Creepy Kristy

Frank W. Kristy

Frank W. Kristy

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.

Betty Hansen

Betty Jean Hansen

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.

20 thoughts on “Creepy Kristy

  1. a picture is worth a 1,000 words,and that is one seriously creepy looking dude,it’s sad that the only person in this twisted Addams Family that seemed to have a modicum of common sense was the youngest one

    • Devlin – Kristy was one of the creepiest perps I’ve ever seen. The youngest daughter was incredible, hard to believe she came from that gene pool. I hope she made a great life for herself in later years.

  2. Wow, if you tried to make it up and present it as a screenplay the execs would say – no way, not realistic! Scary that it was all from real life!

  3. Wow this is a story I’ve never heard! What a stupid woman!! Well I guess both of them were pretty dumb! I do hope Helen ended up with a good life! and no mention of poor Raymond yet!

    • Leigh, there are so many stories that have faded over the years. It’s my mission to bring them back. Raymond seems to have played a very minor role in the family drama. Apparently it came out in court that he was in the house when Frank was molesting Betty, but it isn’t clear if he witnessed anything.

  4. Here’s my issue with what’s written here: the judgment I read about mother Margaret’s actions. How can we assume to know what she was thinking or feeling towards her children and husband, or his actions? Maybe she was afraid for her life and felt the best way to protect herself and her children was to keep Kristy happy at all costs. Maybe she was as completely clueless as the author portrays her. But we can’t know, so why judge her actions, or lack of them? The media from that era always loved to pronounce judgment on women who “made the wrong decision,” blaming them instead of focusing on their awful circumstances and the men who treated them so horribly. Media today still makes subtle judgments of women in this same way. So why continue to blame the victim, rather than focusing blame on the man who acted in such heinous ways to Margaret, Betty and Helen? This only continues to foster the same kind of twisted journalism and victim blaming that occurred in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

    • I don’t judge Margaret, but I do wonder at her behavior and it frankly confounds me. The main reason being that she had only recently returned to the Downey home following a year of living apart from Frank — so she clearly had some resources or assistance. I still don’t understand why, after Frank’s admission of having sex with Betty, Margaret didn’t leave. If you really think I blamed the victim, which in this case was Betty much more so than any of the other family members, then you’ve misread my intent. In the story I made no attempt to conceal my contempt for Frank who was undoubtedly the guilty party — all the members of his family were his victims to a degree. Additionally, I took issue with the coverage in the L.A. Times which characterized Frank’s abuse of Betty as a love affair. That, to me, was an obscenity. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and your obvious empathy for the victims in this case. I’m sorry that you have interpreted my retelling of the story as fostering victim blaming, and I respect your right to express your opinion. That said, I stand by what I’ve written. Best, Joan

      • Just exactly why were Betty and Raymond in foster care before Margaret met and moved in with Frank? Another question is how a woman and man back in those days(1937) got away with shacking- up, as it would’ve been a scandal? Considering these two questions during that time period, leads me to think there was always a problem with the mother, and then there’s psycho- sicko Frank all just waiting to take advantage of an unstable, unwed mother. The poor kids never had a chance.

        • Shirley, it appears that Betty and Raymond were being taken care of by Margaret’s sister. It was fairly simple to get away with shacking up in those days. All the couple had to do was present themselves as husband and wife to be considered a married couple, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would ever have asked to see a marriage license. There are only a few states that continue to recognize such marriages, California is not one of them. I don’t know what Margaret’s personal issues were, but it’s clear that Frank exploited them making her and her children victims of his horrendous behavior.

  5. Regretfully, as an Advocate, I feel like the degree of victim-blaming here is the most frightening part of this story.

    Firstly, I think perhaps the idea of victim blaming is not being understood here. Any time we say, “Well, maybe if she had…”–we are placing responsibility for becoming a victim ON the victim. We are saying that, because of their actions (or perceived lack thereof) they somehow were a party to violence or abuse. And what that really means, is that they somehow deserved it. And what THAT means, is that we can judge and diminish them.

    “If only Margaret had…”
    “Why didn’t Margaret…”
    “And still Margaret…”

    All of these statements place the responsibility for Betty’s death on Margaret. The article even attributes Betty’s death directly to Margaret’s failure to “heed the danger signs.” Maybe you can see, now, how victim blaming exists here. In reality, the responsibility for Betty’s death is with the man that killed her. And no one else. Not even a little bit. Betty’s death is due to Frank murdering her, period.

    Even worse, as you might see from some of the other comments here, victim-blaming fosters negative attitudes towards victims. Here, it encourages the myth that victims of domestic violence are ‘stupid’–that they lack intelligence, or common sense. That they may not even possess maternal instincts. Domestic violence spans class, race, and gender. There is no ideal victim, and no one is immune. It is easy, from the perspective of an outsider, to be unaware of the complex nature of domestic violence, easy to judge and think that we know what we would do in a given circumstance. But there is no way anyone else can understand what these women are going through. To think that, because they have suffered violence, we are entitled to call them stupid–is grotesque.

    I respectfully ask you, before you continue portraying this crime as anyone’s fault but the perpetrator, to consider the disservice it does to every survivor, and the disrespect it shows for victims who have died at the hands of others.

    For those who want to learn more, there are lots of educational materials available through the newly launched NO MORE campaign on this very subject. The campaign is led by well-recognized public figures like Katie Couric and Mariska Hargitay:

    • Frank bought the gun, he used it to terrorize his family and murder Betty, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to prison. There was obviously a consensus on responsibility and guilt in this case and Frank was, rightfully, punished.

      You have characterized my statements about Helen, which are primarily speculative, not declarative, as being those of an insensitive victim-blaming outsider without knowing anything about me. In other words you appear to have judged me.

      I, too, encourage people to arm themselves with knowledge and understanding, not guns, and to settle their disputes with reason not violence. I welcome the passionate beliefs of others, particularly when they foster frank and open discussion. Perhaps the information you’ve provided for the No More campaign will inspire readers to further explore the complex issue of domestic abuse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *