The daughter of the California man who killed himself at Disneyland last weekend says her father saw suicide as the only way out of his ‘toxic’ relationship with his ‘abusive’ wife.
Chris Christensen, a Huntington Beach elementary school principal and musician, jumped to his death from a parking garage at Disneyland on Saturday night.
The 51-year-old was facing charges of child abuse and endangerment and battery, according to Orange County court records.
In a letter he posted on Facebook before he died, he laid the blame at the feet of his wife and mother of his stepchildren, Marlena, claiming that during an altercation last month her ‘anger got the best of her’ and she called the cops with allegedly false claims of abuse.
Brittany Christensen, 26, revealed her father Chris, 51, had been trying to ‘figure out how to leave’ his allegedly ‘abusive’ wife in the weeks before his suicide
Christensen, an elementary school principal and musician from Huntington Beach, California, on Saturday left a suicide note on Facebook in which he revealed his secret marriage to second wife Marlena (pictured) and blamed her for endangering his career by calling 911 during a heated altercation last month
He wrote that he was ‘on the brink of losing my job’ over the charges, and claimed he was ‘a gentle, kind, loving and sincerely good man has been destroyed by one unfortunate night’
In his final message, Christensen said he planned to spend his last day reaching out to loved ones to tell them how much they mean to him
However, law enforcement believed her enough to put him in jail for two nights, charge him with the two domestic violence-related offenses, and set his bail at $10,000.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, his daughter claimed that it was actually Marlena who was abusive, and accused the divorced mother of tearing apart her family.
Brittany Christensen, 26, is one of the late principal’s three children from his first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1999.
‘The charges were inaccurate. [Marlena] has been very difficult in our family for about the last year, and we haven’t had any contact with her,’ the daughter said.
‘I’d just now started regaining contact with him over the last two weeks, and it’s been really great. He’d been trying to figure out how to leave her.
‘In my opinion, it seems like this, in his mind, was his way out of his relationship.
‘She’s been abusive to our entire family for five years. That’s why we don’t have any contact with her any more,’ Brittany added, claiming Marlena’s story to cops was ‘riddled with lies’.
Speaking to DailyMail.com, daughter Brittany, pictured with her dad in 2018, claimed Marlena’ was actually the ‘abusive’ spouse in the marriage and that she had driven a wedge between Chris and his family
Brittany is one of the late principal’s three children from his first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1999
Brittany accused Marlena of being ‘abusive’ towards her family ‘for five years’ and claimed she even keyed her black Ford (pictured) a few months ago
She shared a text exchange from April in which Marlena branded her a ‘horrible disgusting excuse for a daughter’
Brittany also shared vicious texts Marlena sent her after they had an argument in April.
‘You’re a horrible disgusting excuse for a daughter and sister. Go find your Dad, play the hero. But it’s me he will be missing I the morning,’ the mother-of-two wrote in the April 24 text.
She also claimed that Marlena keyed her car at Brittany’s apartment in Costa Mesa after the argument, in which her father ‘tried to break up’ with his wife.
Brittany filed a police report on the incident, alleging it caused $6,000 of damage, and shared photos of the scratches with DailyMail.com.
‘It was unresolved because she didn’t admit to anything, but we had footage from her doorbell camera leaving the house in the middle of the night and then coming to my apartment (where my dad was staying for the night) and taking his car,’ she claimed.
‘So when we woke up, my dad’s car was gone (parked at Marlena’s house) and my car had been keyed on every panel.
‘Marlena has shown a consistent pattern of manipulation and inappropriate behavior towards my family for some time now.
‘Although my dad mentions in his post that their relationship was ‘great’ up until two weeks ago, their relationship in actuality has been toxic and wearing on both of them,’ she said.
‘The night my car was keyed, my dad tried to break up with Marlena and I was sent messages from her saying I was ‘a horrible and disgusting excuse for a daughter and sister’.
‘To be honest, I never thought I did anything to her but she refused to ever apologize for her words or actions, even when she reacted extremely towards my family.
Chris’s mother Karen, 85, told DailyMail.com she thought it was odd her son did not bring his wife to spend Thanksgiving with them last month and said he had seemed ‘very depressed’ during his visit
Christensen said it was his wife’s choice to call the police during a heated argument that led to him being placed on administrative leave over charges of battery and child endangerment
‘In my opinion, it was a slow chipping away at my dad’s soul for much longer than just two weeks and I wish at this stage she could have left my family alone.’
‘She’s done a lot, personally to my family recently, to myself, to my husband. So there’s a lot going on in this that is very complicated.’
The bereaved daughter added that she believed Marlena’s claims of domestic violence by Chris to police last month were ‘inaccurate’.
‘She put him in a really horrible position that night and painted a picture of him that is inaccurate of his character, and I think it got too much for him,’ Brittany said.
Marlena did not respond to DailyMail.com’s requests for comment.
In a comment posted on Facebook after her husband’s death, Marlena said she was ‘living in a nightmare’ and that he was ‘the love of my life’ – but that the ‘full story’ had not been told.
‘None of you know the full story. I’m living in a nightmare and trying to grieve. Chris was the love of my life and I am crushed at what happened. I didn’t make him do this and it’s not my fault. I am not sick- I just know in my heart what’s true,’ she wrote.
The late principal’s oldest daughter said Chris and his second wife ‘loved each other’ but had a ‘passionate but toxic relationship’.
‘If you look at anyone who knows him, anyone who has been in his life, he’s not a violent man,’ she said.
Brittany claimed Chris’s charges were planned to be reduced to a misdemeanor disturbance of the peace.
Orange County Superior Court documents show his case was dismissed after his death on Monday.
On November 28 the judge had imposed a restraining order on him, ordering him to stay 100 yards away from Marlena, not harass her in any way, and turn in any guns he had to police.
Before his death, Christensen pled not guilty to the charges. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Reply to a comment on Facebook, Marlena denied that she drove her husband to suicide and argued that no one knows ‘the full story’
Above is a copy of Christensen’s domestic violence charges filed in Orange County Superior Court last month. The case was dismissed on Monday following his death
In his final post, Christensen insisted: ‘Never in this exchange did I hit, slap, or hurt Marlena in any manner. Nor did I ever touch the girls (I never have and never will)
In his final Facebook post, the father of three claimed his wife ‘had no intention [of] having that night come this far.’
‘She knows I would never hurt her or the girls and she, too, has been trying to clear my name with little success,’ he added.
The altercation and arrest took place on November 15, according to court documents.
Chris spent thanksgiving at his mother Karen’s home and – to Karen’s surprise – didn’t bring Marlena.
The 85-year-old said her son also kept his marriage to Marlena a secret, only finding out after his death last weekend.
‘He seemed kind of depressed after he served me and my other son the Thanksgiving meal,’ Karen told DailyMail.com.
‘He laid upstairs for an hour or two not saying or doing anything. He seemed very depressed.
‘But I didn’t think he was thinking in terms of killing himself. I just couldn’t believe it.
‘He didn’t offer to bring [Marlena] or include her as part of the meal or anything. I thought that was kind of strange.
Christensen took his own life on Saturday night at the Mickey and Friends multi-story parking lot outside Disneyland in Anaheim while parkgoers gathered for the annual Candlelight Ceremony
General views of the modest California home Chris Christensen shared with his wife
‘When he was swimming here one time a month ago or so, he talked about the fact that he might not bring her back over for swimming again. At that time I didn’t know what it meant exactly.
‘I did not think the relationship with Chris and [Marlena] was the best thing,’ she added. ‘I didn’t think she was the best person for Chris.’
‘He was our youngest son. I thought he’d be outliving all the rest of us. I’m just so upset over it,’ she added.
Chris Christensen, 51, died Saturday after jumping from a parking structure outside of Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Karen revealed Chris was her second son to commit suicide. Her older son Kent, killed himself in 2017 age 57.
Karen’s husband Jim also died in 2020 of natural causes.
Jim was a longtime music director for the Disney theme parks, and oversaw the All-American College Orchestra at Disney World.
Chris, known as ‘Mr. C’ to his students, also worked at Disneyland as a stage manager.
He was principal of Courreges Elementary School for 11 years and had just begun his first year as principal of Newland Elementary School in Huntington Beach.
In a welcome message on Newland’s website posted earlier this year, he referred to Marlena as ‘my lovely fiancé’, and her two daughters as his ‘bonus children’.
But in his ‘final FB post’ uploaded at 8:38pm on Saturday December 3, he revealed his secret marriage.
‘Most of you don’t know this but we privately married 3 ½ years ago. Marlena and I love and adore each other and our relationship has been amazing…up until recently.
‘Unfortunately, two weeks ago she and I got into a heated argument at home in front of the girls. Tempers were flared and strong words were exchanged between us,’ he continued.
Christensen’s father Jim, who died in 2020 aged 84, was music director for Disneyland and Walt Disney World since the 1960s – remembered fondly as ‘a musical legend in the universe of Walt Disney World. He is pictured seated in a wheelchair, surrounded by his family including son Chris in a Facebook photo posted in November 2019
A statement from the school district where Christensen worked read: ‘Mr. Christensen has been a respected leader in FVSD for over 20 years’
Christensen was a principal at the William T. Newland elementary school in Huntington Beach, south California
Christensen was a principal at the William T. Newland elementary school in Huntington Beach, in southern California
He was previously the principal of Courreges Elementary School for 11 years and had just begun his first year as principal of Newland
‘However, never in this exchange did I hit, slap, or hurt Marlena in any manner. Nor did I ever touch the girls (I never have and never will). I love the girls like my own and they know that, as does everyone else who truly knows me.
‘Unfortunately, Marlena’s anger got the best of her that night and she called the police, which landed me in jail that night.’
He wrote that he was ‘on the brink of losing my job’ over the charges, and claimed he was ‘a gentle, kind, loving and sincerely good man has been destroyed by one unfortunate night.’
Brittany told DailyMail.com she hoped her stepmother would cooperate with her side of the family in planning the late principal’s funeral.
‘Her temper always got the best of her and this time there’s no chance for apology or turning back,’ she said.
‘I believe she is in true grief now, as we all are, and the best condolence she can provide me and the rest of our family is cooperation through the funeral.’
Marlena’s ex-husband and father of their two girls – who asked not to be named – told DailyMail.com she had no history of making false claims, and he was also not aware of any previous domestic violence allegations against Chris.
If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or actions, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255)