By Jeff Balke
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One of Katie's best friends was Lisa Warzeka, whose family was also on the lower end of the Kingwood financial scale. Zeke was the athlete, considered hot stuff on the volleyball court and the lacrosse field. Her ex-Air Force father worked at the airport, and her homemaker mother, who was from Thailand, came to Lisa's games. Kingwood is a place where people still use the word "Oriental" instead of "Asian," and Mrs. Warzeka's English was difficult to understand. Having a mom who was different, friends say, was hard for Lisa. "I think she never found where she fit in," says one pal.
Where Katie was boisterous, with long, thin hair and a Midwestern complexion, Lisa was quiet and dark, with a pretty moon face and snub nose that made her look more petite than she actually was. She was nice to the younger girls on her sports teams but not easy to get to know. She and Katie liked to party, but that wasn't unusual, and most kids could manage to drink at keggers on weekends without straining their performance at school. When news of Lisa's arrest made the front page of the Houston Chronicle, the volleyball coach gave the team a talk about the dangers of making friends with the wrong people.
Lots of folks subscribe to the theory that these girls simply fell in with "the wrong crowd." If that's the case, which of them was "wrong"? Was Krystal, the youngest of the bunch, the corrupter? There's little evidence to suggest that anyone outside the group was influencing the girls, and it would have been unusual if there had been. For all their varying opinions about drugs, kids in Kingwood are unanimous about one thing: Peer pressure is not a factor. If you don't want a drag off the joint, the Kingwood party joke goes, so much the better. More for me.
It might be a good idea, still, to stay away from the wrong people. But in Kingwood, it's difficult to know who the wrong people are. Star football players smoke dope. Cross-country runners sell cocaine on the side. Even Katie, the professional teacher's pet, had been known to pop beans (rohypnol) at school.
The key to being bad is to look like you're not. "If you have the Kingwood physique," says one former Kingwood High student who didn't, "you're sort of invincible."
"This is Kingwood," is the way Kingwood graduate Cary Dukes explains it. "Everyone's got two game faces."
Of the four girls, the only one who people thought looked the least bit capable of robbing stores was Krystal Maddox. A 16-year-old who just finished her sophomore year, she was the youngest, yet Stephens says it was Maddox who played "a very major role in all of these robberies."
Maddox is a living after-school special, a young woman who twisted the conventions and griefs of overprivileged girlhood into a bad-girl caricature. Her father, Kenneth Maddox, was rich, what Kingwood guys call a "baller." The family had a lake house with a pool table, two pinball machines and springer spaniels named Penny and Sage. Ken Maddox loved to hunt, and his arsenal of Weatherby rifles and Berettas was large enough to outfit a small militia of teenage girls, though police won't say where they think the girls got the guns they used in the robberies. (They did find a pellet rifle, which they're not sure was used, in Krystal's mom's garage. They also found a green hooded sweatshirt that fit one witness's description.) On Krystal's 16th birthday in April, her daddy gave her the Firebird she would later use, allegedly, as a getaway car.
Krystal's mom, Shelly, was Maddox's third wife. She had a full-length mink, a Rolex, a diamond-and-sapphire jewelry set and a divorce that required the judge to sign a far-reaching restraining order that applied to both parties. Shelly and her 26-year-old husband now train hunting dogs.
In middle school Krystal was a perfect little Kingwood achiever. She was on student council, in cheerleading and ran track. She and her mother were in the National Charity League, a suburban version of the Junior League. But once Krystal hit high school, she changed radically, possibly because she was rebuffed by the crowd of rich, popular girls she tried to befriend. "She just wanted to be like, 'I don't need you anymore,' " says one classmate.
"She always kind of thought she was a thug or a little gangbanger," says Chris Berriesford, who dated Krystal in ninth grade. "She had a thick layer around her of being bad, but I knew that inside she was really sensitive.I've seen her cry plenty of times."
In tenth grade, Krystal's parents apparently tried to straighten her out by sending her to a Christian school, but it wasn't more than a few weeks before she was back at Kingwood High and spoiling for trouble. She earned herself the nickname Krystal Meth, not because she did speed but because she was so keyed up. She dyed her hair a dark, metallic red and showed everyone her new tongue piercing (kids say she was the first in school to get one). She touched up her thick mask of makeup with fanatic regularity. She picked fights. She boasted about throwing up after meals and reportedly took $100 bills from her mom's bedroom. She hated Kingwood snobs, girls who thought they were better than she was, but she liked Kingwood boys and had crushes just like anyone else. She wore tight shirts and baggy jeans, and she particularly liked one lacy outfit that someone told her made her look like Britney Spears.