Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Crystal Todd Murder Case

The Arrest

The morning of February 18, 1992, was not like any other Monday morning in Horry County.  SLED agents and policemen had gathered together to set a plan in motion to arrest and obtain a confession from Ken Register. They knew it would be difficult. Even though the DNA evidence was conclusive, they needed more to make their case.

The State of South Carolina, Opinion No. 24479 State vs. Register says that law enforcement officers arrived at Ken's job site at 9:30 a.m.. Before they arrested him, he was asked to read and sign the statement he made to SLED on January 13, 1992. After doing so, he was handcuffed and told that he was under arrest for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Crystal Faye Todd. He was then read his Miranda rights, the murder and other warrants. While being transported to the police station, Ken twice asked to see his mother. 

From about 10:20 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. the police extensively questioned Ken Register concerning his whereabouts the night of the homicide. During this interrogation, the police falsely told him that he had been seen with the victim the night she was murdered and that his tires and shoes matched impressions and prints found at the murder scene. The police told him that they had irrefutable DNA evidence against him. They further assured him that the courts and solicitor would be apprised of his cooperation. Nevertheless, Ken told the police that he would not tell them "about it" until he talked with his mother.

Ken Register's parents
Ken Register's parents

he police discontinued the interrogation and went to see Register's mother at her home. She did not return with them to the police station to see her son, but instead wrote the following note: "Ken, I love you. I know where you were at. We know when you left the race track and I know when you got home. I'll stand by you. I love you! Mama." The police returned to the police station at approximately 2:20 p.m. and informed Register they had seen his mother. The police did not give the note to Register, but instead told him she was upset, she said she loved him, and she wanted him to tell them "what happened that night." The police continued to talk with him about his family and girlfriend, which lead to discussing his whereabouts on the night of November 16, 1991. Shortly after 3:00 p.m. on February 18, 1992, Register confessed to the homicide.

In An Hour To Kill,  Ken's motive appeared to be anger. He told police that he and Crystal went to a rural area where they had sex without any protection. He said that when he ejaculated, she was furious with him. She threatened to accuse him of rape if she got pregnant. Her screaming at him made him so angry that he was ready to do anything to stop her, so he took the knife he kept in his car and started to stab her. When he realized what he had done, he dragged her away from his car into a ditch. Then he threw away the knife and drove home.

That same day, police had already searched the Register home, looking for knives, blood, hair and fibers consistent with those found at the crime scene, a set of car keys for a 1991 Celica, fingerprints, letters and writings, as well as newspaper articles concerning Crystal Todd's death. They found a Case knife and a long, camouflage knife with a sheath. They also found the clippings of newspaper articles, a green army blanket with hair and fiber samples, fiber samples from a pair of red socks, a green shirt and two sweaters.

They later returned with a second warrant for a pocketknife box that had gone unnoticed during the first search. This was important because during an interview with SLED after his arrest, Ken provided information about the knife box and its link with Crystal Todd's death.

Johnnie Kenneth Register II was indicted on April 16, 1992, for the murder of Crystal Faye Todd. He learned that the prosecuting attorneys would seek the death sentence. In the meantime, Ken awaited his trial while the attorneys assigned to the case worked feverishly to prepare for the trial.


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