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Before Dying In Inferno, Little Boys Were Struck

Toys and flowers have been left outside the Puyallup, Wash., home of Chuck and Judy Cox, the grandparents of Charlie and Braden Powell.
Ted S. Warren

Horrific details keep emerging about the deaths in Graham, Wash., on Sunday of Braden and Charlie Powell.

Among the disturbing news: Authorities now say it appears that before the boys died in a fire ignited by their father, Josh Powell, he struck his sons with a hatchet.

"The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office on Monday said all three died from smoke inhalation. But both boys also suffered 'chop injuries,' Braden to his head and neck, and Charlie to his neck," The Seattle Times writes.

Braden was 5-years-old. Charlie was seven. Their mother disappeared in 2009 and the father, Josh Powell, was a "person of interest" in that case.

According to the boys' maternal grandfather, Braden and Charlie didn't want to go to their father's home on Sunday for what was supposed to be a visit supervised by a social worker. Chuck Cox told reporters Monday, asThe Seattle Times says, that "they were just adamant they did not want to go." Braden and Charlie were living with Chuck and Judy Cox, their grandparents (and the parents of the missing mother, Susan Powell).

The Salt Lake Tribune adds that the brothers were "immersed in play with a young cousin" and may have wanted to keep playing rather than visit Josh Powell.

When the boys arrived at Josh Powell's home, according to the social worker who took them there, they ran ahead of her and the father quickly locked the door to prevent her from entering. Moments later, the home exploded into flames.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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