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PR for a Missing Mom Evolved Into A Series of Successful Legal Battles

 

ANNE BREMNER

Shortly after Susan Cox Powell went missing from her home in West Valley City, Utah more than five years ago, I was asked to help Charles and Judith Cox with public relations associated with their daughter’s disappearance. Little did I know that this was but the first step in a very long, tortured journey for everybody involved.

The case received national media attention due to the bizarre circumstances surrounding Susan’s disappearance, Susan’s husband’s Josh’s move to his father Steven’s Puyallup, Wash. home shortly thereafter, and the very public battle between the Powells and the Coxes over everything from Susan’s journals to custody of her two sons. Susan’s family and I were insistent that Josh be deprived custody amid mounting evidence of inappropriate behavior and word that the West Valley City PD was preparing to arrest Josh for murder.

My defined role as PR attorney drastically changed on Feb. 5, 2012,  when Josh Powell murdered his sons and himself during a state supervised visitation. I was devastated by the deaths and completely shocked when I learned more about the state’s failure to protect Charlie and Braden while in its custody and control.  What started as a simple PR campaign quickly turned into a crusade to ensure the protection of children while in state custody and to publicize the need for more protection for this vulnerable population.

Not long after Charlie and Braden died, I had the honor of working very closely with the Coxes and with State Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn) to pass the Charlie and Braden Powell Act, which protects children in state custody proceedings that involve a parent who is a suspect in a violent crime.  The legislation importantly remembers these beautiful, young boys and aims to prevent similar tragedies.  If this legislation existed at the time Charlie and Braden were in state custody, they very well might still be alive.

These senseless deaths could have been prevented if the State of Washington and its social workers at the time had recognized and prioritized their duty to protect children.  Over the last eight years, the child-welfare division of the Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has paid out over $160 million to children who were tortured, starved, raped and sometimes killed while in its custody and care.

After the boys were killed, my law firm began investigating the state’s role in their deaths and quickly uncovered a constellation of failures.  It was evident that their deaths could and should have been prevented.  However, as evidenced by the substantial sums of money paid to victims over the last decade, neither DSHS nor its social workers believe a duty was owed to Charlie and Braden and nothing was done to protect them from the obvious danger that was their father.  The boys’ estates filed suit against DSHS in April 2013 and the case is set for trial in May 2016.

I was involved in other legal battles connected with the case. I successfully co-represented Susan’s family in litigation over the victims’ life insurance policies. And I successfully collected a  $2 million judgment for Steven Powell’s neighbor after the elder Powell was convicted of voyeurism.

The Coxes originally came to me because they were in crisis, and although that crisis has broadened, I never floundered in my representation of their needs and will continue to advocate for them as well as others in times of need.

As a PR and crisis management team member with Cavalry PR,  I’m very proud to be able to help clients on so many levels.

Litigation attorney Evan Bariault contributed to this post.

20 Years Later, A Heartbroken Mother Still Remembers, and Still Fights

MIKA MOULTON

Twenty years ago today, on Aug. 7, 1995, I stepped out of the limousine and walked across the clean-cut grass.

People gathered, some walking hand in hand, others standing at a distance.  The cars continued to file in, one by one.  As they  parked, their occupants moved toward the gravesite.

As I glanced toward my right, I saw the beautiful royal blue coffin, carried by eight children from our neighborhood in a Chicago suburb.  My knees buckled at the site as the funeral director kept me from falling to the ground, then held my arm and guided me toward the final goodbye to my son.

Christopher Meyer

Christopher Meyer

Over these 20 years, I’ve allowed myself to wander to that dark place and imagine the horror Christopher suffered.  I force my thoughts back to his sparkling blue eyes and deep set dimples.  I think about the thousands of children that Christopher’s Clubhouse has provided with quality, comprehensive safety education.  I visualize the thousands more that can learn and become empowered.

Twenty years ago, I was shocked to find out that I was far from alone in this dreadful pain of an abducted and murdered child.  I was shaken to realize the magnitude of the problem.  It was something that I never imagined could happen to me.  And for 20 years, I remain connected to the statistics.

Over the course of the last 20 years, I have watched and realized the statistics have barely changed.  Children are still abducted, abused, murdered, sexually assaulted and go missing.  They are trafficked, neglected, preyed upon beaten and molested.  And for 20 years I have tried to get people to listen.

And finally, people are.  Society realizes something has to be done!

For 20 years I have been gathering momentum to STOP these heinous crimes against our most innocent.   I only wish 20 years ago I would have had the support, help, knowledge and guidance of a team such as Cavalry PR’s.  I wish there would have been someone beside me to help me form the words when asked questions by the reporters.  I could have used the help of someone that knew what to say and to whom to respond.  I only wish someone could have been there that understood the very details of my pain.  As a member of the Crisis Management Team at Cavalry PR, I “get it” now.  I know what that pain is and how to get through it with the least amount of chaos.

And now – looking back 20 years, I know that we CAN educate our kids.  We CAN make a difference. We CAN make the next twenty years brighter.

Help us to envision a safer future.  Help Christopher’s Clubhouse to make a change in the lives of more kids.  For $20 per month, you can become a warrior, hero and lifesaver.  By giving up just one Starbucks each week, you CAN AND WILL make a difference.

For A Broken-Hearted Sister, Need for Counseling Took a Backseat to Trial of the Century

TANYA BROWN

There were two traumas that destroyed my psyche two decades ago – the loss of my older sister and the outrageous trial that followed.

We will never get over the loss of Nicole, but I could have emerged much less traumatized by the trial if I had excellent counselors who understood what we were going through.

But it was a different time. Everybody, including myself, was too focused on the Trial of the Century. There had never been this big of a trial before. The government wasn’t prepared to deal with all of the defense team’s maneuvers and antics—much less the crisis’s impact on the victims’ families.

Through the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, my family was assigned a victim-witness advocate who was compassionate beyond belief and who played a crucial role for my family during the court day. He escorted us from the DA’s office to the courtroom, protected us from the prying media, helped us understand the system and provided us with community referrals and counselors who could help us heal.

Trials are very dynamic and it is a different type of exhaustion. In fact, it can be a greater exhaustion than the crime itself because you are trying to understand something so foreign and confusing in the midst of your emotions. You are so emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically fatigued that even trying to comprehend the system can become incredibly overwhelming.

So, the advocate took that pressure from us and helped us navigate through the chaos of the Trial of The Century. I truly am so grateful to him. He is still in my heart.

However, looking back now, two decades later, there was something missing: A friend, a liaison, a coach.

I needed alternative means of support beyond our court advocate – someone to help me transition from a day of court proceedings to my regular routine in my personal and professional life.

Sure, the DA’s Victim Witness Program gave me a referral for a local therapist, but the counselor was more focused on the case and my sister’s children – the youngest survivors of the victims – than on my mind and all the pain that occupied it.

That neglect left me disenfranchised with therapists in general. So when the trial ended, I never reached out to anyone. I held everything in.

That didn’t work out too well.

As I documented last year in my book, Finding Peace Amid The Chaos, because I had no skills to manage the chaos, depression, anger, and hate that festered inside of me, I wound up for several days as a psych patient in the local hospital.

It sounds rough, but that was a key turnaround point. I finally started learning how to deal with my pain.

In the months and years that followed, I kept learning about counseling and psychology until I found myself with a graduate degree in counseling psychology, although my life experiences have given me far better training to help people in crisis than any degree on my wall.

Today, as a speaker, coach, author and member of the Cavalry PR Crisis Management Team, I make up for the wrongs of the past. Where there are murder cases that are so high-profile and chaotic that the victims have no one in their corner who truly understands what they’re going through and who truly knows how  to help, know that I am here. And I am with you.

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