The Scream

By Ben Kuebrich

Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom at Sam Houston State University. Photo courtesy of SHSU.

Episode eight of the true-crime podcast Ransom: Position of Trust recounts Hilton Crawford’s capital murder trial and additional evidence unveiled there.

The trial proper for Hilton Crawford began on July 8th, 1996. Hilton had been charged with capital murder – a charge reserved for the most heinous killings, which made Hilton eligible for the death penalty.

A Change in Venue

The capital murder trial of Hilton Crawford moved from Montgomery County, Texas to Huntsville because the defense successfully argued that the jury pool would’ve been tainted by all the press coverage around the crime, but AP reporter Mike Graczyk found that decision strange.

“I was surprised that it was moved so close,” said Graczyk. “Huntsville still gets its news primarily from Houston. But it is what it is. And that’s where it was moved.”

The trial was held at Sam Houston State University in an amphitheater in their criminal justice building.

“It’s a beautiful courtroom,” said former Assistant District Attorney Mike Aduddell. “It holds close to 150, maybe 200 people, and it served as a great venue for us. They had a hotel, so we could put our witnesses up when we were moving in and out.”

Mike Aduddell. Courtesy of

“The Rule”

Under normal circumstances Texas witnesses are placed under “The Rule,” meaning that witnesses are sworn in and then are kept sequestered in a separate room where they can’t see the trial, so they can’t be influenced by others’ testimony.

“And they’re instructed that they’re not to talk to anybody about their testimony except lawyers,” said Aduddell. “That’s the way Texas does it. And it’s a great help.”

But the judge, Fred Edwards, decided not to invoke the rule on McKay’s parents Carl and Paulette Everett. He felt they had the right to witness the trial.

“That wasn’t, I didn’t think, a smart move,” said Aduddell, who worried Paulette might do something in anger to jeopardize the trial.

Paulette’s Testimony

Prosecutors wanted Paulette to describe her relationship with the Crawfords. Paulette testified that she’d known Hilton and Connie for decades. How they’d been friends before McKay was born, and how Hilton and Connie had played with McKay when he was just a baby.

14 Q. Do you know Hilton Crawford, Ms. Everett?

15 A. I thought I did.

16 Q. How long have you been acquainted with Hilton

17 Crawford?

18 A. Since the late ’70s, early ’80s.

19 Q. How did you meet Hilton Crawford?

20 A. I taught right across the hallway from his wife,

21 Connie. We taught first grade.

22 Q. Is that when you were teaching at B.B. Rice

23 Elementary?

24 A. Yes.

25 Q. Is that how you then first became acquainted with


1 Connie Crawford?

2 A. Yes.

3 Q. You had said earlier you were teaching before

4 McKay was born and then you quit teaching to stay at

5 home?

6 A. Yes.

7 Q. So you taught with Connie Crawford for some

8 amount of time before the birth of McKay?

9 A. Yes, almost three years.

10 Q. Three years?

11 A. Yes.

12 Q. Did you know her then when you became pregnant

13 with McKay and ultimately had McKay?

14 A. Yes.

15 Q. And through your relationship with Connie

16 Crawford, is that how you met the defendant, Hilton

17 Crawford?

18 A. Yes.

19 Q. When you quit teaching school to stay at home

20 with McKay, did your friendship with the Crawfords

21 continue?

22 A. We would get together once or twice a year to go

23 out to eat.

24 Q. Would you consider Had you considered them to

25 be friends of yours during the course of the years?


1 A. I thought they were. I was mistaken.

2 Q. Were Connie Crawford and Hilton Crawford around

3 when you had McKay?

4 A. Yes.

5 Q. Did they come to see him when he was an infant?

6 A. They held him when he was shortly after he was

7 born.

8 Q. Did Hilton Crawford do that?

9 A. Yes.

10 Q. Did Hilton Crawford know McKay as McKay grew up?

11 A. Yes.

12 Q. What did McKay call Hilton Crawford?

13 A. He called Hilton Uncle Hilty, and he called

14 Connie Aunt Connie.

15 Q. That’s how he referred to them?

16 A. Yes.

Excerpt from the trial transcript.

Paulette said she said she stared directly at Hilton as she testified.

“I was looking at Hilton Crawford and he never looked up my way.” said Paulette. “Nothing.” He was numbed out. And it was just another reminder: he’s emotionally dead.”

Paulette continued on to testify that on the day of the kidnapping, Hilton Crawford had called to confirm that both she and Carl were attending the Amway meeting. And that’s how he’d known McKay would be home alone.

“And you look back on that, and you think, how in the world could you plot something so evil? So just terribly evil. But he did.” said Paulette. “It’s like somebody snuffing out a cigarette, not a human being.”

When Paulette finished testifying, she joined the audience in the courtroom. It was torture to hear about what Hilton had done, but Paulette felt that to move on, she needed to know the whole story.

“There was something inside of me that went, you face this flat tail square on,” said Paulette. “You can only heal from what is real.”

Witnesses Helped Flesh Out Hilton’s Plan

Newspaper reproduction courtesy of the FBI.

And Paulette was disturbed by what she heard. Following Hilton’s arrest, a young man named Seabie Herrin had come forward to the FBI. Seabie said he’d met and befriended Crawford at the Sam Houston Race park. Hilton Crawford told Seabie a similar story to what he’d told Irene: that he was going to fake a kidnapping. Hilton said if Seabie watched the child for a few days, he’d pay him $80,000.

It was testimony that perhaps suggested— at least originally — Hilton had planned to keep McKay alive. It seemed Hilton’s plan was to drop off McKay with Seabie until the ransom was paid, before sending him back on a bus to Houston.

Another witness, however, suggested that Hilton’s plan had eventually turned darker. Billie Joe Cox was one of Hilton’s security guards, and Hilton knew he’d previously worked in the funeral business. Cox testified that in the weeks leading up to the kidnapping Hilton asked him how long it would take before a dead body started smelling in the trunk of a car.

“Had any one of those people call the police and said you know, I’ve got this friend … and he is saying some goofy stuff,” said Paulette. “But they didn’t. They just let it go over the head.”

An Exhausting Ordeal

Recent photo of Paulette. Courtesy of Paulette Everett Norman.

Paulette said that very quickly the trial started to wear her down.

“You don’t go home and have a meal and watch a little TV and go to bed,” said Paulette. “You pace the floor. You do such a mental exercise every day of trying to piece together what the FBI told you, what local police have uncovered.”

But while Paulette was committed to going to the trial and learning all about Hilton’s plot, there was one element of the case that Paulette had already heard enough about — McKay’s final hours in the trunk of Hilton’s car.

“At night I couldn’t sleep because I’d think about what McKay had gone through,” said Paulette. “I told the FBI and the district attorney’s office: Please let me know when y’all are going to talk about McKay’s being in the trunk of the car fighting for his life.”

Paulette told them she didn’t want to be in court when they discussed that aspect of the case.

“Well, they forgot,” said Paulette.

The Scream

On the fourth day of the trial, FBI Agent Lloyd Dias was called to testify about the pry marks he’d noticed on the inside of Hilton’s trunk.

Example of some of the pry marks that investigators found in the trunk of Hilton’s car. Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department.

“I saw the dad sitting there toward the front. I didn’t see the mom,” said Dias. “So I thought she wasn’t in court. I didn’t see her. She was about eight rows up above where he was.”

“I was sitting there … and I was thinking, my mind was going, I think he’s about to talk about that. I think he is, I think he is,” said Paulette. “And he just went off into it.”

Lloyd Dias testified about how the FBI thought that McKay was fighting to pry open the trunk of the car using a tire iron.

“And right when I said that — I’ve never heard anything like this and hadn’t heard anything like it since,” said Dias. “She let out a scream that you would not believe. I mean, it just made your blood just curl.”

To hear more about Paulette’s scream, how it impacted the trial and Hilton’s verdict, listen to Ransom Episode 8 – The Scream:


Ransom: Position of Trust is a nine-part true crime podcast from KSL Podcasts.
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