A Chronology of Articles from The
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
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
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
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 3½ 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
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
do such terrible things happen?
Delivered: April 27, 1997 Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston,
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.
8:36 PM 1/21/1998
Slain woman's father thought `this couldn't happen to us'
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
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.