department of Social and Health Services, told the Associated Press. “If we had thought that, we would have done what we could. I don't think there's anything else we could have done.”

But New Jersey attorney Toby Kleinman, an associate editor of the Journal of Child Custody, says there’s almost always more the court could have done.

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