Crystal Sisto is mom to six kids, and as if that isn’t enough she also fills many, many roles in her position at BLM where her job duties range from auditing and payroll to equipment and crew hire. Crystal works and lives in Venetie, Alaska. In 1997 she was living with George Frese and the young daughter the two had together. They were middle school and high school sweethearts and became parents together at a young age. Needless to say, the events of October 1997 changed the course of her life, and her young daughter’s life forever. Her story is a powerful reminder that the reach of injustice is far. Yet despite the hardship she encountered, Crystal has never lost faith that the justice system will eventually work, and that these men will be exonerated. It is still hard for Crystal to talk about that night and the events that followed, but she has courageously agreed to share her story.
CRYSTAL ON THE EVENTS OF THAT NIGHT
It has been so many years its hard to remember everything. But a few things I know, will never forget, is that George was home at 1:30 am that night. I am sure. Also I know that George would have never done this kind of thing.
Okay, on October 12th. There was a wedding going on and at first we went to check that out, and I went to Cabaret for a bit. George and those guys made a run to the liquor store Patrick Henry went for them and had purchased 2 cases of beer a bottle of Bacardi……there was Vernon, myself, Patrick Henry, Edgar Henry, and George.
Patrick and I went to Cabaret and those guys went to out apartment. Then after a short while Patrick and I went to the apartment. My brother and his now wife were upstairs watching the baby. Those guys were already really drunk when we got there. We sat around at the apartment playing drinking games till my show was over that was around 1:30.
I know it was 1:30 in the morning because my show just ended at 1:30am, so they decided to check out the wedding at the Eagles Hall. It was Patrick, Edgar, George, John, On the way down they were going to stop at a friends that lived in the apartments next to the AK motel on Cushman.
George snuck into cabaret (also known as Elbow Room) and it was about 2:45 or 3 in the morning. He was in there with my mom and dad…he made it home between 3:30 to 4 or so in the morning……he had got a ride to part way and then walked. We sat around and continued to drink and laugh and then Vernon and George went to the bathroom to smoke a cigarette and it was the last one and they started to wrestle and became a little serious and in the end he hurt his foot in the bathroom.
CRYSTAL ON THE EVENTS THE NEXT AFTERNOON
George tried to lay down after a while. When he got up he was in pain and so we decided to go to the ER and I even explained it the nurse when she came in. She said something about downtown, and I told her no, and told her how he hurt his foot and she was like huh….then they took a long time to see him and then we found out she called the cops and said he was involved in the crime……I still can not believe an assumption from an ER employee could nurse would change our lives forever…….
When the police got to the hospital they talked with us for about an hour, and then they turned on the cassette tape. It was crazy the things they were saying, it was just like he was in trouble no matter what he said. Everything that happened there and everything and the way they interrogated him was not right. He gave in because he was drunk and tired and in pain. He just wanted it all to end and go home.
Georges shoes were sooo old the soles had holes in them and the tracks on them were flat and gone. We could not afford shoes for him. He kept his so I could get new ones and he kept his old ones, you could see his sock under his shoes…..there were almost no tracks because we were waiting for dividends to get him new ones. They took those shoes at the hospital. They questioned him for a very long time and then eventually they dropped him back off at the apartment. He told us how scary it had been, that he had agreed to this story they told him, that they were saying Eugene and a whole bunch of others had. He just wanted to get home and felt like there was no choice. It was scary.
You all know what happens after that….well anyways I got a hold of Robert Downes, George’s first lawyer and he told me to write everything down,and this was before they printed the times in the paper and on the news, I had it all down on paper the times and everything the whole layout of the night. Later they posted on the news and papers the times and what had happened, the police said I lied and got it off the papers and the news but that was impossible. I said times before anything was ever in the news.
ON GEORGE’S ARREST
My daughter was having a sleep over when they came to our home with bullet proof vest and guns, they came and surrounded our apartment. and searched everyone in my home patting them all down….it was very humiliating and very discouraging. George was laying down and they were yelling at him to stand up and he had no shoes and they threw him against the wall and he had no shoes on and my baby was holding his legs crying and I fell to the floor thinking I was going to wake up and that this was a dream.
I cried and called my dad and mom and they came trying to explain the truth but they said we would all lie. George was handcuffed and had no shoes on……my daughter was crying and I was lost………and little did I know this was only the beginning…..my father told the officers to put Georges shoes on and he is not leaving without shoes on,so they did as my father said and put his shoes on,then my father said can you uncuff him so he can hug his family good bye..they refused and one cop, I think Officer Sullivan, said “Do it, where is he going to go?”
They uncuffed him and he held our daughter tight and told her to be brave and that daddy loves her, then he came to me we looked at each other and then he said I love you, I promise I will be home soon and I will be back. I cried and we held each other so tight I never wanted to let him go, I was scared and he was all I had in life and he was all I ever knew….
ON GEORGE’S PREVIOUS RECORD
(It would come up, over and over in the papers, that George had a record of domestic violence, and therefore a violent past that indicated he was capable of violent assault).
I just wanted to let you know it is not what you think. George was loving and kind and never did hit me. We argued and I called the police with a story. It was me that had hit him, and that I tried to fix . I was the one but they don’t listen, so he told me to be quiet (I hit him). He never would hit a fly. He was never violent not at all.
ON COPING IN THE DAYS, MONTHS, and YEARS TO FOLLOW
You ask me how this changed me, the whole arrests and trials and him being locked away. I was a drug addict and an alcoholic that wanted to die. I became a cutter and cut myself many times and now I write this thinking how far I have come and thank God for not giving up on me!
It was not easy to move on. It was the hardest part for me, because I would have waited for him till the end of time. He broke it off with me when he realized he was not coming home soon. He said it was the best thing for me and for me to move on. It was like a knife cutting in heart. I did not want to move on – I wanted my life back.
ON SURVIVING AND MOVING ON
I am thankful each and everyday that God sent Jeremiah my way,when I was at the lowest point in my life and just gave up, there he was holding me, a complete mess, promising me everything will be ok and that he would never leave me,and we have been together since………
My life now is good. It was a long recovery and I have my Love who loves me and he had some big shoes to fill, but in the end he understood where I came from and now he helps me. I have 6 kids and a home and a life I love now….I pray for George every day and know someday the truth will reveal itself!
Thank you for hearing my story. Please pray each day that all our prayers be answered…one day my baby and her daddy will be together again……..
– Crystal Sisto
Read George’s timeline HERE and a touching letter from Crystal and George’s daughter, now 17, HERE. You can read about George’s interrogation and transcripts of it HERE. Crystal was watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien that night. Across town a woman watching that same show was able to provide the time of Hartman’s attack. Read about that HERE.
If you or anyone you know has information about other suspects in the Hartman murder, please come forward. You can call the Innocence Project at 907-279-0454 or email them at email@example.com There is a reward that is always growing for information leading to exoneration.
If you were with any of the Fairbanks Four this night, please consider coming forward and sharing your story.