During a hearing today in Commissioner Michael Hintze's courtroom, the public guardian for Marcia Powell -- the inmate who died May 20 after prolonged exposure to 107 degree temperatures in an outside cage at Goodyear's Perryville Prison -- informed the court that Powell's adoptive mother had been located.
However, the woman, Joanne Buck, declined to become involved in the disposition of her adoptive daughter's remains, according to Roger Coventry, an investigator with the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary's office. Under questioning by the fiduciary's counsel, Gary Strickland, Coventry explained that he had tracked down Buck through an extensive inquiry into Powell's next of kin.
The fiduciary's office instigated the investigation in order to determine what was to be done with Powell's remains, which are still being held by the county Medical Examiner. But the investigation is also significant because Arizona Department of Corrections Interim Director Charles Ryan made a decision to suspend Powell's life support hours after her admission to West Valley Hospital on May 19. Ryan has since said that the ADC had no record of a guardianship for Powell, and that he made the decision on the advice of the attending physician.
With the assistance of private investigator Jonathan Colvin, Coventry discovered that Powell had been adopted at the age of six by Ray and Joanne Powell. The couple was later divorced, and Ray Powell died on November 4, 2008. Coventry found the 76-year-old Joanne Powell, now Joanne Buck, living in a gated community in La Quinta, California. Powell ran away from her adoptive home at age 14, according to Coventry, and Buck had "very little contact" with Powell over the years.
What contact Buck had with Powell was unwelcome, Coventry explained. Buck said Powell had threatened her life. She was unaware of Powell's death when Coventry contacted her.
Coventry also discovered that Powell had a brother, William Warren Powell (alias, Rusty Lewis), but his whereabouts are unknown. In addition, Powell had two children, a son named Richard, and a daughter named Eureka. According to Coventry's research, both were adopted. Richard was adopted by a family named Hussman, but he was murdered in Missouri in 2004. Eureka Breshard, as she became known, was adopted by a family in Tempe. No further records could be found for her.
Commissioner Hintze noted that Powell had a criminal history than spanned three states, Arizona, California and Missouri. He ordered Coventry to check Powell's records in other states for more information, and to review Powell's mental health and juvenile court records here in Arizona. Hintze said he could not grant the fiduciary's petition for instructions as to what to do with the remains until these records had been looked into.
After the hearing, Assistant County Attorney Strickland told me that he thought the additional research would take a few more days, after which he would ask the court for another hearing.
I asked Strickland if the fiduciary, in its role as guardian, had ever visited Powell while she was in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Strickland answered that the fiduciary had visited Powell once while she was with ADC (though at a different location from the Perryville complex). I called ADC for a comment. They have yet to return my call.
That visit is significant in that ADC should have a record of the visit, and thus, a record of Powell's guardianship. As reported previously, the public fiduciary's office was appointed Powell's guardian July 7, 2008 by Commissioner Hintze. At the time, the judge found Powell to be "an incapacitated adult as defined by statute," and he gave the fiduciary the power to place Powell in a mental health facility. Court records list Powell's "alleged disabilities" as "disorganized schizophrenia, polysubstance abuse, and mild mental retardation."
But Powell was already in custody for a felony prostitution charge, of which she was convicted on July 31, 2008 and sentenced to 27 months in prison. At Powell's memorial service last week, Ryan explained that Powell had been seeing a mental health care provider while at Perryville.
"Marcia Powell was a seriously mentally ill prisoner," he told me during an interview following the service. "And she had been under the care of a psychologist within the department of corrections, and had been at a mental health unit at another prison complex for a period of time prior to being returned to Perryville."
The questions continue to mount for Ryan and others. Ryan informed me during that interview that the outdoor cages will no longer be used anywhere in the Department of Corrections. (Not exactly, it seems according to an Arizona Republic article published today, which states that "outdoor enclosures will remain in use for some cases, including recreation for prisoners separated from the general population.") But why was a mentally ill person being confined to an outdoor enclosure for any length of time, particularly if she was on some sort of medication? And why the rush to pull Powell's plug, when we now know Powell had next of kin?
More as I get it on the Powell affair and the ADC's response to it.