A day before Hurricane Harvey touched down in Texas, a 37-year-old Florida real estate agent went missing.
On Saturday, Sept. 9, police said they had found the body Crystal Seratte McDowell, and said her ex-husband, Steven McDowell, 44, had been arrested.
“We feel very, very confident that she’s not a victim of this storm,” Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told CBS News.
Crystal, the mother of a 5-year-old and and 8-year-old, was last seen on the morning of Aug. 25 when she left the home of her boyfriend in Baytown, Texas, to go pick up her kids at her ex-husband’s house.
Crystal and Steven had recently divorced, but she and their two kids were staying with him while her townhouse in Baytown was being renovated.
Crystal’s boyfriend, Paul Hargrave, said she texted him at 7:25 a.m. about traffic conditions on her way to Houston to pick up her kids.
When she stopped returning calls and text messages, and didn’t show up for a meeting with a client that afternoon, her family started to become concerned. She was normally prompt at returning text messages and calls, says her uncle, Jeff Walters, who raised Crystal from the age of 11 after her parents passed away. He also works in the same real estate office as her.
A few days after he disappearance, Crystal’s Mercedes was found about 13 miles from Hargrave’s home in a Motel 6 parking lot that had been flooded from the hurricane. Police say they believe the car was parked there before the water inundated it.
“We don’t believe she parked it there,” Hawthorne told ABC News. “We believe that whoever parked it there had hoped that somebody would take it. They left the car unlocked and they left the keys laying on the console.”
Walters told CBS that two people who were seen inside Crystal’s car were detained at the motel by police and taken in for questioning.
“They do not believe they were involved with Crystal’s disappearance,” he said.
Walters confronted Steven after Crystal went missing to ask what he knew about her disappearance.
“He showed me a message on his phone where she said she was going to get the kids and go to Dallas. I have reservations about believing that she sent that message,” Walters told CBS.
The reason she gave, according to Steven, was that she wanted to wait out the storm. But Walters found it strange that she wouldn’t have told him. He was also going to Dallas to be with his aunt, and thought she would have wanted them to go together.
According to Hargrave, Crystal and Steven were fighting in the days leading up Crystal’s disappearance.
However it wasn’t apparent from her comments on social media that anything was wrong. Two days before she disappeared, she wrote on Facebook: “I’ve never been happier in my whole life than I am right now. God is so good.”
Steven was charged with murder after Crystal’s body was found in a wooded area in Chambers County near Baytown. Authorities have not yet released a cause of death.