Tonight on Dateline NBC, Dennis Murphy will report on the disappearance and murder of Crystal McDowell. The mother of two died on August 25, 2017.
McDowell was a 37-year-old Texas realtor when she was murdered by her ex-husband. She went to pick up her children before he went to work, and she never returned home. Their divorce had been finalized in June of that year.
When McDowell didn’t come home, her boyfriend Paul Hargrave called her uncle, Jeff Walters, who called the police. McDowell was raised by Walters because her parents died when she was 11 years old.
After two weeks, McDowell’s body was found in a wooded area, and her ex-husband, Steven McDowell confessed to strangling her in his home. In 2019, Steve McDowell was sentenced to 50 years in prison after admitting what he’d done and being found guilty.
McDowell’s Funeral Took Place on September 16, 2017
— Dateline NBC (@DatelineNBC) June 5, 2020
The funeral for McDowell took place on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at the chapel of Earthman Funeral Directors in Baytown, Texas. The family requested at the time that donations be made in her memory to a fund set up for her children rather than receiving flowers.
The obituary, which is available in its entirety online, emphasized how close she was with her family and how much she loved her children.
“To say Crystal was a loving mother, caring friend, and devoted confidant, would be an extreme understatement. She simply and unapologetically cared for everyone she knew, deserving or not, and was loyal to those she cared for, sometimes to a fault,” the obituary reads. “Born Friday the 26th of October 1979, she was a native of Baytown, where she currently lived and was raising her two beautiful children, which were her entire world. ”
It also mentioned that she was a third-generation realtor and a 15-year veteran of ExpressJet Airlines where she worked as a flight attendant and later as a training instructor. She left behind her daughter, Maui Lorelei McDowell, and her son, Madden Alexander McDowell.
Her Children Now Live With a Lifelong Friend of McDowell’s
In 2019, the Baytown Sun reported that McDowell’s children were staying with Mandy Avalos, a longtime friend of McDowell’s who had custody of them. McDowell’s daughter Maui’s testimony about what happened the day of her mother’s murder was used against him in court.
The Facebook page “In Memory of Crystal Seratte-McDowell” posted an update in 2017 including a promotion that would benefit the mother’s children.
“She was an accomplished mother to two beautiful small children, & of course it’s widely evident that she loved & cared for her family & friends, & that they, in turn, loved her dearly,” the page reads. “Sometimes, in a world that seems dreary, we count on others genuine, sincere kindness & love to light the way, to make the world a little brighter, & a little more hopeful.”
The special was run by Cakes by Retta, LLC in the month of October 2017. During that month, any time a customer asked for the “Crystal Special,” 100% of the purchase price went to McDowell’s children for their future college education.