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Friends Forever: The Tragic Friendship of Crystal Faye Todd and Ken Register

Updated on February 6, 2017
Kim Bryan profile image

Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

In 1991, 17 year-old Crystal Faye Todd was living life to its fullest. She was a senior at the Conway, South Carolina high school. Her mother, Bonnie Fay Todd, had given her a brand new 1991 Toyota Celica as an early graduation gift. She was popular, well-liked among her classmates, and her grades were better than average. The only real trouble she’d ever been in was once when she’d wrecked her car after having a few beers with friends and lost her license for a few months as punishment.

Yes, life was good for Crystal. Her future held such promise. It seemed nothing could dampen the spirits of the lively teenager.

Enter Johnnie Kenneth “Ken” Register II, Crystal’s best friend from childhood and “the thing” that would not only damper her spirit, but put it out all together.

Hanging at the Mall

It was Crystal's grandmother's birthday and while she loved the old woman dearly, Crystal loved her grandmother dearly but hanging out with the crowd attending the birthday party wasn’t really where Crystal wanted be. After making a short appearance at the festivities, Crystal excused herself around seven p.m. and kissed her mother good-bye. Bonnie Fay watched as the little car with the personalized license plate reading “C TODD” disappeared out of sight.

Crystal Faye Todd
Crystal Faye Todd | Source

Within minutes after her arrival at the mall, Crystal had found her friends. She excitedly discussed what they should do for the evening.

Around 9 p.m., Crystal and a friend decided to go to a party in the Punchbowl community, where they stayed until 11 o’clock. After her friend off at home, Crystal rushed back to the mall to say goodbye to friends before meeting her midnight curfew.

Midnight, however, would come and go and there would be no sign of Crystal Faye.

Mama Knows

Bonnie was a widow and had spent years parenting alone; she had fine-turned the instincts which come natural to loving mothers. So when Crystal failed to come home by midnight and hadn’t bothered to call and say she would be late, as she always did, Bonnie knew something was terribly wrong.

Bonnie began calling Crystal’s friends to find out if they knew where to find Crystal. The last reports of Crystal were at the Coastal Mall around 11:30 p.m.

By 3 a.m., Bonnie had no where else to turn except police. She dialed 911 and spoke with a dispatcher who took down a description of the missing teenager and her car, along with details such as where Crystal had last been seen and with whom. The dispatcher could tell the mother was horribly upset, and he tried to reassure her late teens weren’t uncommon and Crystal was sure to show up soon. He asked that Bonnie give him a call back when the teen came home, and Bonnie agreed she would.

At 8 a.m., Bonnie Faye frantically called 911 again. Two of Crystal’s friends had reported her car was at Conway Middle School. An officer was dispatched to the location where he was met by the distraught mother, who indicated the car was locked but Crystal’s purse was inside.

There wasn’t much the officer could do other than take a report and, like the dispatcher, try to reassure the worried woman her daughter was probably just out with friends; having too much fun to call or come home.

But Bonnie felt it deep inside. She knew Crystal wasn’t just late in getting home.

Bonnie knew Crystal wasn’t coming home.

Worst Fears Confirmed

On Sunday morning, November 17, 1991, two men were driving just outside of Conway, in the Maple Community, headed out to hunt, when one of them noticed something odd lying in the ditch along the road.

Getting out for a closer inspection, the men realized it was the body of a female. They immediately called for police. A veteran officer would later say it was one of the worst things he’d ever seen.

Some of the first things investigators noticed was the trail of blood running from the roadway to the ditch, footprints, obvious signs of a struggle, and the position of the body which indicated she had been thrown into the ditch.

Authors (the late) Dale Hudson and Billy Hills would describe the scene more graphically in their 2006 book about the case, An Hour to Kill: A True Story of Love, Murder, and Justice in a Small Southern Town.


“The victim had been found with her belt and blue jeans unfastened and pulled down around her hips. Her shirt was pulled open and torn...her bra, was pulled up, exposing her breasts...There was a large amount of blood on her face and a gaping three-to-four-inch opening across the throat area. The victim’s throat had been slashed...There appeared to be several stab and slash wounds in the breast and abdomen area...a ball of inner body portions protruding from her body.

The possibility of a satanic ritual killing was discussed but quickly dismissed. investigators did feel strongly, however, this was a sex-motivated crime.

Investigators went to notify Crystal’s mother, hoping they would reach her before the media or anyone else. When they told Bonnie Faye they were certain it was her daughter, having pulled a senior ring from the girl’s body engraved with her name, the woman broke down into uncontrollable sobs.

While the officers did not give Bonnie specifics about her daughter’s death, they promised her police would work around the clock to find her daughter’s killer.

The widow wasn’t really listening. Her daughter was gone. She wasn’t sure she cared about anything; especially about living.

Tensions Run High

An autopsy proved the suspected brutality of Crystal’s death and also disclosed she had been raped. Bonnie Fay, by this time starting to regain control and building on the anger from her grief, told the Horry Independent she was certain Crystal’s killer was someone she knew.

The Chief of Police would later confirm his investigators also believed that Crystal knew her killer. After speaking with many of Crystal’s friends, they knew she was not the type to get into a car with someone she did not know.

Bonnie was growing impatient with police. She knew they were working hard, but she wanted her daughter’s killer found now! It helped tremendously she had so much support from Crystal’s friends, especially one in particular who had been Crystal’s best friend: Ken Register.

Ken and Crystal had grown up together and, even as adulthood loomed on the horizon, they had remained close. While Bonnie may not have liked all of Crystal’s friends, she was very fond of Ken. He was a good boy, from a good family; a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and a member of the high school football team. He had graduated at the end of the 1991 term and was now working a full-time construction job in nearby Garden City Beach, South Carolina.

Ken had been one of the first of Crystal’s friends interviewed and he willingly provided police with samples for DNA testing. While Ken’s and other's samples were sitting among the backlogged State Crime Lab, Ken stayed in close touch with Bonnie, frequently being a shoulder to cry and rant on. Bonnie was thankful for Ken. He had been such a wonderful source of support during this difficult time.

For all their efforts, however, detectives did not have a suspect. They had worked sixteen hour days nonstop since the murder, gathered numerous pieces of evidence, and interviewed over 400 persons, but continued to come up empty-handed.

A Killer Revealed

On February 15, 1991, the Conway police department received a call from the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED); they had matched DNA and semen samples taken from Crystal’s body to a sample taken by detectives. The man police was looking for was Ken Register.

After several hours of interrogations, Ken finally broke down and confessed to the crime. He told investigators on the night Crystal died, they had unprotected consensual sex. Ken said when he had ejaculated inside her, Crystal was furious and threatened to cry rape if she became pregnant. Ken said he became outraged at Crystal’s screaming and insults and, before he realized what he was doing, he was stabbing her. Ken told investigators when he came to his senses and realized what he’d done, he panicked. He pulled Crystal from his car, tossed her into the ditch, threw away the knife, and hurried home.

A subsequent search of the Register home, where Ken still lived with his parents, recovered, among other things, Crystal’s car keys and newspaper clippings about Crystal’s murder.

When detectives went to Bonnie Fay’s home to tell her of the arrest and confession, she was stunned. Although she recalled Ken had been apprehensive about the DNA samples he had given to police, Bonnie said she told Ken several times, “Ken, you don’t have to worry about your blood samples. You didn’t do it.”

Bonnie came to realize what too many families had already learned: sometimes the killer is the one closest to us.

A Sexual Predator Stopped?

After Register’s arrest, it was discovered he had been arrested in September 1991 for exposing himself to a couple of teenage girls after asking them for directions. The charges were still pending when he was arrested for Crystal’s murder.

Ken Register
Ken Register | Source

Since most sex criminals (rapists and serial killers) typically begin with indecent exposure and later escalate to serial raping or killing, there’s a very good chance a future habitual sexual offender was stopped before he could accumulate multiple victims.

It was no consolation to Bonnie Fay, but Crystal’s death may have saved the lives of many other young women.

Bye Bye, Kenny-boy!

In September 1992, Register was tried on the indecent exposure charges. It only took jurors two hours to return a verdict of guilty.

Following in January 1993, jurors returned a verdict of guilt on sexual misconduct, kidnapping, and torture after only 75 minutes of deliberations.

Ken Register was sentenced to life in prison. He is presently incarcerated at the Broad River Prison in Columbia, South Carolina, and will be eligible for parole in February 2022. If Register should ever be released, he will be required to register with the Sex Offender Registry.

Where Are They Now?

  • Bonnie Fay Todd passed away at the age of 79 on September 3, 2014. She is buried next to her daughter in the High Point Baptist Church cemetery in Conway.

© 2016 Kim Bryan


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    • Buddy678 profile image

      Buddy678 5 weeks ago




      By William Blum – Published February 2013

      [The United States routinely interferes with elections of dozens of other nations and even “installs” political leaders through various CIA operations, including CIA-led coups and assassinations of foreign leaders].

      Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government)

      •China 1949 to early 1960s

      •Albania 1949-53

      •East Germany 1950s

      •Iran 1953 *

      •Guatemala 1954 *

      •Costa Rica mid-1950s

      •Syria 1956-7

      •Egypt 1957

      •Indonesia 1957-8

      •British Guiana 1953-64 *

      •Iraq 1963 *

      •North Vietnam 1945-73

      •Cambodia 1955-70 *

      •Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *

      •Ecuador 1960-63 *

      •Congo 1960 *

      •France 1965

      •Brazil 1962-64 *

      •Dominican Republic 1963 *

      •Cuba 1959 to present

      •Bolivia 1964 *

      •Indonesia 1965 *

      •Ghana 1966 *

      •Chile 1964-73 *

      •Greece 1967 *

      •Costa Rica 1970-71

      •Bolivia 1971 *

      •Australia 1973-75 *

      •Angola 1975, 1980s

      •Zaire 1975

      •Portugal 1974-76 *

      •Jamaica 1976-80 *

      •Seychelles 1979-81

      •Chad 1981-82 *

      •Grenada 1983 *

      •South Yemen 1982-84

      •Suriname 1982-84

      •Fiji 1987 *

      •Libya 1980s

      •Nicaragua 1981-90 *

      •Panama 1989 *

      •Bulgaria 1990 *

      •Albania 1991 *

      •Iraq 1991

      •Afghanistan 1980s *

      •Somalia 1993

      •Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *

      •Ecuador 2000 *

      •Afghanistan 2001 *

      •Venezuela 2002 *

      •Iraq 2003 *

      •Haiti 2004 *

      •Somalia 2007 to present

      •Honduras 2009

      •Libya 2011 *

      •Syria 2012

      •Ukraine 2014 *

      AFGHANISTAN 2017*

      Unless Americans study, THE CIA AS ORGANIZED CRIME and THE PHOENIX PROGRAM, by Douglas Valentine, they will continue to live in La La Land!

      Start in chapter 13 of THE CIA AS ORGANIZED CRIME! This will show you what the CIA is doing TODAY and then you can go back and start reading the rest of the book.

      The CIA is the greatest Terrorist Organization, in the world!

    • profile image

      Ray 2 months ago

      If they let this young man out he will kill again, I've read where he exposed himself to 2 young women on the Coastal Carolina campus, and made threating phones of a sexual nature to another woman, and had a fascination with pornography all before he acted out his fantasies on the young victim. This is a very dangerous individual who will explode on someone else, he should be kept away from society. What makes him so dangerous is that he comes off normal but he is what we know today as a Psychopath

    • profile image

      Deena 2 months ago

      Sorry but there are several untrue statements in this. Not that it really matters, but Crystal's car keys were never recovered. This was a terrible time in our lives. You failed to mention that we were in and out of the court rooms year after year following his conviction until he ran out of options. I have never seen a poor woman suffer as much as Bonnie Todd did - year after lonely year. This was her only daughter whom she had later in life at (I believe) 38 or 39. She wanted a child all of her life, had one later in life, and had the crushing blow of her daughter being snatched away from her and murdered at the tender age of 17. This community was almost like the civil war. There was our family, his family, and the general public. Some thought he was guilty - some did not. I thought Bonnie said it quite well one day when we were sitting again in a court room for the upteenth time where he was trying to get an appeal. She said that as well as we liked Ken the police had the evidence and have proven to us that he was the killer. She nor I could believe that other people didn't believe the evidence. But,I believe this trial may have been the first or one of the first cases tried with DNA. Bonnie's words were --"He has already murdered my daughter and I will never get her back. Why do some people defend him?" She as well as the rest of the family thought he deserved the death penalty. The jurors spared him because he was only 18. Expert witnesses stated at the trial that they thought he was a serial killer and probably had been caught in "first blood of a human". Bonnie also stated that, " I have nothing to lose now but I will try to keep him in prison where he can't hurt anyone else's child?" When Bonnie passed I could only envision the reunion she was having with her daughter at Heaven's Gates. / Deena

    • Wilma Henry profile image

      Wilma Henry 19 months ago from Kentucky

      It's scary to think of this murderer being released from prison! I don't understand why he didn't get life with no chance of parole for such a horrendous crime.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 21 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Another psychotic sexual deviant/psychotic killer who appeared to be anything but. A good kid, good family, student, athlete, "friend" & hard-working young man? Guess not.

      This kid was an explosion waiting to happen and no one knew nor would even have imagined.

      Hard to accept that he's "eligible" in only 6 more years. We can only hope the Parole Board in S, Carolina is a panel of rational, responsible & moral individuals who will not consider giving this monster freedom under any conditions whatsoever.