Defense attorneys in the Kayleigh Slusher murder trial rested their cases in Napa County Superior Court Monday, with juries to hear closing statements later this week.
Mervin C. Lernhart, Jr., representing Ryan Scott Warner, rested on Monday morning without calling any witnesses. “Mr. Warner is satisfied with the current state of the evidence and the defense rests,” he told the court.
Moments earlier, Jim McEntee, who is representing Kayleigh’s mother, Sara Lynn Krueger, rested after presenting witnesses over three days of trial.
Krueger, 27, and Warner, 29, are accused of killing Krueger’s 3-year-old daughter in January 2014, in the east Napa apartment that they shared.
Testimony in both cases has been heard simultaneously by two sets of juries in the same courtroom for the past three weeks. The two juries will be hearing closing statements separately this week.
McEntee called five witnesses to the stand last week, including Krueger herself and her father, John Krueger.
During rebuttal on Monday, the prosecution called Dr. Mikel Matto, a psychiatrist based in San Francisco, to the stand as an expert in dissociation, the effects of trauma and intimate partner battering.
Matto, who interviewed Krueger in jail in March and reviewed materials pertaining to the case, was the prosecution’s response to a therapist who testified on behalf of Krueger last week, saying that she had experienced years of trauma, intimate partner battering with both Warner as well as Kayleigh’s father, Jason Slusher, and had experienced a dissociative episode upon finding Kayleigh dead on Jan. 30, 2014.
Matto said that although Krueger described herself as feeling like a “zombie” and her statements made it sound like she had experienced a dissociative episode – meaning she would have been “checked out” or that her actions would have been disconnected to her feelings – she didn’t appear to be having a dissociative episode in any of the surveillance video taken of her in the time after finding Kayleigh dead nor did she seem to be in a dissociative state while being interviewed by Napa Police.
For example, in a video of her and Warner at Target from Jan. 31, 2014, Krueger, who described herself as needing to be led around the store, could be seen walking in front of Warner and even exited the store before him, Matto said. The two purchased ice cream at the store between finding Kayleigh’s body on Jan. 30 and fleeing Napa on Feb. 1.
Krueger was a victim of intimate partner battering during her relationship with Slusher, Matto said, but there was no evidence that Warner was physically abusive to her and it didn’t seem like any emotional abuse by him had lasting effects on her.
Matto said that, according to 27 months of jail mental health records, Krueger still had contact with Slusher while she was in jail and often talked about him with mental health staff. She did not describe a strong emotional attachment to Warner, he said.
Krueger also had accurate portrayals of the sequence of events and details following Kayleigh’s death, which is not consistent with someone suffering traumatic memory loss, he said.
If Krueger had experienced a dissociative episode, there was no available evidence to corroborate it, Matto said.
Napa Police Sgt. Todd Shulman also returned to the stand to discuss details of Sara Krueger’s rape case, which he responded to when she was only 14-years-old.
Krueger said on the stand last week that she had been raped by a 25-year-old and then raped again by a 17-year-old. Shulman told the court that, at the time, Krueger said that the sex with the 17-year-old happened first and was consensual and that only sex with the adult was nonconsensual.
During the afternoon session, Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind played three telephone recordings from Krueger’s time in jail.
In the first one, which was to her father just three days after her arrest, Krueger said that she hadn’t slept for 30 hours until Jan. 30, just 12 hours before finding Kayleigh. On the stand, though, she said she had slept between Jan. 28 and Jan. 29.
Krueger gave this same time-frame during another conversation from jail on Feb. 15, 2014.
Lind suggested through her questioning of Krueger last week that she changed her timeline to make it look like Warner had more time alone with Kayleigh. Krueger denied this.
The third phone call, which was placed on Feb. 13, 2015, illustrated Lind’s point that Krueger could lose her temper easily, contrary to what she testified to previously.
In the phone call, Krueger could be heard yelling and cursing at her mother for not getting a restraining order against Jason Slusher. Krueger’s mother tried to stay calm as her daughter railed into her, calling her “stupid” and “lazy.”
In the same conversation, Krueger complained that the medicine she was on was causing her not to have her period. This upset her because, she said, “One day I might have a child again.”
With the playback of these phone calls, the prosecution rested.
Jurors hearing Krueger’s case are expected back in the courtroom Wednesday morning to receive jury instructions and for closing arguments. Deliberations will follow.
Warner’s jury is expected back in court on Thursday.