A Chronology of Articles from The Houston Chronicle

8:44 PM 4/15/1997

Family asks help in finding missing woman

The family and friends of a 20-year-old woman missing since March 25 asked Tuesday for public assistance in searching for her. Raquel L. Crouch was last seen about 10 p.m. that day in the parking lot of the Astrodome-area Kmart store where she worked. A security guard at the store at 8930 Kirby told police he saw Crouch get into a red Chrysler convertible driven by a young black man. The man driving that car voluntarily went to talk to investigators Tuesday. No charges were filed against him. The Rev. Robert Muhammad on Tuesday asked people to pray for the safe return of Crouch, who has a 3-year-old daughter. "We are appealing to the humanity of whoever the person or persons were that are involved in Raquel's disappearance to end the pain of this family, to bring Raquel home to her daughter, her mother, father and to us as a community," he said. He also called on the public to join a search for Crouch beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at West Airport and Bob White. Police believe Crouch was seen in the Chrysler at that location a few hours after she left work. Muhammad urged anyone who knows anything about the case or might have seen Crouch, to call the Houston Police Department's homicide division at (713) 731-5800. Muhammad called on the business community to donate refreshments for the searchers and other items like maps and paper for flyers. Those interested in donating time or resources to the search can call the SHAPE Community Center at 713-521-0629. Homicide investigator S.R. Straughter said police have interviewed several people but no arrests have been made. He declined to provide details, saying police want to conduct additional interviews. The missing woman's father, John Crouch, said he fears she has been the victim of foul play. "She loves her daughter very much," he said. "There was a strong bond there. She would never leave her daughter without calling someone."


9:39 PM 4/19/1997

Searchers find remains; ID is uncertain - Volunteers nearby sought missing woman

People searching for a missing woman made a grim discovery Saturday when they found decomposed human remains in far southwest Houston. Just before 11 a.m., police were called to 13500 block of Dunlap near Hillcroft after human bones were found in a parking lot and adjacent grassy field. The remains were found just south of a location where 200 volunteers had gathered to search for Raquel Crouch, 20, who has been missing since March 25. Police said they do not know if the remains could be Crouch's. The state of decomposition was too advanced for investigators to determine the body's gender, and there was no clothing nearby to help establish identification. Crouch, a graduate of Yates High School, was last seen about 10:30 p.m. as she left her job at the Kmart store near the Astrodome. Police were later able to trace her movements to the area around the intersection of Bob White and West Airport Boulevard, where they believe she was with a man in a red Chrysler between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. March 26. Investigators were not able to locate anyone who had seen or heard from her after that. "I'm just hoping it's not my niece," said Felicia Rodriguez. "I feel sorry for the family of whoever it is, but we are praying and hoping that it's not her." One volunteer, Sherman McGilbert, sped to the site where the remains were found after he got word of the sighting. He came upon a gruesome scene. The parking lot of the vacant building was dotted by piles of trash, and scattered around the area were several bones, including a spinal cord and skull. McGilbert said he walked into the grassy field and saw a rolled up carpet that had body parts in it and on top of it. "We also found blood spots and hair all over the parking lot," he said. Police said it appears the remains had been scattered by animals. In another missing-person case, Friendswood police said Saturday there were no new developments concerning Laura Smither, 12, who disappeared while jogging more than three weeks ago.


10:32 PM 4/20/1997

Remains of woman identified

The remains of a woman found in far southwest Houston were identified Sunday as those of Raquel L. Crouch, according to the Harris County Medical Examiner's office. Crouch, 20, disappeared after she left work at an Astrodome area Kmart store on March 25. She was last seen getting into a red car in the parking lot about 10:30 p.m., police said. The man driving that car voluntarily went to talk to investigators Tuesday. No charges were filed against him. On Saturday some 200 volunteers, coordinated by the Shape Community Center, began a search at West Airport and Bob White, where police said they believe Crouch had been a few hours after she left work. In just hours searchers found the body in the 13500 block of Dunlap near Hillcroft. When the remains were found, the state of decomposition was too advanced for investigators to determine the body's gender, and there was no clothing nearby to help establish identification. An autopsy to determine the cause of death was pending Sunday night. Sherman McGilbert, who helped in the search said he had seen blood stains, hair and several bones, including a skull, in the parking lot of a vacant building at that location. In an adjacent grassy field, he said he saw body parts in and on top of a rolled up carpet. Crouch's family members could not be reached for comment late Sunday.


9:47 PM 4/21/1997

Parents laud effort to find daughter, 20 - Officials await results of autopsy on woman

While authorities awaited results of an autopsy on a young woman whose body was found Saturday, her parents expressed their gratitude to the hundreds of people who had helped find their missing daughter. "If it brings the community together, our daughter's death won't be in vain," John Crouch said. An autopsy was performed Monday on the badly decomposed remains of Raquel L. Crouch, but the results were withheld pending additional tests, officials said. "We will continue on and protect the rest of our children and try to make sure this doesn't happen to any other family," said John Crouch. Raquel Crouch, 20, disappeared after she left work at an Astrodome-area Kmart on March 25. She was seen getting into a red Chrysler convertible in the parking lot of that store about 10:30 p.m., police said. Police later traced Crouch to the intersection of Bob White and West Airport, where they believe she was still in the red car between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. March 26. The young man who drove that car, who police said Crouch knew, spoke with homicide investigators last week. Police said Monday he has not been ruled out as a suspect. On Saturday about 200 volunteers coordinated by the SHAPE Community Center began a search at West Airport and Bob White. Within hours, searchers found the body, wrapped in carpet in a wooded area in the 13100 block of Hillcroft near Dunlap. The remains were positively identified Crouch's on Sunday. Last week, John Crouch and his wife, Sharon, shared their hope of finding their daughter alive with Friendswood parents Bob and Gay Smither, whose 12-year-old daughter, Laura, also was missing. Sunday, Pasadena authorities recovered a girl's body that is believed to be Laura's. The Crouches' telephone answering machine at home thanked people for their prayers and concern and said, "God bless you and your family." After the efforts coordinated by the SHAPE center, the Crouch family had to face the reality that Raquel Crouch was dead. They scheduled services for 11 a.m. Friday at the Windsor Village United Methodist Church, 6000 Heatherbrook. SHAPE Community Center and Nation of Islam representatives said Crouch's parents and siblings are in a "painful grieving" period right now, especially a brother who was especially close to her. DeLoyd Parker, director of the center, also is questioning why the Texas State Guard and Marine Reserves were used in the search for Smither, missing since April 3, but not in the search for Crouch, missing since March 25. "What caused the military to get involved in one case and not in the other?" Parker said. Marine and Texas State Guard units were used in the search for Laura Smither because they were scheduled for training the weekend of April 13. Coordinators of the search asked that the training be conducted in the trees and bayous surrounding Friendswood. Minister Robert Muhammad of the Nation of Islam said changes in the law are needed in cases involving missing adults where foul play is suspected. "But we want to thank all the volunteers who came to help Saturday," Muhammad said, noting the involvement of 20 law enforcement officers, including Precinct 6 constables and Houston police officers. An account has been established to help the Crouch family with expenses at the Houston Municipal Employee Federal Credit Union. The phone number is 713-699-0795, extension 3029.


9:24 PM 4/22/1997

Sex offender arrested in Crouch slaying - Suspect had been paroled in January

A 25-year-old convicted sex offender, whose parole was forced by law only four months ago, has been charged with the murder of Raquel Crouch. Kareen Jabbar Wilson, of the 600 block of Berry Road, was arrested at 8 p.m. Monday at his home. He remained jailed Tuesday in lieu of $60,000 bail. The parole board issued a warrant Tuesday for Wilson on parole violation charges, preventing him from being released on bail. John Crouch, Raquel's father, said the suspect was not his daughter's boyfriend, as had been originally reported. He said Wilson was an acquaintance from five years ago. "He had just gotten out of prison and was tracking her down," Crouch said. The sadness that the community feels over the slayings of Crouch and Laura Smither, 12, of Friendswood should be a catalyst for legislative action, John Crouch said. "If the community is sad now, let's work together with Friendswood and other areas to stop criminals from getting out early and doing this again to other families," he said. The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office is still holding Crouch's body. The family may be forced to reschedule her services, now tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Windsor Village United Methodist Church. Crouch disappeared after Wilson picked her up after work March 25 at the Astrodome-area Kmart where she worked. Crouch's badly decomposed body was found in a wooded area in the 13100 block of Hillcroft after a large search party was organized Saturday. According to court documents, the man who led the searchers to that area had accompanied Wilson and a second man to the spot to dump Crouch's body in the early hours of March 26. That witness told investigators Wilson had warned him not to say anything about what he saw that morning at his cousin's townhome in the 6300 block of Dryad. According to the statement the witness eventually gave police, he was in the downstairs portion of the townhome on the morning of March 26, speaking with two other men, one of whom was a relative of Wilson's. The witness said he heard a man and woman talking in the upstairs portion of the townhome, then heard noises. He said he recognized Wilson's voice calling for Wilson's relative to come upstairs. About a half-hour later, the witness told police, Wilson and his relative came downstairs carrying the body of a woman wrapped in a sheet. The witness accompanied them while they put the body into the trunk of Wilson's car, according to court documents. The witness told police Wilson drove to a spot near Hillcroft and Dunlap and carried the body into the woods, while he waited in the car. Police also are looking for the relative of Wilson's who allegedly helped dispose of the body. Wilson gave a voluntary statement to police April 12. He said he had picked Crouch up from work and taken her to the Dryad townhome where they had sex, then got into an argument. According to Wilson's statement, he dropped Crouch off at a convenience store near the intersection of Bob White and West Airport and never saw her again. Wilson also told investigators Crouch had left her purse in his car when he dropped her off and that he had thrown it into a trash bin. Police said Crouch knew Wilson, but they did not characterize him as anything more than an acquaintance. Although witnesses who saw Crouch getting into Wilson's car March 25 did not think she was being abducted, it was unclear whether she had accompanied him to the townhome voluntarily. Wilson was paroled in January by the state's mandatory release law after serving 3 years of two eight-year prison terms. The law required that an offender be released when his time served plus time credited for good behavior equaled his sentence. It was effectively repealed when the 1995 Legislature gave the Board of Pardons and Paroles the power to veto the automatic release of convicts. The new veto power, however, applies only to felons convicted after Sept. 1, 1996. Wilson was charged in June 1992 with possession of crack cocaine, and in July 1993 with indecency with a child. In August 1993, Wilson was sentenced to concurrent eight-year terms in the two cases. He was paroled Jan. 22, 1997.


6:35 PM 4/23/1997

VIEWPOINTS - Letters to the Editor

Transform sadness into action

My heart goes out to the families of Raquel Crouch and Laura Smither. Their pain is not isolated, nor should it be. Every law-abiding adult should feel a great sadness over their losses. This sadness must be transformed into anger and activity. This is not someone else's problem, but everyone's. It may be impossible to completely ensure the safety and well-being of our young people, but as a society, we can make it difficult for those who commit such acts to inflict pain on others in the future. We can press for swift and appropriate justice. We can commit the resources necessary to ensure that there are sufficient facilities to cage those convicted for the entirety of their sentences. And we can work to eliminate early releases and paroles for such predators. Can we really call ourselves a nation dedicated to freedom when our children's safety is just a hope and not a reality? We are all neighbors; we must also all be warriors. We must make a stand and say, "Enough is enough. We will not take this anymore."

David W. Smith, Houston


9:02 PM 4/25/1997

Learn from death, Crouch mourners told

The more than 400 mourners who said goodbye to murder victim Raquel Lanette Crouch on Friday were told that despite their loss, they could triumph over the painful tragedy. "There is no way we can get around the pain of the moment," said the Rev. Robert Johnson. "It's here. Death hurts when lives are cut short. Death hurts when sin is present. "One way we can rob death of its sting is if we learn from this situation. If you learn to appreciate life and the lives around you. We can rob death of its sting if this tragedy urges us to be more compassionate, to not just be concerned with what's going on in our house." Crouch, 20, disappeared after leaving her job at an Astrodome-area Kmart on March 25. Her body was found last Saturday in the 13100 block of Hillcroft in southwest Houston. Kareen Jabbar Wilson, an acquaintance, has been arrested and charged with her murder. During her funeral at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, family, former classmates at Yates High School, friends and community members remembered her as influential, intelligent and a standout. Some who offered brief expressions urged mourners to care better for one another and raise children to respect one another to prevent another tragic situation. And others also called for justice. "I'm angry, I'm sad, I'm confused. I'm angry at our slow response to our pain," said the Rev. Robert Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. "I don't want revenge. I want justice. I want everyone involved to pay the price." Crouch's family wore gold ribbons to remember her, which one family member said symbolized peace. Crouch's daughter, Kelci Wiley, sat near her mother's white casket topped with pink roses. Alma Allen, Crouch's elementary school principal, told the family she had asked Crouch to remember to invite her to her college graduation. Allen remembered her as a student leader. "Raquel was one of the students that stood out," Allen said. "She was sweet and dignified. You lost the potential doctor. You lost a lot. Today is Raquel's graduation day. She graduated and has gone to heaven. She's studying with a master teacher." Charlotte Graves, a former classmate, read a resolution to the family on behalf of Yates' 1995 senior class. Crouch was attending Texas Southern University, where she was a pre-med student. "She was very kind to everyone," Graves said. "We're very hurt. We love her." The Crouch family had exchanged messages of hope and sympathy with Laura Kate Smither's family before the 12-year-old was found slain, and at the funeral, mourners shared the Smithers' loss, too. In the program, Crouch family members asked for comfort for the Smither family.


A Sermon by The Rev'd James W. Nutter

Why do such terrible things happen?
Delivered: April 27, 1997 Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas


5/5/97

VIEWPOINTS - Letters to the Editor

Hold Austin accountable

Where's the accountability? Now that we know why Raquel Crouch and perhaps Laura Kate Smither died (mandatory release, parole and probation laws), where is the accountability of our legislators? Those who voted for the laws allowing early release of criminals should be identified, thrown out of office and thrown in jail themselves. Just as those responsible for exploding vehicle gas tanks, medical malfunctions and tobacco are now being held accountable, so should our legislators. They all belong in jail for the blood on their hands.

M.S. Smith
Houston


8:36 PM 1/21/1998

Slain woman's father thought `this couldn't happen to us'
Witness describes starting the search for Raquel Crouch

The father of a young woman whose remains were found behind a southwest Houston building testified Wednesday that when she disappeared last year, he wasn't worried at first. "I was naive and thought this couldn't happen to us," said John Crouch III, the father of Raquel Crouch, 20. But soon, he said, he became nervous. He took out a $2,500 loan to make fliers and offer a reward to find the former Texas Southern University student. Three weeks after her March 25, 1997, disappearance, her remains were found behind a building in the 13100 block of Hillcroft after a large search party was organized. Convicted sex offender Kareen Jabbar Wilson, 26, is on trial in state District Judge Mary Bacon's court for her slaying. If convicted, he could face life in prison. Wilson, an ex-boyfriend of a friend of Raquel's, served less than four years in prison for indecency with a child and drug possession convictions. Four months after he was paroled, he picked Crouch up at work on March 25 at the Astrodome-area Kmart where she worked. Her body was found one day before the body of 12-year-old Laura Smither was found. Smither was abducted from near her home in Friendswood and her body was later found in a retention pond. No one has been charged in her death. Parents Gay and Bob Smither were at the trial Wednesday to show support for Crouch. Gay Smither said it was hard to sit through the testimony. "It's agonizing," said Smither, who had never been in a courtroom before. "My stomach is in a knot for John." Prosecutor Joe Owmby told the jury that on March 25, Wilson picked up Crouch from the Kmart and took her back to an apartment where he was staying with other people. They went upstairs, and later Wilson called out to his brother to help him with something, Owmby said. A witness in the house allegedly saw Wilson carrying Crouch's body out in a sheet. Owmby said Wilson is accused of strangling Crouch with a pair of pants and hitting her in the head with a blunt object. Owmby said authorities became suspicious when one of the men in the apartment led the search team to the spot where the body was found. That witness, who will testify, implicated Wilson. Wilson's attorney, Wilford Anderson, said his client was not the murderer. He said he expects to prove that another person in the apartment may have killed Crouch. Wilson said he dropped Crouch off that night at a convenience store after an argument. Also testifying Wednesday was Crouch's boyfriend, Reginald English. He said he had planned to propose to Crouch on her birthday in May, "but instead I spent the day at her memorial."


8:34 PM 1/22/1998

Crouch witness is in custody - Recanted testimony brings perjury threat

The state's main witness in the Raquel Crouch murder trial was taken into custody Thursday after he recanted the story he told police about her killing. Less than two hours later, with threats of perjury charges looming, J.P. Outley returned to the stand "to tell the truth" about what he knew. Outley was testifying in the trial of Kareem Wilson, an acquaintance of Crouch and a convicted sex offender. Crouch, 20, was last seen being picked up by Wilson at her job at an Astrodome-area Kmart on March 25. Her remains were found behind an abandoned building in southwest Houston weeks later. After Outley led a search party to Crouch's body, police became suspicious and questioned him. He gave a written statement denying knowledge of the crime, then later gave a videotaped statement incriminating Wilson. Outley said he was at his cousin's apartment March 25 and saw Wilson and Wilson's brother carry what appeared to be a body down the stairs wrapped in a sheet. In the statement and from the stand, he said he went to the abandoned building with the brothers, who removed something from the trunk and dumped it. Outley testified he didn't know the dumped body was that of Crouch, with whom he had grown up. When he first testified Thursday, Outley denied seeing the brothers carrying anything or that a body was dumped. He said he did not remember what happened and just gave police what they wanted, so he wouldn't be charged. His testimony was full of contradictions, outwardly rankling prosecutor Joe Owmby and the victim's family. At the lunch break, Outley was taken into custody on a $50,000 witness bond and state District Judge Mary Bacon appointed him an attorney. Outley will be jailed overnight until the trial ends. After lunch, Outley testified he would tell the truth. Asked by defense attorney Wilford Anderson if the prosecutor had mentioned perjury charges during the recess, Outley said he had. "He testified one way, then he was taken into custody," Anderson said. "People can make their own inference." Asked why he told two different stories from the stand and was so reluctant to testify, Outley said he was worried about the relationship between his family and the Crouch family. He said he was nervous after seeing how Crouch's family looked at him in court.


7:58 PM 1/24/1998

Paroled sex offender convicted in woman's murder

A paroled sex offender was convicted Saturday of beating and strangling a 20-year-old Houston woman in April. The jury deliberated a day and a half before finding Kareem Jabbar Wilson, 26, guilty of murdering Raquel Crouch, a former acquaintance. The former Texas Southern University student was killed in late March after Wilson picked her up from an Astrodome-area Kmart where she worked. Her body was not discovered until three weeks later. The six men and six women returned the verdict about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in state District Judge Mary Bacon's court. They will reconvene Monday to decide Wilson's punishment. He could face life in prison. Wilson's attorney said he will appeal the verdict because the state's main witness changed his story several times and was threatened with charges of perjury. Despite warnings to remain quiet when the verdict was read, Crouch's mother began clapping. She was quickly quieted by Bacon. Moments later outside the courtroom, Crouch's parents shed tears of relief. "Thank God, thank God it's over," cried the victim's father, John Crouch III, while hugging friends and family. After praising homicide investigators, prosecutors and jurors, John Crouch extended thanks to Gay and Bob Smither, the parents of 12-year-old Laura Smither, who was abducted while jogging near home in Friendswood. Laura Smither's body was found in a Pasadena retention pond the day after Raquel Crouch's body was discovered. No one has been charged in the Smither case. Gay Smither was on hand during Wilson's trial to support the Crouch family and was present when the verdict was read Saturday. "Raquel and Laura became one," John Crouch said. "Friendswood please get it together and get Laura's case closed ... Only half was done today." Raquel Crouch's mother, Sharon, said she could not have gotten through the trial without the help of the Smither family. "Their support has been wonderful," Sharon Crouch said. "It has enabled me to keep going and to help other victims of violent crimes." Wilson's attorney, Wilford Anderson, said he was surprised by the jury's decision. "I am shocked," Anderson said. "I didn't think the jury would believe him (J.P. Outley, the state's main witness)." On Thursday Outley was taken into custody after recanting the story he told police about Raquel Crouch's slaying. Within two hours, under threats of perjury charges, Outley returned to the stand "to tell the truth" about what he knew. Anderson said Outley never told the truth to authorities. "He has given five or six different stories," Anderson said. "If it was the truth, there would have been only one story." Outley came under suspicion April 19, the day Crouch's body was found. Police questioned Outley immediately after he led a search party to her body behind an abandoned building near Hillcroft and Dunlap. In a written statement, Outley denied knowing anything about the crime, then later gave a videotaped statement incriminating Wilson. During the taped interview, Outley said he was at his cousin's apartment on March 25, when he saw Wilson and Wilson's brother carrying what appeared to be a body wrapped in a sheet. Outley said he went to the abandoned building with the brothers, who removed something from the trunk and left it there. Outley said he didn't know the dumped body was that of Crouch, with whom he had grown up. Asked why he told differing stories, Outley said he was worried about the relationship between his family and the Crouch family. He said he was nervous after seeing how the Crouch family looked at him in court. Police said Crouch disappeared March 25 after Wilson picked her up from the Kmart. Prosecutor Joe Owmby told the jury that Wilson took Crouch to an apartment, where he was staying with friends. The pair went upstairs and later Wilson called down to his brother to help him with something. Wilson was accused of strangling Crouch with a pair of pants and hitting her on the head with a blunt object. Wilson has maintained he dropped off Crouch at a convenience store that night after they argued. Wilson served less than four years in prison for indecency with a child and drug convictions. He was paroled four months before Crouch's death.


8:09 PM 1/26/1998
Crouch's killer receives life sentence

The paroled sex offender convicted of strangling ex-girlfriend Raquel Crouch with a pair of pants was sentenced Monday to life in prison. The victim's father, John Crouch III, told defendant Kareem Jabbar Wilson after the sentence was pronounced how her loss hurt so many people. Although he is a religious man, he said, he could not forgive Wilson. "I hate your actions for destroying the most precious person in my life," said Crouch, holding the victim's 3-year-old daughter on his lap. "How could you destroy the future of Rachel's daughter?" The defendant stared at Crouch as he spoke but showed no expression. Crouch asked Wilson to find it in his heart to someday explain to the Crouch family why he killed their loved one. The jury in state District Judge Mary Bacon's court took less than two hours to sentence Wilson, who will not be eligible for parole until 2028. Still, the sentence does not heal the Crouch family. "There is no satisfaction here," the father said. "He destroyed a family." On March 25, Crouch, 20, was last seen leaving work at a Kmart and getting into Wilson's car. Her body was found three weeks later behind an abandoned southwest Houston building. Prosecutor Joe Owmby asked for the maximum life sentence, saying Wilson is beyond rehabilitation and the jurors need to send a message that women must be respected. Wilson, 25, served four years in prison for indecency with a child and drug possession.


 

 


     
   
     

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