Authorities in Texas are searching for Houston realtor Crystal McDowell who disappeared as Hurricane Harvey was barreling down on the area.
“We’re chasing a lot of leads,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC News. “But no, Hurricane Harvey is not the reason Crystal McDowell is missing.”
The 37-year-old mother of two was last seen on home surveillance video footage walking through the living room of her boyfriend’s home and then getting into her car – a black Mercedes Benz sedan – parked in the driveway on Aug. 25.
“That morning, we woke up about around 6:30, we got ready, I jumped in the shower and she got dressed and I remember her coming in and saying, ‘Alright, I’m taking off,’” McDowell’s boyfriend Paul Hargrave told ABC News.
According to Hargrave, McDowell left his house, got into her car and left to go pick up her two children, ages 5 and 8, from her ex-husband, Steve McDowell, who lived 12 minutes away.
“She did send me some text messages … a little after that,” Hargrave said. “She had mentioned that she was going to stay at the house, the ex-husband’s house, with the kids or, depending on traffic and how weather conditions were, she was going to take them out.”
McDowell’s uncle Jeff Walters also heard from her that morning.
“I received a message from her … about a billboard her boyfriend had put up for her,” Walters told ABC News.
Hargrave had put up a billboard advertisement showcasing McDowell as a real estate broker. Hargrave showed ABC News text messages from McDowell showing that she had taken a picture of the billboard and then texted him, “And you are so sweet.” He replied, “I love and I’ll always support you.”
With Hurricane Harvey approaching, Hargrave said he grew concerned when he realized he hadn’t heard from McDowell in a few hours.
“It’s not like Crystal not to reply back very quickly, so I thought that was kind of weird, [thinking] maybe she was with family getting things ready,” he said.
The next day, Aug. 26, Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston and three days later, on Aug. 29, McDowell’s Mercedes was found in the flooded parking lot of a Motel 6, seven miles from her home. McDowell was nowhere to be found.
“We don’t believe she parked it there,” Sheriff Brian Hawthorne said. “We believe that whoever parked it there had hoped that somebody would take it. They left the car unlocked and they left the keys in the…