In 2017, Houston realtor and mother of two Crystal McDowell disappeared just as Hurricane Harvey was hitting the state of Texas. It made searching for her extraordinarily difficult, both while the hurricane was pounding Texas and because afterward, the floodwaters had washed away a lot of potential evidence.

Ahead of the 48 Hours episode about the search for McDowell, here’s what you need to know about her disappearance and murder.

Crystal Disappeared on August 25, 2017

In August 2017, just as Hurricane Harvey was about to make landfall in Texas, McDowell was seen leaving her boyfriend Paul Hargrave’s house in Baytown, Texas, early in the morning on August 25. Then she stopped responding to calls and text messages, which put her Uncle Jeff on high alert.

Jeff Walters and his wife raised Crystal after her parents died when she was young, and he immediately contacted authorities when he couldn’t get a hold of her because he said it was highly unusual for her not to respond to his calls and messages.

Walters also contacted Crystal’s ex-husband, Steven McDowell, who initially claimed that she was supposed to come pick up their children Madden and Maui from his house but she never showed. The local authorities began trying to locate Crystal, but when Hurricane Harvey hit the area, the investigation was thrown into chaos.

“It was horrible. The rain wouldn’t stop. It just would not stop. … We had deputies that were flooded out of their homes. One of our investigators lost his entire house. Our local Texas Ranger and his wife were flooded out of theirs,” District Attorney Cheryl Lieck told 48 Hours, adding that they still continued to search to Crystal as best they could.

Three days later, as the floodwaters receded, Crystal’s car was found in the Baytown Motel 6 parking lot with the keys inside. Eventually, security footage from the motel showed Steve parking the car there and leaving. Later security footage caught Steve on camera putting something in a trash can at a local gas station, but the contents of the can could never be examined because they were washed away by the flood.

As authorities dug deeper, they discovered that Steve and Crystal’s divorce had not been very amicable. Then just a few days before her death, Crystal uninvited Steve from a family cruise that her new boyfriend was attending, which investigators believe started Steve’s downward spiral.

Steve …read more



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How Hurricane Harvey Impacted the Search for a Missing Woman

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