911 Tapes Show Loved Ones’ Fear Before Josh Powell’s Murder-Suicide

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Cliff Despeaux / Reuters

Fire investigators look around inside a house which was destroyed by a gas explosion in Graham, Washington February 5, 2012. The house explosion on Sunday killed the father and two boys involved a bitter custody dispute two years after the family's mother disappeared.

The release of 911 tapes in connection to Josh Powell, who set fire to his house, killing himself and his two children, tells a story of worry from people away from the scene and sheer fright from those who witnessed the event.

As foreboding emails from Powell started popping up in inboxes of his family and friends on Sunday, they started calling 911 because of the obvious concern that he would commit suicide. But the most striking calls to 911 came from outside his home, where a caseworker couldn’t get in the home after Powell locked the door and neighbors started calling after the explosion.

(TIMELINE: The Powell Family’s Tragic Two Years)

Here are a few excerpts from the different calls:

“Josh Powell will not let me in the door. What should I do? This could be life-threatening. He went to court Wednesday and didn’t get his kids back. I’m afraid for their lives.” — The caseworker locked out of Powell’s rental home (audio here)

“Nothing like this has ever happened before at these visitations, so I’m really shocked. I can hear one of the kids crying.” — The caseworker

“I’d like to pull out of the driveway because I smell gasoline and he won’t let me in.” — The caseworker

“And this is the craziest thing. He looked right at me and closed the door.” — The caseworker

“This is a high profile case.” — The caseworker, pleading with the dispatcher to understand the gravity of the situation

“He said something about he can’t live without his sons. And goodbye. He’s never hurt me. I’m afraid of seeing something I don’t want to see.” — Alina Powell, Josh Powell’s sister, on not wanting to drive over and check on her brother (audio here)

“There was a loud, huge boom. And there is crap flying all over the place. Dark smoke.” — A female neighbor

“I understand he may have had an explosion. I may have some information. Just if it was an accident or if it was more than that. I got an e-mail from my client and that e-mail gives me every indication that it was intentional. … Basically, it says ‘I’m sorry and goodbye.’” — Jeff Bassett, Powell’s attorney

“There’s two little boys in the house, they are 5 and 7, and there is an adult male and he had supervised visits and he blew up the house and the kids! He slammed the door in my face.” — The caseworker, calling back to 911 (audio here)

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