On 12th September 1995, Carl and Paulette Everett left their son, McKay Everett, at home to attend an Amway program meeting 10 minutes away. Carl called home occasionally to ensure McKay was alright. About halfway through the meeting, McKay stopped receiving calls. The parents rushed home to an empty house and a ransom call demanding $500,000 for McKay’s safe return. McKay was found dead in Louisiana several days later. 

McKay Everett’s parents pointed to Hilton Crawford as a potential suspect

The Everetts considered Hilton Crawford, a former Sheriff’s deputy, a close family friend. McKay called Crawford ‘Uncle Hilty’; Crawford’s wife and Paulette taught at the same school. 

McKay’s parents pointed to Crawford as a potential suspect because he didn’t attend the Amway program meeting. Crawford had asked for the meeting to introduce new members and even called the Everetts twice on the day of the meeting to confirm Carl and Paulette’s attendance. 

Therefore, his no-show raised eyebrows. The police then learned that a gold Chrysler resembling Crawford’s vehicle was spotted speeding through the neighborhood on the night of the abduction. They traced the car to a storage yard in Jefferson County, where Crawford previously worked as a policeman and Sheriff’s deputy. 

The vehicle’s interior cloth lining was missing. Nevertheless, authorities found traces of McKay’s blood. An analysis of Crawford’s phone records revealed he’d asked friends to provide him with a false alibi. 

Further, the authorities learned that Irene Flores, who’d previously worked with Crawford, made the ransom call. Crawford had a motive: he and his wife had over $300,000 in debt and were looking to purchase a house. The police arrested Crawford after Flores confessed to making the ransom call on his behalf.

“It was believed that the sum was to cover Hilton’s gambling debt and to purchase a new home in the Bentwater area that Hilton and his wife, Connie, had been looking at with a local Conroe realtor,” Paulette told The Courier. “No further call was received as to the location of where to leave the ransom money.”

Crawford revealed where he’d left McKay’s battered body – on the edge of South Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp, 250 miles from his home. McKay had been beaten and shot at least two times with a .45 caliber pistol. 

“Carl and Paulette Everett are deeply grieved,” family lawyer Mike Mayes said. “Their hopes and dreams that they built in their family and their son are no more.”

Carl and Paulette divorced in the aftermath of McKay’s murder

“I lost my greatest prize,” Paulette told My Plainview. “McKay was the most special boy. He was one of my dearest friends. We could talk and share and it was just amazing the level of communication we had.”

Paulette’s life crumbled following McKay’s murder: she divorced Carl, suffered a stroke, and underwent rage therapy. “When I came to from the stroke, I could not speak or walk. I took stock of what I could do. I thought at first I was in a car accident. And then it hit me. It was McKay…,” Paulette said. 

McKay’s mom said therapy helped her to accept the loss and move on. “I had a choice. I couldn’t control what Hilton did, but I had a choice of how to react to it,” Paulette said. 

Paulette and Carl both remarried. They watched as Crawford confessed to kidnapping McKay but denied shooting him. “This case is about the ultimate betrayal,” prosecutor Nancy Neff said on the opening day of Crawford’s capital murder trial. “McKay is dead because Hilton Crawford wanted a half-million dollars.”

Crawford was found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection in 1996. His accomplice, Irene Flores, who made the ransom call, pleaded no contest to a kidnapping charge. District Judge Fred Edwards sentenced her to 25 years in prison. Carl addressed Flores in court:

“Hilton killed McKay. Irene Flores can sit here today and plead no contest to a lesser charge, but she is just as guilty of killing McKay as Hilton. You took an active part in killing a child. You crossed over a boundary that you can never come back from. You are … no good.”

Carl died in April 2011.

Paulette attended Hilton Crawford’s execution but didn’t feel justice was served

Hilton Crawford maintained to his last day that a man named R.L. Remington killed McKay. “It wasn’t me,” Crawford said in a June 2003 interview. “I was guilty for being there and guilty for being involved. What happened wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Crawford said he couldn’t stop McKay’s killing. “These people I was involved with, once it got too far, it was impossible to stop,” Crawford said. Prosecutors brushed off Crawford’s claim, saying R.L. Remington was a fake character. 

Paulette told My Plainview that she’d vowed not to attend Crawford’s execution, despite her approval of the death penalty. McKay’s mother eventually perceived being there for Crawford’s execution as part of her healing process. She explained:

“I realized that I was avoiding part of this process. Even though I don’t like being put in this set of circumstances, the fact is I’m in this set of circumstances and if I run from it, that’s just not good.”

Minutes before his execution, Crawford asked Paulette for forgiveness. “I want to ask Paulette for forgiveness from your heart,” Crawford said (per Chron). “One day, I hope you will. It is a tragedy for my family and your family. I am sorry.”

Crawford’s family wasn’t present, but he said he loved his children and asked a witness to send a yellow rose to his wife. “They [his sons] were the greatest gift from God,” Crawford continued. 

The convicted murderer thanked God for his renewed faith and the years he’d spent on death row: “I have had the opportunity to serve Jesus Christ and I am thankful for the opportunity. May God pass me over to the kingdom’s shore softly and gently. I am ready.”

Crawford was pronounced dead eight minutes after the drugs entered his system. Standing alongside her husband, Wayne Norman, Paulette said she didn’t feel justice had been served. She opined that everyone who withheld information about McKay’s kidnapping deserved punishment. 

“Justice is not complete,” Paulette said. She declined to state whether she’d forgiven Crawford, saying ‘it is God’s job’. 

Paulette heads The Samuel McKay Everett Foundation and has written books about her experience

The Samuel McKay Everett Foundation aims to teach children ‘how to avoid and get out of dangerous situations’. “The greatest thing I can contribute is the story of what happened and hope people can look at me and hear my story and have an awareness,” Paulette told My Plainview

Paulette has also written a book titled Deadly Betrayal: The Kidnapping and Murder of McKay Everett, which covers his kidnapping/murder, the long-term effects of the crime on the family, betrayal, the place of ‘victims’ in the justice process, and justice. 

Tannie Shannon also has a book dubbed Seeds of Villainy: The Hilton Crawford Story, which she wrote following extensive taped interviews with Hilton Crawford. Shannon told Sam Houston State University that she believed Crawford’s story. “I believe that Crawford’s version is indeed the true and accurate account,” Shannon stated. 

Following years of rejecting requests from people wanting to tell McKay’s story, Paulette has opened up to collaborations with producers and book agents. She told The Courier:

“A little over three years ago I prayed. I look back now and call it ‘The Before I Die Prayer.’ I asked God for more opportunities in radio, television, etc. Movie opportunities have surfaced throughout the years, but I declined because I did not have peace with the offers.”

Art Rascon, a former ABC 13 journalist who covered McKay’s case in the 90s, reunited with Paulette to work on a podcast. Rascon showered praise on Paulette, telling The Courier:

“Paulette is amazing. She’s a stalwart and a champion when it comes to keeping McKay’s name alive and moving forward with making sure there are ways to help his death bring improvements to society. For us to be talking about this case 30 years later it is because of her and her keeping McKay’s name alive.” 

Paulette’s social media followers are also proud of her strength and commitment to helping others. “You are so incredibly strong and are helping others in MANY different ways! What a beautiful testimony to make something good out of tragedy! I am very proud to call you my friend!” Carrie M. Butler commented on a Facebook post uploaded by Paulette on 24th May 2023.