SMITHLAND, Ky. — Five-year-old Ethan Frensley begged Kevin Dunlap to set him free to be with his mother moments before his killer dragged Kristy Frensley’s three children away, murdering them in separate rooms of her home.
That’s what the lone survivor of the 2008 attack told a crowded courtroom Friday afternoon in Livingston County. Kristy Frensley, recounting that day to teary-eyed jurors and family members, testified for more than an hour, sitting 15 feet from the man who admitted last week to slaying her children.
“Ethan started crying he wanted his mommy,” she said, “and he kept asking the man, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this to my mommy? I love my mommy. Why are you hurting her? Are you going to hurt me?’”
The next time she saw her son was after Dunlap had left them all for dead and set the house on fire.
Frensley remained calm for the majority of her testimony, except when recalling details about the last time she saw her children alive. She became so emotional Commonwealth’s Attorney G.L. Ovey called for a recess.
As jurors left the room, one looked out and watched family members crying and consoling one another in the first row.
Dunlap, who rarely lifted his attention from the table in front of him since the trial began, frequently watched Ovey and Frensley during questioning. The only time Frensley acknowledged Dunlap was when Ovey asked her to identify the man who killed her children.
Frensley said Dunlap stopped by the Roaring Spring home earlier that day, asking to see the house, which was for sale.
Once inside, Frensley said he remained silent as she gave him a tour of her home. While she was showing him the bathroom, he grabbed her around the neck. She said he held a gun to her temple, but she never saw one. He then forced her into her son’s bedroom.
Her children were not yet home from school.
“He pushed my face down on the bed, he put my hands behind my back and put zip ties on my wrists and put zip ties on my ankles,” Frensley said.
He led her from Ethan’s bedroom into her own.
After forcing her to sit up on her bed, hands and legs still bound, Dunlap asked Frensley if there were any guns in the house.
“He wanted to smoke a cigarette, and he put a cigarette in my mouth, and I told him ‘I can’t smoke a cigarette without a drink of tea, Coke, I have to have something.’”
“He lit my cigarette and I believe it was at that time he made me take a drink of something in a brown bag.”
Police would later find a Crown Royal whiskey bottle in a brown paper bag in Dunlap’s garbage can. Both items tested positive for Kristy Frensley’s DNA.
Dunlap paced incessantly down the hallway, she said, opening and closing windows throughout the house.
Frensley said she lied about when Ethan and his sisters – Kortney McBurney-Frensley, 14, and Kayla Williams, 17 – would be home, and Dunlap became irritated when they weren’t there by 3:45 p.m.
“I asked him the first time, I asked him if he would just do whatever he was going to do and leave before the kids got home, and he told me to ‘shut up.’
“Then I asked him if he would let me go to the door and tell the kids to go to the neighbor’s house and I’d be over to get them in a few minutes and he told me ‘no’ and to ‘shut up.’”
When the children got home, he forced them to lie on their stomachs and bound their hands behind their backs, Frensley said. Then he took them out of the room one by one.
Frensley could no longer fight back tears when she began to tell how Ethan wanted to give her a hug before Dunlap took him into another room.
After Dunlap took her children away, he came back to Kristy’s bedroom.
“He closed the door, and he told me it was going to be either me or my daughter. … He was going to rape either me or my daughter.”
She told him to take her.
He raped her and tried to wash away evidence by cleaning her in the bathtub, then Dunlap took Frensley back to her bedroom and told her he was going to have to ‘put her out.’
He then tried to kill her. When choking her didn’t work, he tried to snap her neck. When that failed, he threw her on the bed and tried to smother her. Then he brought out a knife.
“He started cutting my neck,” Frensley said.
She showed jurors four areas on her neck where she still bears scars from the attack. He then stabbed her in the left ear and twice in the lower back.
Dunlap only left after she fooled him into believing she was dead.
When he was gone, Frensley peeked out from the blanket Dunlap had draped over her body. She saw Ethan across the hall in his room.
“He was laying on a pile of pillows, and it looked like he was sleeping,” she said.
Frensley said she’d intended on pulling her son from the burning home until she realized she couldn’t feel her legs. She rolled off the bed to the French doors, which led to the pool deck.
Once outside, Frensley said, embers from the house fell on her body, burning her skin and catching her hair on fire.
“I just kept rolling toward the pool, and I could hear people in the yard toward the other side, and I knew my kids were going to be safe then. I knew they would get them out.”
JULIA HUNTER can be reached at 270-887-3262 or email@example.com.
KEVIN HOFFMAN can be reached at 270-887-3240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.