Man indicted in wife’s death
The Baytown man accused of strangling his ex-wife was indicted Thursday by a Chambers County grand jury, the next step in a gruesome case hit with setbacks at every turn.
First there was the hurricane. Then the slew of suspects to eliminate. Then finally a cadre of family members so eager to help that the District Attorney had to call them in for a grand jury inquiry after they may have meddled with the investigation into Crystal McDowell’s death, according to Sheriff Brian Hawthorne.
“It all wrapped around the private investigator that the family had hired,” Hawthorne said. No one from the family was indicted, though some were subpoenaed to answer questions, he added.
The 37-year-old Baytown Realtor vanished on the eve of Hurricane Harvey, after telling her boyfriend she was headed to her ex-husband’s house to pick up their children.
But Steven McDowell said she never arrived, kicking off a two-week search for the missing mom.
The waterlogged roads and stormy downpour hampered the hunt, but eventually investigators tracked her final cell phone ping to a marshy area in Baytown and found her partially submerged car at a Motel 6 near Interstate 10.
As the days dragged on, the persons of interest list ballooned to nine or 10 people, including her uncle, her new boyfriend and her ex-husband, Hawthorne said.
But after days of combing the county for the former stewardess’s remains, her 44-year-old ex husband was arrested following a tearful confession, authorities said at the time.
Afterward, he led investigators to his wife’s decomposing body.
Although the couple’s young children were home at the time of the slaying, investigators don’t believe the witnessed the crime.
The day before McDowell’s confession and arrest, the Department of Family and Protective Services preemptively removed the children from the home. Now, they’re living with a family friend out of state.
“They are thriving,” Hawthorne said Monday. “They’re really doing well.”
Meanwhile, Steven McDowell is being held in the Chambers County jail on $500,000 bond.
On Thursday, roughly a month after Steven McDowell tearfully confessed to the slaying, grand jurors returned an indictment for “intent to cause serious bodily injury” and “commit an act clearly dangerous to human life,” according to court documents.
McDowell’s lawyer did not respond Monday to a request for comment.