On the surface, it appeared that 37-year-old Texas mom and real estate agent Crystal McDowell had it all.

Posted by Crystal McDowell, Realtor on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

She was beautiful, successful, and had just started a new relationship.

But what people didn’t realize was that behind that sparkling smile was trouble. And it would eventually cost her her life.

Just before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Crystal went missing.

The Chambers County Sheriff’s Office is attempting to locate Crystal Seratte McDowell, a 37 year old white female who…

Posted by Chambers County Sheriff's Office on Monday, August 28, 2017

According to earlier reports, she was headed to her ex-husband’s house to pick up her children, ages 5 and 8. He lived about 18 miles away from her new boyfriend’s home, which was where she had stayed the night.

When she missed some business appointment later that afternoon, her uncle became worried and contacted the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department.

Amid the chaos of Hurricane Harvey, authorities searched for Crystal, but came up short, despite some leads such as finding her car and pinging her cell phone.

Posted by In Memory of Crystal Seratte-McDowell on Tuesday, August 29, 2017

But then about two weeks after she disappeared, the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department broke the tragic news: Crystal’s body was found in a wooded area on Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday, August 26, the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office received a call regarding a welfare concern for 37 year old…

Posted by Chambers County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, September 9, 2017

Her ex-husband, 44-year-old Steven McDowell, was subsequently arrested.

According to ABC 13, Steven had been questioned by authorities for days leading up to his arrest. He eventually made a “tearful, remorseful confession,” and led authorities to Crystal’s body in western Chambers County.

Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told The Baytown Sun that it appeared as though Crystal was killed at Steven’s home:

“Early indications show that Crystal McDowell was strangled.”

The sheriff was careful to note, though, that the cause of death cannot be confirmed since autopsy results are pending.

Crystal and Steven had divorced in June of this year. Crystal was still living with Steven in his new home, mostly for the sake of their two children.

Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC 13:

“A lot of that was so she had access to the children. The children were primarily staying with Steve.”

Crystal had plans to move back into the old home the couple shared before their split, once renovation on the home was complete.

While they co-parented their children, turmoil was present in their relationship.

According to ABC 13, the Baytown Police Department said Crystal called police on March 20 telling them that Steven was threatening to hurt himself and their two children.

Police also told ABC 13 that Crystal was worried after getting a call from one of her children’s schools, telling her that her ex-husband had never dropped the child off for the day. Steven didn’t hurt the kids during this time and brought them back to Crystal the next day and no charged were filed.

Three weeks before she went missing, Crystal began dating Paul Hargrave.

Posted by Paul Hargrave on Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hargrave told officials he last heard from Crystal on the morning of August 25:

“She texted me to say road conditions were good around 8:30 a.m.”

According to The Baytown Sun, Hargrave, along with Crystal’s uncle and several other people, became persons of interest in this case, but the sheriff said Steven was always at the forefront of the investigation:

“He was always our first persons of interest.”

In fact, Sheriff Hawthorne told ABC 13:

“Once we started the investigation, there were a number of family and friends who expressed concerns about the ex-husband.”

According to ABC 13, Hawthorne won’t yet discuss possible motives:

“There had been some tension and stress, and had been some potential disagreements.”

The Baytown Sun reported that the McDowells’ two children have been legally placed with family members.

Meanwhile, Crystal’s boyfriend continues to grieve, sharing this note on his Facebook page:


Steven McDowell will be in court Tuesday. The Baytown Sun reports that Steven’s bail has been set at $500,000.


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