They’re calling her the new Cyntoia Brown.
Chrystul Kizer, now 19, appeared in court on murder charges last June after admittedly killing the man who she claims abused her and trafficked her for sex. Authorities said Kizer shot Randy Volar twice in the head before torching his body and speeding off in his BMW.
Now, the teen is facing life behind bars for what she insists was an act of self-defense.
“I didn’t intentionally try to do this,” Kizer told The Washington Post, which did a deep dive in the teen’s troubling case.
The story has largely failed to make national headlines, but has rocked the quiet lakefront town of Kenosha, Wisconsin, to its core. The community, a former factory town, boasts almost 169,000 residents and is sandwiched halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee.
On June 5, 2018, Volar’s neighbors called police to report that his modest, one-story home was up in smoke. Emergency crews arrived to find his charred remains, with visible gunshot wounds to his head.
Kizer, who was just 16 when she met the 33-year-old man, was ultimately charged with arson and first-degree intentional homicide — an offense that carries a mandatory life sentence in Wisconsin. The teen told police she was upset “and tired of Volar touching her,” accusing him of sexually abusing her on multiple occasions and filming it.
And she wasn’t the only one. The Post reported that Volar, 33, was under investigation for child pornography and sex trafficking at the time of his murder. In February 2018, authorities arrested him on charges of child enticement and second-degree assault of a child after uncovering evidence that he had abused several other young African-American girls like Kizer.
Despite all this, the city’s district attorney waited to prosecute the accused sex trafficker, allowing Volar to remain free for three months following his arrest. The night Kizer visited his home, she says Volar tried to force her to have sex and pinned her down when she refused. That’s when she fired.
Under federal law, any child who is bought or sold for sex is a trafficking victim, regardless of circumstance. The Post notes that in most states, sex trafficking victims have the option of what’s called an “affirmative defense,” meaning they can be can acquitted on certain charges if they can prove they committed a crime because they were being trafficked.
Kizer had hoped to use that defense until Dec. 9, when Judge David Wilk ruled that the statute didn’t apply to her and that an affirmative defense was “limited.”
“The court,” Wilk said, “is satisfied that a blanket affirmative defense to all acts leads to an absurd result.”
For many, Kizer’s case echoed that of Cyntoia Brown’s. The Tennessee native was released from prison this past summer after spending 15 behind bars for murdering her alleged abuser.
At 18 years old, Brown was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting a 43-year-old man she says solicited her for sex. Prosecutors painted her as a coldblooded killer, however, Brown and her defenders said she was a victim of sex trafficking.
Her case made national headlines, drawing support from big name celebrities like Rihanna and LeBron James. Her sentence was later commuted by former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on January 7.
“I want [people] to see that I’m so much more than the worst things that I’ve done,” Brown, 31, old NBC’s Lester Holt in her first post-prison interview in October.
Like Brown, prosecutors painted Kizer as a murderer. District Attorney Michael Graveley, whose office ignored the evidence against Volar and instead charged his alleged victim, argued the killing was premeditated and noted how Kizer had livestreamed on Facebook showing off a gun and bragging abut giving her brother a BMW.
“I don’t want to shoot anybody else,” she told her 20-year-old boyfriend.
Kizer’s family has since launched a GoFundMe campaign to aid the teen, who remains in custody at the Kenosha county jail on a $1 million bail. So far, the page has collected just over $5,000.