"I thought he was going to harm himself," Nathan Leach said after receiving a cryptic e-mail from his cousin Josh Powell Sunday afternoon that said simply: "I'm sorry. Goodbye."
Leach said he frantically called his sister along with Josh's sister and brother, Alina and Michael Powell. He said he even called 911 from his home in Texas to get emergency services over to Powell's house in Puyallup, Wash., The Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday.
Death had arrived ahead of emergency responders, who found the Powell home in flames with Josh Powell and his two sons Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, in it.
Powell's family is in shock, the newspaper said.
"According to Michael there was no talk of any of this," Leach said. "That was a very horrible choice he made. I can't imagine the pressure that took him there, none of us can."
Powell was a person of interest in his wife's 2009 disappearance and was undergoing a custody battle with his mother- and father-in-law over his sons before they were killed. He was being cyberbullied, the Tribune said.
"I can tell you that Josh was terrorized. I'm sure there are people out there who would consider this appropriate given the mass assumption of his guilt. … This reminds me of North Korea's process -- walk the accused out into a field and put a bullet in them. The difference here is that everybody spends their time enjoying the prelude as some form of sick entertainment while posting Bible scriptures to justify to themselves the reason for which they are finding so much enjoyment," Leach said.
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