If You Care About Cyntoia Brown, You Should Know Chrystul Kizer's Name

Photo: Courtesy of Kenosha County Sheriff's Office.
The first reports of the murder were breathless and scandalized: In the early morning hours of June 5, 2018, Randall P. Volar III, a 34-year-old man from Kenosha, Wisconsin was shot and killed, his home set ablaze. The culprit? A 17-year-old Milwaukee girl named Crystul Kizer who'd allegedly snapped a selfie of herself in the murdered man's home, and posted it on social media, bragging about shooting a "white dude."
Kizer was charged with first degree murder, arson, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Her bail was set at $1 million.
But the story that made for good headlines —the out of control teen killing a man and taking joyrides in his BMW — would turn out to be a lot more complicated.
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In October, Kizer's public defenders introduced a motion that would require the state to turn over evidence that, at the time of his killing, Volar was under active investigation by the Kenosha Police Department for sexual conduct with underage girls.
“The defense believes that the discovery in this case suggests that Ms. Kizer acted in self-defense. Mr. Volar, a 34-year-old man, was engaged in the ongoing sexual and physical abuse of Ms. Kizer, then a 17-year-old girl, and several other girls whose identities are currently unknown to the defense," reads the statement presented to Judge David Wilk.
Kizer's attorneys contend that Volar transported her from Milwaukee to engage in sexual contact with her. When she resisted, they struggled, and Kizer shot him. Kizer's boyfriend previously told detectives that he'd given his girlfriend a handgun because she was “tired of the dude touching on her."
The complaint further states that while under investigation, in the months before his murder, Kenosha police had evidence "that Mr. Volar was producing child pornography" and that "the Kenosha Police had been alerted by TCF Bank, a financial institution utilized by Mr. Volar, that Mr. Volar’s account had been flagged under suspicion of being involved in human or sex trafficking.”
Kizer's attorney, Carl Johnson, declined to comment on her case to Refinery29 but did confirm that she is next set to appear in court on January 10, where a decision may be made about whether or not the evidence from the investigation will be released to the defense.
In the meantime, Kizer's story has drawn parallels to the Cyntoia Brown case. Brown, a victim of childhood sex trafficking, shot and killed a man who'd purchased her for sex when she was 16 years old. She was charged as an adult and sentenced to to two concurrent life sentences. The mitigating factors of her case – her age, her neurodevelopmental disorder, and the entrenched bias against women of color in the justice system – attracted celebrity attention to Brown's case.
On Tuesday, Brown was granted clemency by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. She will be released from prison in August after serving 15 years for her crime.
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