SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Authorities discovered human remains Wednesday while searching Utah's rugged desert for clues in the disappearance of a mother whose husband liked to camp in the area.
The remains were not immediately identified, and it wasn't clear if the body was that of Susan Cox Powell. Authorities also weren't certain if the remains belonged to a male or female.
"It's a game of patience at this point," West Valley City Sgt. Mike Powell said. "We need to slow down a little bit and identify what it is we found."
A medical examiner was on the way to the scene.
Powell was 28 when she was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job. She had been seen by friends at church and at dinner the previous day.
Her husband, Josh Powell, told police he left his wife at home about 12:30 a.m. that day to go winter camping in freezing temperatures with their young sons - then 4 and 2 - on the Pony Express Trail, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The 4-year-old confirmed the trip to police.
Josh Powell is the only person of interest in the case, although he's never been arrested or charged. His family believes Susan Powell ran off with another man.
Authorities have been searching since Monday in the area near Topaz Mountain in Juab County. The site is about 135 miles southwest of the location where Susan Powell was last seen in West Valley City.
Last month, investigators searched mine shaft-dotted mountains near Ely, Nev., and later served a search warrant on the Puyallup, Wash., home Josh Powell shares with his father, seizing computers and journals thought to have belonged to Susan Powell.
This latest search is in an area popular for gem and rock hunters. Police have said Powell's husband liked to rock hunt in the area.
"From the very beginning he clearly indicated he had been in and around the area," said Sgt. Powell, who is not related to the family of the missing woman.
In May, speculation swirled that remains found in the desert about 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City might have been Susan Powell, but authorities later said it was a young adult male.
Josh Powell didn't immediately return a telephone call on Wednesday. Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, also wasn't immediately available for comment.
Last month, the nearly 2-year-old case turned salacious as family members on both sides sparred over truth and fiction, and accusations of sex and lies.
Josh Powell's family claims Susan Powell was sexually promiscuous, emotionally unstable and suicidal. They were offering as proof several diary pages from the missing woman's teenage years.
Her family says the entries were written by a young girl still growing up and have no bearing on her disappearance. They got a temporary order in a Washington court prohibiting the Powells from distributing the journal pages.
Josh Powell has mostly remained quiet throughout the investigation. Police have said he hasn't cooperated.
But in a string of national television interviews in August, Josh Powell denied killing his wife and having anything to do with her disappearance.
In another strange twist, Steve Powell, Josh's father, said he and Susan Powell were falling in love and even implied a sexual relationship had occurred.
"Susan was very sexual with me," Steve Powell said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
"We interacted in a lot of sexual ways because Susan enjoys doing that," he said.
Susan's father, Chuck Cox, said the allegations are false. He claims it was Steve Powell who initiated unwanted sexual advances, and that his daughter had no interest in her father-in-law.
The feuding between the two sides got so heated that a court commissioner in Washington state ordered Chuck Cox and Josh Powell to keep 500 feet apart.
Chuck Cox has said his family remains hopeful but were preparing for the worst.