Destroyed or missing evidence affecting murder investigation in Newton County

NEWTON - A Newton County family is feeling the direct impact of missing or destroyed evidence in active criminal cases in Newton County.

Sheriff Billy Rowles alleges that former Sheriff Eddie Shannon misled a district judge into signing a motion to destroy evidence in pending criminal cases.

One of those cases was the death of 20-year-old Krystal Hyatt who was found dead on the side of a county road in February 2016.

Janett Craft, Hyatt’s aunt, last heard from the mother of three the day before she died.

Hyatt told Craft and her husband she was planning a move to Huntsville to change her life around for her kids.

"It's still shocking," Craft said recalling the day she discovered Craft was dead.

Craft says that Shannon told her Hyatt died from being outside in the elements. Craft was initially told Hyatt’s car overheated causing a grass fire in Bon Wier.

"We, there's more. Because we had seen her in the casket, she had bruises around her neck," Craft said.

Sheriff Rowles looked back into the case months ago, and it was turned into a murder investigation.

Sheriff Rowles told 12 News on Tuesday a person of interest is being detained in Virginia. An indictment is pending from the Newton County District Attorney.

Craft feels that the work Sheriff Rowles has done contradicts what Shannon told the family in the past.

"I want to know why, Eddie Shannon said what he said because clearly she was murdered, and he's saying ‘no,’" Craft said.

Shannon did not comment on this specific case but issued a statement to 12 News saying:

“It was my honor to have served as the Sheriff of Newton County, Texas from November of 2012 through December 2016. During my time in office, I experienced the best of people as well as, unfortunately, the worst of people.

Now, nearly seven months after having left office, my successor has chosen to conduct a news conference to hurl allegations and conclusions of improprieties attributed to me while I was Sheriff. After defaming me, he then announced he has called upon the Texas Rangers to investigate his conclusions.

I have done nothing unlawful or of a criminal nature, and I welcome any investigation by the Texas Rangers. I, too, would like for them to “get to the bottom of it all.” I will cooperate fully with the Texas Rangers so the truth can be ascertained.  

I am confident any such investigation would also include an inquiry into the timeline of events not only to the end of my term of office but through the date of the allegations made against me by current Sheriff Rowles.  

The property room and evidence left my control and custody of January 1, 2017, and I do not have any knowledge of what may have happened to property and records after that date. I do know what happened while I was Sheriff and I am prepared to provide such information to the Texas Rangers, any Grand Jury, or a court of law.  I will not argue or litigate the allegations in the news."

Meanwhile, Hyatt’s relatives are left waiting for justice.

"She was like a daughter to me, she was fun loving, she would help anybody. Even if it was a stranger, she'd help, she'd give the shirt off her back. And if she couldn't do that she would find a way to help you," Craft said.

The murder investigation is ongoing. The Texas Rangers have been made aware of Sheriff Rowles’ request to investigate the missing evidence.

© 2018 KBMT-TV


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