SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities found human remains Wednesday while searching Utah’s rugged desert, reviving hopes for a major break in the case of a mother who disappeared nearly two years ago.
It wasn’t known whether the remains belonged to Susan Powell. A medical examiner was on the way to the scene.
The case has cast a spotlight on Powell’s husband, who remains the only person of interest but has never been arrested or charged.
“It’s a game of patience at this point,” West Valley City Sgt. Mike Powell said. “We need to slow down a little bit and identify what it is we found.”
Powell was 28 when she was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job. She had been seen by friends at church and at dinner the previous day.
Her husband, Josh Powell, told police he left his wife at home about 12:30 a.m. that day to go camping in freezing temperatures with their sons — then 4 and 2 — on the Pony Express Trail, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The 4-year-old confirmed the trip to police.
Josh Powell’s family suspects his wife ran off with another man.
Kiirsi Hellewell, a friend of the missing woman, said the discovery of remains brought a sense of hope that the case might finally move forward but also sadness that she might really be dead.
Authorities have been searching since Monday in the area near Topaz Mountain in Juab County. The site is about 135 miles southwest of where Susan Powell was last seen in West Valley City.
Last month, investigators searched mine shaft-dotted mountains near Ely and later served a search warrant at the Puyallup, Wash., home Josh Powell shares with his father, seizing computers and journals thought to have belonged to Susan Powell.
This search is in an area popular with gem and rock hunters. Police have said Powell’s husband liked to rock hunt there. “From the very beginning he clearly indicated he had been in and around the area,” said Sgt. Powell, no kin to the missing woman’s family.