A Texas man has appeared in court charged with the murder of his ex-wife, who disappeared just before Hurricane Harvey made landfall.

Police said Steven McDowell, 44, confessed to strangling Crystal Seratte McDowell, 37, to death in the lounge room of his home on August 25. Their children, aged 5 and 8, were in the next room.

Crystal McDowell, a realtor, had been divorced for three months and was staying with her boyfriend of three weeks, Paul Hargrave, when she went to her ex's house to pick up the children, according to CBS.

Police said Steve McDowell, left, confessed to killing his wife, Crystal McDowell, right. Photo / Supplied
Police said Steve McDowell, left, confessed to killing his wife, Crystal McDowell, right. Photo / Supplied

She was last seen on Hargrave's surveillance footage getting into her black Mercedes Benz. She was reported missing the next day.

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"She had mentioned that she was going to stay at the house, the ex-husband's house, with the kids or, depending on traffic and how weather conditions were, she was going to take them out," Hargrave said.

McDowell told relatives that his ex-wife had texted him saying she planned to go to Dallas with the kids, according to CBS.

Four days later, after Harvey made landfall, Crystal McDowell's car was found in a motel car park about 11km from her house.

Paul Hargrave with his girlfriend Crystal McDowell. Photo / Supplied
Paul Hargrave with his girlfriend Crystal McDowell. Photo / Supplied
McDowell has been charged in the death of his ex-wife. Photo / Supplied
McDowell has been charged in the death of his ex-wife. Photo / Supplied

Detectives said there was "some real possibility" her disappearance was planned to coincide with the hurricane, according to People.

Her body was found two weeks later when police traced her mobile phone to a marsh in Texas.

Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told the Houston Chronicle that they don't yet know the motive in the slaying. He told the Baytown Sun that early indications show McDowell was strangled, but the autopsy report is not yet back.

Steven McDowell is being held on US$500,000 ($690,000) bond. He wept in court on Wednesday (US time).

Crystal had set off from her new boyfriend's place to her ex-husband Steve's Houston home to collect their children. Photo / Supplied
Crystal had set off from her new boyfriend's place to her ex-husband Steve's Houston home to collect their children. Photo / Supplied