Texas realtor who vanished before hurricane, found dead; ex-husband charged with murder

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The search for a missing Texas real estate agent and mother of two ended tragically this weekend.

Chron.com reports that investigators found the body of Crystal McDowell, 37, on Saturday in a wooded area in Chambers County.

Authorities have not yet released a cause of death, but her ex-husband, Steve McDowell, 44, has been charged with her murder.

Crystal was last seen and heard from on Friday, August 25, when she left her new boyfriend’s home to go pick up her two young children at McDowell’s home, where she was temporarily living while her townhouse was undergoing renovations.

She left early Friday morning, and sent a few text messages to her boyfriend, Paul Hargrave, on the way. Then she went silent.

Hargrave told CrimeOnline that he contacted her relatives later that day when he hadn’t heard from her. It was unusual for Crystal to be out of touch with friends and family, and those who knew her were immediately concerned for her safety. Her uncle, Jeff Walters, filed a missing persons report the next day, as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the greater Houston area, reportedly hampering early search efforts.

On Tuesday, witnesses spotted Crystal’s black Mercedes partially submerged in water at a Motel 6 just a short distance away from her ex-husband’s home.

CrimeOnline had attempted to reach Steve McDowell but he did not respond to an interview request. On Friday, Hargrave told us that he expected Crystal would soon be found, and that he was not optimistic she would be found safely. Both Hargrave and law enforcement agents said they suspected foul play.

A longtime friend, Morgan Raimondi, told Chron.com that she, too, immediately thought something was terribly wrong as soon as she learned Crystal was missing.

“I knew immediately she was deceased,” Raimondi said.

“When Steve decided that if he couldn’t have her, nobody else could he also made the decision for her children, her family and her friends …He took her away from all of us because of his one selfish act.”

Hargrave told CrimeOnline last week that he and Crystal had only been dating for about a month, but that there relationship had recently become more serious. He indicated that she and her ex-husband had been arguing over an upcoming cruise that the couple had initially planned to take together with their children, but that Crystal no longer wanted her ex-husband to join them. Instead, she invited Paul to come on the trip.

Crystal and Steve McDowell had reportedly finalized their divorce in June.

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View image on TwitterChambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said that authorities had arrested McDowell on the basis of circumstantial evidence and a “very forthcoming” interview with the suspect, who had been among several persons of interest in his ex-wife’s disappearance.

“This case was about trying to bring Crystal McDowell home and we’ve made that happen,” Hawthorne said in a press conference Saturday night.