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'He Blew Up The House And The Kids!' Caseworker's Anguished 911 Call

Little was left after the fire.
Stephen Brashear
Getty Images
Little was left after the fire.

Recordings of an increasingly frantic social worker's 911 calls to police on Sunday are adding more detail to the horrible events leading up to a Washington State man's apparent decision to kill himself and his two young sons by turning his home into an inferno.

The unidentified caseworker had just dropped off 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charlie at Josh Powell's home in Graham, Wash., she tells the 911 dispatcher, when he slammed the door in her face and locked her out.

Powell, a suspect in the 2009 disappearance of his wife Susan, could only have supervised visits with the boys. That's why the caseworker was there.

The Seattle Times has posted the 10-minutes' worth of recordings here in two parts. In the first, which lasts more than 6 minutes, the caseworker asks the Pierce County Sheriff's Department dispatcher to send police to the scene. She tells him she smelled gasoline around the home. The dispatcher says that deputies "have to respond to emergency, life-threatening situations first." She tells him she thinks that just such a situation exists. But when the dispatcher asks if Josh Powell had ever threatened to harm the boys, she concedes she does not know. That conversation ends with the dispatcher saying "the first available deputy" will contact her.

The second conversation, apparently recorded just minutes later, begins with the caseworker shouting "he exploded the house!"

"He blew up the house and the kids!" the increasingly panicked woman says.

It appears, as The Associated Press reports, that about 10 minutes went by from the time the boys were locked in the house to when it went up in flames. "Authorities later said," AP adds, that "Josh Powell spread a 5-gallon drum of gasoline around the home to ensure the fire he set burned faster." At some point, authorities believe, he also struck the boys with a hatchet.

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