McKay Everett called him Uncle Hilty. He was a neighbor to the Everett family and a friend of McKay and his parents. During his life, Hilton Crawford was identified by many names. He was a police officer in Beaumont, Texas for three years, a deputy in Jefferson County, Texas for fifteen, and a candidate for sheriff there when he ran against his boss, Sheriff Dick Culbertson in the 1970’s. He was also called business owner because he later owned a security guard services company. But what he would eventually be best known for and put to death as a result of, was the title murderer. He brutally took the life of his young friend and neighbor, Samuel McKay Everett. During his trial, he was also identified as a man engaged in fraud and murder for hire, all in the pursuit of more money.
As early as 1976, when he was campaigning for Sheriff, rumors swirled that Crawford’s campaign was financed by the Mafia. But he struck back, raising allegations against his opponent. It turned out to be a particularly nasty campaign in which he accused Culbertson and Beaumont Police Chief Willie Bauer of spreading rumors of Mafia connections in an effort to defeat him. He spent more money than any other candidate in Jefferson County that year, but Dick Culbertson remained sheriff then and for many years after.
By the 1990’s, Crawford and his family were living in Montgomery County, Texas. He had owned a security business which failed and left him without enough money to live as he was accustomed. He began working for another security guard company. But his lifestyle needed a large infusion of cash. It was then, apparently after attempting the less violent crime of fraud and the more serious attempt to hire another murderer, that Crawford himself kidnapped and murdered McKay.
After his conviction for kidnapping and murdering young McKay Everett, witnesses testified during the sentencing phase of the trial that he had tried to hire a hit man to kill a business associate. An insurance investigator testified that Crawford also staged a theft of his own property in order to get a settlement.
Finally, his demented mind struck upon the idea of kidnapping his friends’ son and collecting a ransom. Crawford enlisted a female accomplice to make the ransom demands. Next he set up a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Everett to get them out of the house, never intending to be at the meeting himself, because he would be at their home kidnapping their young son. When McKay answered the door, he could never have believed his Uncle Hilty would commit the vicious acts that led to the boy’s death.
Crawford hit the boy over the head, stuffed him in the trunk of his car and drove away. One might have thought that a crook with eighteen years of experience in law enforcement would have a reasonably well-conceived plan for his heinous crime. But not Hilton Crawford. First, he didn’t show up for the meeting he’d arranged with the child’s parents, no doubt casting immediate suspicion his way. Next, he drove to the victim’s home in his own car which was observed by neighbors. Finally, at the first sign that his plan wouldn’t work, he murdered his victim, although that may have been the plan from the beginning, since McKay would certainly recognize him as the abductor.
It must have been surprising that night, after his accomplice Irene Flores called the father demanding a ransom, that his phone rang and it was his friend, McKay Everett’s father. He knew Hilton Crawford had experience in law enforcement. After calling 911 and his wife, Mr. Everett’s next call was to, unbeknownst to him, the murderer, to ask Crawford’s assistance in finding McKay. Hilton Crawford’s trip to the death chamber was made certain once he learned that his keystone kops kidnapping caper had failed miserably.
So the former cop was arrested and in hours had confessed to the kidnapping and divulged the location of the body. He continued to maintain, however, even as the death cocktail seeped into his veins, that a mysterious man by the name of R.L. Remington had actually killed McKay Everett. Most believe that Remington was a figment of Crawford’s imagination. McKay’s mother said she believed it represented the pistol her former neighbor and friend used to murder her son. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
Like many death row inmates, Hilton Crawford found Jesus as he waited for his sentence to be carried out. He was simply known by other death row inmates as “old man” and when executed, he was the second oldest inmate to have died in Texas’ death house.
As he lay on the gurney, Crawford asked McKay’s mother, who was there to witness his execution, to forgive him and said he’d had a wonderful opportunity to serve Jesus while on death row. She responded to reporters later that forgiveness was God’s job, bringing to mind that maybe Crawford had finally had a bit of good luck, finding Jesus on death row and all.
Had Hilton Crawford pursued his religious reformation earlier in life, or have just practiced common decency, this story might well have been about the success of the man who McKay Everett might have become. We’ll never know, but knowing of Hilton Crawford, we know for sure that evil exists in places we least expect.