A young Wisconsin woman accused of murdering her alleged sex trafficker has been freed from jail—where she’s spent two years awaiting trial—after community activists raised her $400,000 bail.
Chrystul Kizer, 19, faces life in prison after being charged with arson and first-degree intentional homicide charges for the June 2018 slaying of 34-year-old Randall P. Volar. Authorities allege Kizer, then 17, shot and killed Volar in a premeditated attack.
Activists and several celebrities, however, argue that Kizer—whose case has received renewed attention amid nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police—was only defending herself from the man who had sexually abused her for over a year and forced her into sex trafficking.
“Far too often, survivors of violence—especially Black women and girls—are punished for defending themselves,” the Chicago Community Bond Fund, one of the groups that raised money for the teenager’s release, said in a statement. “Chrystul’s case highlights the urgent need for the criminal legal system to stop prosecuting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
“The police and government systems set up to protect Chrystul failed her. Instead of being given care and support from the beginning, she has been wrongfully incarcerated for nearly two years now for choosing to survive,” the statement added.
After months of raising money, the fund—along with four other community-led groups—on Monday paid Kizer’s $400,000 bail, and she walked out of the Kenosha County Detention Facility carrying two trash bags full of letters from supporters.
Authorities say Kizer was 16 when she posted an advertisement on Backpage.com seeking money for school supplies and snacks. Kizer later told police she had another girl show her how to use the website, which was ultimately shut down by the FBI for being a prostitution forum.
Volar, then 33, was the first to contact her, the teenager said in an 2019 interview with The Washington Post.
For over a year, Volar would give the teenager money and gifts—including a heart-shaped locket and a cellphone—in exchange for sexual acts, she said. Eventually, Kizer said he told her to have sex with other men through the same website where they met, and he drove her to hotels in Milwaukee where she would meet older men in 30-minute intervals. When it was over, Kizer told the Post, she would hand over the money she earned to Volar.
“He told me to get the money first and then to text him once I was finished,” she told the newspaper, adding that she continued because Volar “was a grownup, and I wasn’t.”
Unbeknownst to Kizer, Volar was under investigation by the Kenosha Police Department for sexual misconduct after allegedly abusing multiple underaged Black girls. In February 2018, he was arrested on several charges, including child sexual assault. Released without bail, Volar remained free for three months—even after authorities allegedly discovered he was abusing at least a dozen girls and found he had videotaped some of the assaults, police said.
Kizer told the Post that her boyfriend, suspicious of Volar’s actions and the alleged sex trafficking, bought her a .380 pistol, taught her how to shoot, and insisted she carry the weapon everywhere.
The pistol was still in her bag after a June 4 hearing in a Milwaukee court, where the teenager pleaded guilty to another charge. She told the Post that she and her boyfriend fought after the hearing and she texted Volar, asking if she could come over.
Once at the house, Kizer said Volar ordered pizza and gave her a drug. Once it started to hit her, Volar began to touch her leg and when she resisted, the 34-year-old told her that she owed him.
“I tried to get up, to get away from him but I had tripped, and I fell on the floor, and he had got on top of me,” she told the Post. “And he was trying to like, rip my pants off, my jeans that I had on. … I was, like, wiggling.”
Kizer said she doesn’t remember grabbing the pistol, which she used to shoot Volar twice in the head as he continued to pin her on the floor. But after killing Volar, she said she started to panic—so she set his house on fire and fled in his car.
A few days later, Kizer confessed to authorities. Despite his knowledge of the sexual-misconduct allegations against Volar, District Attorney Michael Graveley charged the teenager, arguing the evidence indicated the slaying was a premeditated plan to steal the 34-year-old’s BMW.
Kizer’s bond was originally set at $1 million, but was lowered to $400,000 in February. During the bond hearing, Graveley argued that Volar was trying to distance himself from the teenager and that minutes before Kizer shot him she downloaded a police-scanner app. The prosecutor, however, has never denied that Volar is guilty of sexually abusing Kizer.
Graveley’s office did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Kizer’s release on bail comes just two weeks after Judge Davik Wilk denied the teenager’s request to have her bail lowered again. At the June 8 hearing, defense attorney Jennifer Bias argued the bail should be lowered to $15,000 to allow Kizer to be released to her mother’s care so she can receive therapy “to address the substantial trauma she has endured over the last several years.”
“Chrystul's case deepens the current calls for justice and the need to keep fighting to transform our society,” the Milwaukee Freedom Fund said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “While the systems designed to hurt our community still exist, bail funds and mutual aid projects are a necessity that we are proud to be a part of.”
A trial date has not been set in Kizer’s case; she is awaiting a decision from an appeals court that will determine if she qualifies for Wisconsin’s affirmative defense law. It would allow her to argue that Volar’s slaying was a direct result of the sex trafficking and abuse she allegedly experienced. Kizer is expected back in court Sept. 11 for a status hearing.
“Even if she’s convicted of a homicide charge that is currently in there, Ms. Kizer at her young age, and with the offenses that Mr. Volar committed against her earlier, she is never a person who will be incarcerated for decades. That’s not going to happen in this case," Graveley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, adding that nobody expects Kizer to serve a life sentence.