Lawmaker's Bill Could Take Children Away From Murder Suspects

Jun 6, 2013

With two high-profile cases in mind, a Utah Lawmaker is drafting a bill to make it easier for a judge to remove children from the custody of a parent who’s a suspected of murdering the other parent. GOP Senator Todd Weiler says his bill would lower the standard of proof the judge needs to make the call.

When Senator Weiler brought the bill to a Judiciary Interim Committee last month, he had in mind the families of missing West Valley City mom Susan Cox Powell and Salt Lake City mom Uta von Schwedler. Schwedler was found drowned in a bathtub in 2011.

In both cases, children remained in the custody of their fathers while those dads were suspected of involvement in the possible murders of the parents.  And in both cases, Weiler says the judge didn’t have the legal means to remove the children from the home.

“We don’t want the government willy nilly taking children away from their parents but I do think the Josh Powell Case and this more recent case has illustrated kind of a gap," Weiler says.

The bill is modeled from proposed legislation in Washington state where Susan Cox Powell’s husband Josh Powell eventually murdered their two boys Charlie and Braden before killing himself. 

Weiler says his bill is different from the version in Washington because it doesn’t require that a judge remove child custody from a murder suspect, it simply gives him additional legal tools to do so at his discretion.

But during the May Judiciary Interim Committee , Republican Representative Brian Greene said he still had concerns.

“I see this as being applied, even if it’s not mandatory, like Washington’s law, whether or not there is justification absent the situation," Greene said.  "And I think that's a very troubling road to start down."

Weiler says his bill is still in the early drafting stages. It will likely be discussed later this month during another interim session.