When a man has his twenty year old stepdaughter’s name tattooed on his shoulder warning bells should go off, lights should flash and everyone should get as far away from him as possible because nothing good is going to happen. Unfortunately, Margaret Kristy didn’t heed the danger signs when her common-law husband Frank got a tattoo that read “Betty”, and as a result she lost her eldest daughter forever.
In 1937 Margaret Frances Thomas began living with Frank Walter Kristy (Krystopik) as husband and wife. Margaret had two young children, Betty and Raymond, who were living in foster care when, in December 1937, she gave birth to Frank’s child, a daughter they named Helen.
Sometime in 1940 or 1941, Betty and Raymond came to join the Kristy family in their small home in Downey. For the next several years the family continued to live together until April, 1950, when Frank told Margaret to get out. It isn’t clear why she complied with his demand, and it is especially troubling that she didn’t take her children with her — although her youngest, Helen, joined her a few months later.
During the year that she was away from the home Margaret didn’t see Betty or Raymond, although she occasionally spoke with Betty on the telephone.
In June, 1951, Frank and Betty asked Margaret to return to the family home, which she did on June 15, 1951. About one week prior to her return she spoke to Betty who said that Frank “had things to do” with her. The implication was that Frank had been having sexual intercourse with his twenty year old stepdaughter.
Just having that information should have been enough for Margaret to take Betty, Helen and Raymond and flee from the house to safety, but inexplicably she did not. Instead she moved back in and fought with Frank over how to spend her paycheck. During the argument Frank told her:
“Well, …I’ll tell you now, … I have screwed her, … I intend to screw her as long as she is in this house.”
Still, Margaret and the kids stayed, even after Frank threatened:
“If Betty leaves this house I’ll kill her.”
It is a mystery to me why Margaret stayed with Frank after he’d admitted having sex with Betty; and it is utterly mind boggling that on June 23, 1951 Margaret invited Frank to accompany her and the kids to a square dance! She and the kids should have been in another city or state by then starting new lives — but there they were, with Frank in the little house on Cheyenne Avenue. Frank told Margaret he had to make a phone call before he could commit to going out to a dance. Margaret decided to listen in on his conversation and she heard him say:
“Well, my son likes to shoot too.”
It was obvious that Frank was shopping for a gun — and yet Margaret and the kids remained in the house.
For the next few nights Frank drank and then threatened Margaret and Betty with violence; one night he even told Betty that she did not have long to live.
On July 3rd Frank announced to the family that he was going to make it a “real Fourth of July”, but not with firecrackers. Margaret asked him what he meant by that, and he told her that he was going to kill Betty on that day.
The only one who seemed to have any kind of a grasp on the seriousness of the situation, or any notion about what to do, was the youngest daughter, Helen. After a night of watching her father drink and get increasingly sullen, Helen went into the kitchen and then returned to the back porch to face Frank. She was hiding something behind her. Frank asked her a few times what she had in her hands, the girl finally said:
“Well, Daddy, … I have got a butcher knife. If you dare lay your hands on Betty, … I’ll cut your throat from ear to ear.”
Frank’s reaction to Helen’s threat was to blame Margaret for turning the children against him. However, he had a solution for the alienation of affection problem. He told Margaret:
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to do away with the whole family.”
On the morning of July 4th, Margaret discovered that both telephone wires in the house had been cut. If, at that point, Margaret had grabbed the kids and the car keys and driven away things may have ended differently.
The 4th of July passed without further incident.
The next day Margaret was altering a bathing suit for Helen so that she and the kids could go to Long Beach for a swim. She heard Frank come into the room and saw him pull a gun out of his shirt. He said:
“You didn’t think I had a gun, did you?”
Margaret begged him not to do anything drastic. Drastic?? He’d repeatedly threatened her life, he’d admitted to sexually molesting Betty, and suddenly Margaret was advising him not to do anything drastic.
Frank leveled his weapon at Betty and, to her credit, Margaret jumped in front of her daughter to protect her — but her maternal instinct had kicked in far too late.
NEXT TIME: Frank Kristy’s one man crime wave continues.