For months, Wisconsin police were aware that 34-year-old Randy Volar had hundreds of child porn videos, some of them showing girls who seemed as young as 12. They knew he had his own “home videos” showing him sexually abusing underage black girls—at least 20 recordings featuring about a dozen different girls, according to case files.
Chrystul Kizer was one of those girls.
Chrystul Kizer eventually shot Randy Volar dead.
Now, in a case that could have major ramifications for future sex trafficking victims, Chrystul, now 18, faces up to life in prison for the murder of Volar, who she says attempted to rape her the night she shot him twice in the head and set his home on fire. Earlier this month, a Wisconsin judge ruled the abuse Chrystul says she suffered could not be used as an “affirmative defense” in her murder trial.
As the Washington Post reports in a stunning exploration of the case, “affirmative defense” allows victims “to try to prove in court that their crime occurred because of the abuse they experienced.” If the judge’s ruling stands, Chrystul will get no such opportunity.
“The court,” Judge David P. Wilk said, “is satisfied that a blanket affirmative defense to all acts leads to an absurd result.”
But a deep review of Chrystul’s case reveals that the most absurd part of this objectively horrific case is that Volar could have been free to abuse Chrystul at all.
As the Post reports, Volar was arrested and charged with child enticement, second-degree sexual assault of a child, and using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime on Feb. 22, 2018. Despite the fact that he was suspected of human trafficking and child pornography—and a mountain of evidence, including statements from one of his alleged victims—he never once spent a night in jail. Released the same day, Volar paid no bail and was never summoned to court. It took three months before police forwarded the case to District Attorney Michael Graveley—who never moved to take Volar into custody.
Weeks later, Chrystul would kill Volar in his home. She says he drugged her and attempted to rape her. Gravely says she planned the murder so she could steal his BMW. More than a year later, Chrystul awaits trial in jail—her bond set at $1 million.
Chrystul’s case is reminiscent of Cyntoia Brown’s. At the age of 16, Brown was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who picked her up for sex. But, thus far, it has received a fraction of the attention. The Post report of the case provides a welcome, in-depth accounting of Chrystul’s life before and after the killing, offering necessary context about sex trafficking victims and the ways they are still misunderstood by the public—and the law enforcement officials charged with protecting them.
As reporter Jessica Contrera notes, Chrystul’s case is an example of how sex trafficking victims are “not kidnapped and held captive, not chained and smuggled across borders, but groomed by someone they trust and manipulated into believing they are the ones to blame for the abuse.”
A talented violinist, Chrystul and her siblings were physically abused by her mother’s boyfriend as children. Her mother fled with her children from Gary, Ind., to Milwaukee. As the family struggled to make ends meet, and as the abuse Chrystul suffered as a young girl began manifesting in her own romantic relationships, she posted an ad on Backpage.com saying she needed money for snacks and school supplies. Volar responded.
Instantly, Volar began grooming the then-16-year-old, who claimed she was 19 at first.
From the Post:
Before long, she was seeing Volar every other week. She said he was always complimenting her brown eyes, her colorful wigs, her 104-pound body. He took her on dates and let her order steak. He bought her a heart-shaped locket, got her a phone and let her drive his cars. She didn’t need to post on Backpage.com again; he took her shopping and gave her cash she could share with her sisters, sometimes $500 at a time. She made excuses to Nelson and her mom about where the gifts were coming from.
She knew what Volar expected in return. But she didn’t think it was wrong.
“He was the only friend that I actually had,” she said.
Volar didn’t stop once he found out her real age, and his treatment of her got progressively worse. He fed her acid, she said, and started threatening to kill her if she left. He demanded sexual acts in return for the help he gave her, including bail money after she was caught driving a car her brother reportedly stole (she fled the police once she was pulled over).
He also began selling her to other men, she confessed to the Post.
Volar, she said, sold her through Backpage.com to other people. She said he would post ads, then drive her to hotels in Milwaukee, where men his age or older would spend 30 minutes with her. She gave Volar the money she earned. Sometimes, she said, Volar would arrange for her to meet more than one man in a day.
“He told me to get the money first and then to text him once I was finished,” she said.
When asked why she obeyed Volar, Chrystul’s answer is devastatingly simple: “Because he was a grown-up, and I wasn’t,” she said. “So I listened.”
The allegations that Volar trafficked underage black girls is backed up by his own bank, which called police after his death (unaware that he’d been killed) flagging the fact that Volar had made $1.5 million in transfers over the course of 6 months—a pattern the bank thought might be linked to human trafficking.
Police knew some of this. They knew another girl—a 15-year-old—had come forward about Volar, saying he paid her money for sex since she was 14. “She told police he knew how old she was because when she suggested he find women his own age, he elaborated on why he preferred the bodies of young girls like her,” writes the Post.
But Volar remained free, continuing to abuse Chrystul—and perhaps others—as they investigated the case. Meanwhile, Chrystul never came forward to law enforcement—the police had lost her trust long ago.
“They didn’t help my mom,” she told Contrera.
Chrystul’s mother, Devore Taylor, has set up a GoFundMe so her daughter can post bail. Chrystul, currently represented by public defenders, is appealing Judge Wilk’s ruling.
Corrected Friday, February 17 at 2:11 pm ET: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Kizer’s current age as 17. She was 17 at the time of Volar’s killing, and is 18-years-old now.