The search for Crystal McDowell has taken a dark turn, with authorities in Texas saying they suspect foul play in the mother’s disappearance and that the perpetrator may have used Hurricane Harvey to help cover up the crime.
The 37-year-old realtor disappeared just hours before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, leading to speculation that she may have been a victim of the storm. But as the police investigation continued, new clues arose that led them to believe that McDowell may have been a victim of foul play.
Authorities now say that the hurricane had no role in her disappearance.
“Hurricane Harvey is not the reason Crystal McDowell is missing,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC News.
Family members became worried when McDowell failed to pick up her two children on August 25, unusual for the normally reliable McDowell, especially given that the family was preparing to find a safe location to ride out the storm. Paul Hargrave, McDowell’s boyfriend, told ABC News that she sent a text message saying she was planning to either stay put or go to her ex’s house with their children.
The fact that she disappeared without telling anyone led police to suspect something beyond a normal disappearance.
“I do believe there’s foul play involved and I don’t think that she has just decided to disappear and not contact anybody,” Hawthorne told People Magazine.
Hawthorne added that someone may have used the destruction from Hurricane Harvey to cover up Crystal McDowell’s disappearance. Her car was found several days after her disappearance, submerged in flood waters in a Motel 6 parking lot close to 13 miles from her home, CBS News reported.
Hargrave told police that McDowell had no ties to that area and no reason to go to the Motel 6.
Hawthorne said that someone who may have wanted to kidnap Crystal McDowell likely knew that the hurricane would provide the perfect cover, saying “it would have been and it appears to have been somewhat of an ideal time to do this.”
The local community has come together in the search for McDowell, with a total of $15,000 offered as a reward for information that leads to finding her. Family members have also hired a private investigator to work with police on her disappearance, the Baytown Sun reported.
Police have not said if there are any suspects in the disappearance of Crystal McDowell, but Hawthorne noted that she had a history of several romantic relationships as well as thousands of friends through her successful real estate business.
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