Perfect storm?

Texas mom, 38, vanishes during Hurricane Harvey, fueling speculation that storm was used to cover up a crime

Crystal McDowell (Facebook).

Authorities in Texas are investigating the mysterious case of a woman who disappeared in the hours before Hurricane Harvey slammed the region, and hasn’t been heard from since. Crystal McDowell, a 38-year-old mother of two and Realtor from Baytown, a Houston suburb, has not been seen or heard from since hours before the storm hit. She left an ominous post on Facebook, the last one since her disappearance, in which she urged friends to “Stay safe out there!”

The timing of McDowell’s disappearance on August 25, just a day before Harvey left the southern Texas coast ravaged and inundated with floodwaters, reportedly has fueled some speculation that the massive storm is being used as cover for a heinous crime. Paul Hargraves, McDowell’s boyfriend, provided authorities with home security footage that accounts for the last time she was seen. The video shows McDowell leaving his home. According to PEOPLE magazine, McDowell was expected to go from Hargraves’ home pick up her two children, 5 and 8, from the home of her ex-husband, Steven McDowell, and then drive them to Dallas where they would ride out the storm. But she never showed up.

Hargraves told ABC News he exchanged a few text messages with her about the looming storm. Her final words to him in a text message that he showed to ABC News were, “And you are so sweet.

Three days later, McDowell’s black Mercedes-Benz was found almost fully submerged in the flooded parking lot of a Motel 6 about 13 miles from Hargrave’s house. Hargrave claims McDowell had been fighting with her ex-husband in recent days. “She wouldn’t just get up and leave her kids,” he said. Police say that they’re confident McDowell did not perish in the storm, but cautioned that animosity between the two men in McDowell’s life has led both to suspect the other in the case. Investigators have still yet to identify a suspect.

In an emotional interview with ABC News, Jeff Walters, McDowell’s uncle made a desperate plea for anyone with information on her whereabouts to come forward. “Her family wants her back, her children … ” Walters said, fighting back tears. “They need her.” Watch the full story in the video below.


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