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Kayleigh Slusher Murder Trial

Sara Lynn Krueger

The day after her 3-year-old daughter was found dead in her east Napa apartment, her mother, Sara Lynn Krueger, admitted to a Napa Police detective that she and her boyfriend, Ryan Scott Warner, were using drugs daily in the days leading up to Kayleigh Slusher’s death.

She didn’t get medical help for Kayleigh, who was displaying symptoms of illness, because she had been using methamphetamine and feared authorities finding out, Krueger said in a video filmed on Feb. 2, 2014.

Footage of her interview was shown to the jurors assigned to her case in Napa County Superior Court on Wednesday morning.

Krueger, 26, and Warner, 29, are being tried for murder with a special allegation of torture as well as child abuse resulting in death. They are being tried simultaneously in the same courtroom, but different juries will be deliberating their cases.

After being taken into an interview room, Krueger is seen putting her head down on the table, her arms folded around it, and beginning to sob loudly. Napa Police Officer Keri Sedgley brings her water and Sgt. Andrew Hess, who was the lead detective on the case, begins to question her.

“We actually found your daughter …” Hess says.

“I know,” Krueger replies, her head still on the table. She mentions something about it being an “accident.” Krueger, whose voice varied in pitch and audibility throughout the interview, tells Hess that Kayleigh had become ill after possibly drinking a mixture of Windex and tobacco that Warner had been using to clean his pipe.

“I thought she had swallowed a little bit of tobacco because she was throwing up,” Krueger says. When she woke up the next afternoon, she found Kayleigh on the bathroom floor. “I thought she was sleeping ... she was dead,” Krueger says, wailing.

“We know Kayleigh’s with God, so how did we get to that point?” asks Hess.

Krueger said that her relationship with Warner was “complicated,” but that he was helping her with Kayleigh.

“She was an angel on Earth,” Krueger said. She also said that Kayleigh was “brilliant” – that she could write her name and the word “yellow.”

Kayleigh and Warner were close, she said.

“She used to ask me all the time if Ryan could be her dad because her dad’s (in prison),” she said.

When Hess asked why she hadn’t called the paramedics on Jan. 29 when she learned Kayleigh may have gotten sick from the mixture, Krueger said that she didn’t want to get in trouble since they had been smoking meth.

“I wanted to call Poison Control,” she said, but was dissuaded when Warner told her that Kayleigh was doing what she needed to do by throwing up.

When she found Kayleigh dead on the afternoon of Jan. 30, Krueger said that she began screaming.

“I wanted to call,” she said. “I wanted to f***ing kill myself.”

Warner told her that she shouldn’t call the police because “they wouldn’t believe us,” Krueger told Hess. In response, she said she told Warner to leave the apartment so he could be gone when she called. He refused to leave, she said.

“I grabbed her and held her,” she said, crying. “I’ll never forget that day … This is the worst nightmare ever and I can’t wake up from it.”

“Sara, you’re not going to,” Hess told her.

Around 1 a.m. on Feb. 1, Krueger said that Warner put Kayleigh’s body in the freezer in order to “preserve evidence.” He was afraid he was going to get in trouble for something he didn’t do, she said. Krueger eventually moved Kayleigh’s body from the freezer and put her into bed.

“I couldn’t let her stay in there,” she said, panting between each word. “I read her a book – ‘Goodnight Moon,’” she said. Around 9:30 a.m., she said, she and Warner left the apartment, got a ride to the bus stop in Vallejo, took BART to San Francisco and just walked around until 1 p.m.

“I looked at him. I said, ‘I don’t want to do this. I’m done,’” Krueger said.

Warner agreed that they should call the police. The plan was to go to Warner’s old elementary school, a “church school,” pray for Kayleigh and get the “pastor or whoever” to help them call the police.

It was closed, though, so they went to the airport and ended up back on BART, she said.

When Hess asked Krueger about the bruising all over Kayleigh’s body, Krueger said that she had fallen off her bike. Hess also asked her if she thought Warner had ever hurt Kayleigh.

“I had my suspicions sometimes but I never saw it,” Krueger said. “I’d confront him but then he’d get pissed off.”

Kayleigh had a black eye one time, which Warner said was from the two of them bumping heads, Krueger told Hess. Warner’s eyebrow was swollen, so she had no reason not to believe him, she said.

Kayleigh missed her dad, Jason Slusher, but never said anything about Warner hurting her, Krueger said.

Krueger said that she started using methamphetamine regularly when Warner moved in, which was six months prior to Kayleigh’s death. They were using it almost daily, she said. It got to the point where when she saw meth, she couldn’t say ‘no’ to it, Krueger said.

But they never used in front of Kayleigh, she said.

“My baby needs, I shouldn’t have been so … I should’ve been braver,” Krueger said.

When the video ended on Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind asked Hess whether or not Krueger had access to her cellphone in the days following Kayleigh’s death. She had, he said.

Surveillance video from the South Napa Marketplace Target and the San Francisco International Airport was shown to Krueger’s jury separately as it had been shown to Warner’s jury on Tuesday afternoon.

By mid-morning, both juries were back in the courtroom to hear testimony by Leslie Severe, an investigator with the Napa County District Attorney’s Office and the DA’s lead investigator on the case.

Severe testified that Krueger had taken Kayleigh to Queen of the Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Room seven times between July 2010 and January 2013. Each time, it seemed that Kayleigh was only suffering from a minor ailment, she said, such as a fever, coughing, diarrhea or rash. Krueger had contacted Kaiser Permanente approximately 11 different times for similar ailments, Severe said.

Text messages from Krueger’s phone records showed that she had told Robin Slusher, Kayeigh’s paternal grandmother, that Kayleigh had been sick in mid-December as well as in mid-January, Severe testified. Krueger’s phone records, however, indicated that she had not contacted any medical professionals during either incident, Severe said.

The week before Kayleigh’s death, Severe, who looked into Krueger’s Internet searches and web browsing history, said that Krueger had looked up things like “Is Vitamin E good for bruises?” and “How to get rid of bruises now?”

On Jan. 25, Severe said, an article about a woman who had been booked on suspicion of child abuse had also been accessed.

On Jan. 31, she added, after Kayleigh’s death, there had been a search on Krueger’s phone on U.S. cities with high populations. That same day, she said, Slusher received a message from Krueger’s phone saying that she couldn’t see Kayleigh that day because they were going to Santa Cruz.

Severe said that that was the last conversation via text between Krueger and Slusher.

Wednesday’s proceedings ended early just before noon. Dr. Joseph Cohen of the Napa County Sheriff’s Coroner Office is expected to testify on Thursday morning. Photos of Kayleigh’s autopsy will be shown.

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Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.