Betty Frizzell is convinced: her older sister, Vicky Isaac, did not kill Chris Smith in a barrage of gunfire on May 14, 2013.
Her claims recently featured prominently in a 2022 episode of the Netflix documentary series ‘I Am a Killer’ – and while the episode opens with a prison interview with Isaac herself, her statement on camera it is not a declaration of innocence.
“I grabbed a gun and something told me to finish it,” Isaac said in the interview, confessing to the murder. “Chris was sleeping. He was sleeping on the couch when I shot him.”
On Thursday St. Louis airedFrizzell acknowledged the apparent tension between his statement — that Isaac is not a murderer — and what his sister repeatedly stated in the record. Isaac is now serving a life sentence for the murder, but Frizzell claims that his sister is actually claiming credit for a murder she didn’t commit.
The reason? To protect Isaac’s deeply mentally ill adult son, Kenny Smith, who was never considered a serious suspect in the murder, despite threatening to kill both his mother and Chris Smith just days before the murder.
“Vicky was watched because she called 911 and confessed, and she was covered in blood spatter,” Frizzell said. “My sister, you must understand that she is an abused child. She has always been literally our family’s scapegoat. So her idea of the world is very different from most people. She likes to be the protector, she was my protector and she gave me the gift of life that I have now. … We’ll never get her to change her story. You are her worst enemy in this respect.
Frizzell is a former police chief from Winfield, Missouri. On Thursday, he described his efforts to track down Kenny Smith after he went missing on his mother’s sentencing day.
He would later learn that he had somehow obtained a passport. Not only had he missed the court hearing, but he had fled the country entirely. He was in Rome.
Frizzell said his family had already noticed signs Smith’s mental health was deteriorating without medication. He started speaking with an Irish accent and communicated through different names and personalities. He doesn’t know how he got the passport, he just knows that somehow he made his way to Italy, and then to a hospital in Rome, where both of his feet were amputated, presumably due to infections he had developed while lived on the street.
After years of fruitless inquiries and searches, Frizzell learned that his nephew had moved once more, this time settling somewhere in Germany. So, she went there herself to find him and, she hoped, to bring him home.
“The German police had lost it for six months, they couldn’t find it,” he recalled. “I found it in three days.”
Seeing his nephew for the first time in years, he added, “was better than solving any crime I’ve ever solved.” However, she said, “It was heartbreaking to see him in that condition.”
Smith has now returned to the United States, courtesy of German police, Frizzell said. He’s receiving treatment in a mental health facility, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to talk about what happened the day Chris Smith died in 2013.
“We have to be very careful in how we approach him,” Frizzell noted. “Because, for one thing, I don’t want him to be homeless again because we know what happens if he does. And I don’t want her to dive deeper into the pit of despair that lives in his mind.
During Thursday’s show, Frizzell also discussed reactions to the Netflix series about the murder. Along with her interviews with her sister, the series spoke to Chris Smith’s grieving family, as well as former police detectives who worked on the case. Everyone is convinced that the culprit is in prison.
Frizzell is undeterred.
“I think it’s my faith that keeps me sane,” Frizzell said. “I am a truth seeker. This is what we want our police to do. We want them to find out the truth, even if it’s not in our best interests. We need to know the truth and closure for all families involved.”
Frizzell had previously joined St. Louis aired in January of last year to discuss her memoir, “If You Can’t Stop Crying, You Can’t Come Here Anymore,” which chronicled the slaying and her family’s history of abuse, addiction, and mental illness.
“St. Louis on the Air” tells the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The sound engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to [email protected].
Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To learn more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.