The Kayleigh Slusher murder trial entered its second week in Napa County Superior Court Monday with jurors being shown more graphic photos of the 3-year-old girl who was found dead in her mother’s apartment in January 2014.
Neither defendant looked at the other as jurors were presented a photo of Kayleigh dead in her princess bed. Compared to last week when this photo had elicited tears from jurors, this time it caused little visible reaction.
Sara Lynn Krueger, 26, who is on trial for her daughter’s murder, held a tissue to her mouth and looked down as that photo and others were shown. Krueger’s boyfriend at the time, Ryan Scott Warner, 29, is also on trial in the killing of Kayleigh. He had no notable reaction.
“It seemed that the body had been staged in a way,” testified Tara Fahey, the former Napa Police forensic specialist who responded to the crime scene at Kayleigh’s home at the Royal Garden Apartments on Feb. 1, 2014.
When the several blankets that covered Kayleigh’s body were pulled back, Fahey said that Kayleigh was naked with injuries along her abdomen. The discoloration pattern on Kayleigh’s body was odd and didn’t match what it should have been if she had been lying in bed when she died, Fahey said.
Photos depicting Kayleigh’s bare legs, buttocks and back were shown to the court.
“It looked like she was beaten,” Fahey said, followed by an objection from Krueger’s attorney Jim McEntee.
Fahey testified that Krueger’s apartment had been dark with closed blinds, curtains covering various windows and even a taped-over light switch preventing it from being turned on. The small two-bedroom apartment was dirty and disorganized with a lot of clutter, she said.
“It smelled very strongly of marijuana and had that ashtray kind of smell to it,” Fahey said.
Empty Banquet frozen food containers were found in the kitchen and in Krueger’s bedroom. The apartment’s freezer was empty, she said.
“I had thought it was a little odd to see that the shelving unit (in the freezer) had been removed,” Fahey said. At the time, she said, she had no information about Kayleigh’s body having been stored in the freezer.
The 30 jurors – one set of 15 for each defendant who is being tried simultaneously, but separately, before Judge Francisca P. Tisher – could see for themselves in a photo shown to the court that the refrigerator had been mostly empty. There was some Pedialyte as well as various condiments on the door.
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Fahey said that she had also noticed contact information for Poison Control on the refrigerator. Childish looking artwork hung on magnets next to the phone number.
In his testimony Monday afternoon, Napa Police Officer Peter Piersig echoed Fahey’s statements about the home being messy. Piersig testified that the homes of drug users may be messy because the “drug becomes the sole focus of the person’s life.”
Piersig, though, didn’t find any drugs in Krueger’s apartment when he assisted in a search on Feb. 3, 2014 – the day after Krueger and Warner were found and arrested in El Cerrito. What he did find was drug paraphernalia, he said – a piece of plastic that may have been used for methamphetamine, a pipe that appeared to have been used for marijuana and a marijuana grinder.
To his knowledge, he said, none of the items were ever tested.
BART Police Officer Dominic Boutain, one of two officers involved in the arrest of Krueger and Warner, testified that the couple seemed “normal” as he chatted with them at the El Cerrito del Norte Station on Feb. 2, 2014.
“They looked normal,” he said. “A normal couple that I thought was lost at first.” When Boutain approached them near a map kiosk, Boutain asked Krueger and Warner if they needed any help. Krueger, he testified, said “yes” before breaking into tears.
Krueger told Boutain that something bad had happened in Napa and that she and Warner had to get back there to talk to the police, he said.
Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind showed the court police body camera footage of Boutain’s interaction with Krueger and Warner. Although there was no sound to the footage, Krueger, wearing a green hooded jacket, could be seen putting her hand on her chest before sitting down on a bench and beginning to cry. Warner, holding a bag, sat down beside her.
In the courtroom, Warner appeared to look over at Krueger who did not return the look.
Antonio Vazquez, the man who gave Krueger and Warner a ride to the Vallejo bus stop, and Silvia Melendez, the woman who saw them both at IHOP in El Cerrito on Feb. 2, 2014, also testified on Monday.
Prosecutors plan to call more witnesses when the trial continues on Tuesday.