In December 2009, Utah was devastated when news spread across the valley that Susan Powell, a young mother of two from West Valley City, had gone missing.
The circumstances of her disappearance grew increasingly suspicious, as investigations by law enforcement and journalists revealed a haunting tale of abuse predating the demise of an entire family. One reporter assigned to the case was KSL’s Dave Cawley.
Cawley, now host of the hit true-crime podcast “Cold,” says that his work with the show was tied to the outcome of the Powell case itself.
“A lot of stories [we cover] have a very clear beginning, middle and end,” says Cawley.
But this story was left open ended.
Prior to “Cold,” Cawley spent time investigating Powell’s disappearance outside of his work. Motivated by curiosity, his research eventually snowballed into an obsession, as KSL realized having him pursue the project full-time would be worthwhile.
“No one was ever held to account for [Susan’s death],” states Cawley, “and it really bothered me.”
In other words, Cawley needed answers.
Reflecting more on his commitment to the work on the podcast, Cawley recalls working entire days, sometimes for weeks on end. More than anything, though, he wanted to know the truth about something law enforcement had seemingly left for dead.
“When West Valley Police released the case files, it felt like a slap in the face,” says Cawley.
Cawley adds that while the police released a large volume of files, the manner and timing in which they did so appeared to be more in defense of a police department under fire from critics than for the public’s benefit.
As for the show’s success, Cawley points to adaptation as a crucial component of survival in today’s media landscape.
“If you get caught up in dreaming about the way it was,” notes Cawley, “that’s not how you take advantage of amazing opportunities in front of you.”
When Cawley entered radio in 2003, he said the idea of being a radio reporter seemed like something from a bygone era. In addition, podcasting wasn’t something anyone had even conceived of at the time.
However, by being open to change and leaning in to his own personal tendencies, Cawley was able to find a groove.
“I never felt like a TV reporter, I never had the look or the skill set, but I learned that I have my own unique talents that, if applied to the right story, work well,” he says.
As an example of these talents, although this season of “Cold” has ended, Cawley continues to check and re-check his work to ensure his reporting has been thorough and accurate.
“I think I need someone to pull me away,” jokes Cawley.
To all aspiring journalists, Cawley also has some advice.
“It’s an exciting time to be in this field. Don’t expect to make a lot of money doing it, but have a reason, a passion and be your own brand of journalist.”
Season 1 of “Cold” is available in its entirety at thecoldpodcast.com.