Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
A Texas man accused of killing his ex-wife as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the city of Houston has admitted to strangling her, authorities said.
Steven Wayne McDowell, 44, of the Houston suburb of Baytown, made a brief court appearance Tuesday for a probable cause hearing in case, CBS News reported. He appeared somber and said little during the appearance.
It was after that hearing that Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told reporters that McDowell admitted to strangling Crystal Seratte McDowell in his home. The Houston Chronicle reported that Steven McDowell wept as he told investigators about killing his ex-wife and mother of his children.
McDowell led sheriff’s deputies and Texas Rangers to Crystal McDowell’s body, which he had dumped in a wooded area in west Chambers County. Her body was recovered Saturday, more than two weeks after she was allegedly killed, the Chronicle reported.
“We really don’t have any motive at this point in time,” Hawthorne said.
The sheriff said that the timing of the hurricane played no part in the homicide.
Crystal McDowell, 37, was last heard from on Aug. 25, when she texted her new boyfriend and told him she was heading to her ex-husband’s home to pick up their children, ages 8 and 5.
Hawthorne on Tuesday shot down rumors that the children witnessed the crime.
CBS News reported that the children, who were allowed to stay with their father while the search for their mother was ongoing, are now in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The couple’s divorce had been finalized three months before her death, but friends said that Crystal McDowell was living at her ex-husband’s home while her own home was being renovated.
Her family reported her missing on Aug. 26 when she failed to return with the children or show up for work.
Friends and family said that Crystal McDowell was content in the days before her disappearance. In a Facebook post she wrote two days before she vanished, she expressed that happiness.
“I’ve never been happier in my whole life than I am right now,” she wrote. “God is so good.”
Hawthorne said the fact that the hurricane blew through the area on the same day Crystal McDowell vanished hindered the search for her.
“That was when the storm was happening, that Saturday night,” Hawthorne told the Chronicle. “And then, obviously, it engulfed all of us Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.”
In the aftermath of the storm, Crystal McDowell’s partially submerged car was found in a motel parking lot near Interstate 10, the newspaper reported. Detectives investigated her disappearance and identified several people of interest, including her boyfriend, an uncle and Steven McDowell.
Meanwhile, Crystal McDowell’s family hired a private investigator to help find her. Texas EquuSearch, a world-renowned volunteer search and rescue group, also got involved in the search before her body was found.