Sheriff: Ex-husband confessed killing Texas realtor who vanished before Harvey

Last Updated Sep 12, 2017 4:13 PM EDT

BAYTOWN, Texas -- The man accused of killing his ex-wife in the hours before Hurricane Harvey admitted to strangling her, according to the local sheriff.

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Steven McDowell has been charged with murder in the death of Crystal McDowell, KHOU-TV reports.

Chambers County Sheriff's Office

Detectives discovered the body of the missing 37-year-old realtor Crystal McDowell after two weeks of searching amid the destruction left behind by the deadly hurricane. McDowell's body was found Saturday in a wooded area in the western part of the county, reports CBS affiliate KHOU-TV.

Steven McDowell, 44, has been charged with murder in the case. Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told reporters after a probable cause hearing Tuesday that the suspect confessed to strangling the mother of two young children in his home.

Steven McDowell was given a court-appointed attorney during the brief hearing Tuesday. He said little and appeared somber.

Hawthorne said it took several interviews with police before McDowell confessed, but that he is being cooperative.

Crystal McDowell was last seen in the Houston suburb of Baytown on August 25, a day before Harvey reached Texas. Her disappearance was first noticed that afternoon when she missed a meeting, and her uncle Jeff Walters reported her missing the next day.

Hawthorne says the timing of her disappearance was not linked to the hurricane.

An autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning, and results were expected later in the week.

The sheriff says McDowell's children, ages 5 and 8, are currently in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.