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Kayleigh Murder Trial

Therapist says that Krueger is a 'battered woman'

Jurors were shown additional video of Sara Lynn Krueger’s emotional interview with Napa Police during court on Thursday. Krueger, 27, is accused along with former boyfriend Ryan Scott Warner, 29, of murdering her daughter, 3-year-old Kayleigh Slusher, in 2014.

Both defendants are being tried at the same time in the same courtroom; however, their cases are being heard by separate juries in Napa County Superior Court. Jurors were shown two videos Thursday morning of Krueger’s interview with Napa Police following her arrest on Feb. 2, 2014 – the day after Kayleigh’s body was found in her east Napa apartment.

The first video had already been shown to Krueger’s jurors, but Warner’s were seeing it for the first time. They watched Krueger’s interview intently, following along with transcripts provided for them.

Krueger was visibly emotional during her interview, crying, resting her head on the table and speaking inaudibly. In the previously unseen video of Krueger speaking with Detective Andrew Hess, who is now a sergeant, Krueger continues to be upset and could be heard yelling.

When Hess mentions Kayleigh’s autopsy and finding out what might have killed Kayleigh, Krueger screamed “I wanna know, too!”

Krueger told Hess that Warner spent a lot of time with Kayleigh alone. When he spanked her, leaving bruises on her back and butt, Krueger told him to stop and said that she preferred using time-outs as punishment for Kayleigh, she said.

Krueger went over which bruises she had seen on Kayleigh’s body. She knew there were some on her butt and back as well as her chin, she said.

Hess then asked about the bruises found on Kayleigh’s legs and feet.

“What’s on her feet?” Krueger replies.

“She had bruises from head to toe,” Hess says. “… They’re all over her.”

Krueger said she had questioned Warner about some of Kayleigh’s bruises, but said she believed him when he said they were from spanking or, in one incident, an accidental bump of his and Kayleigh’s heads.

She asked Kayleigh, too, Krueger said, and she said that Warner hadn’t hurt her.

Krueger said she never hit Kayleigh.

“I didn’t do anything to my baby,” she screamed during the interview. “I don’t know what happened to my baby.”

“Leaving a bruise on someone’s back is not called a spanking. It’s called a beating,” Hess said.

Kayleigh’s body had 41 visible injuries on it, according to earlier testimony by forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Cohen. She suffered multiple blunt impact injuries to the head, torso and extremities, and her death was classified as a homicide. Cohen said that her death was caused by fatal child abuse and neglect.

Krueger was called to the stand by her attorney, Jim McEntee on Wednesday and continued to be questioned by McEntee, Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind and Warner’s attorney, Mervin C. Lernhart, Jr. on Thursday.

Krueger returns to the stand

McEntee asked her follow-up questions about being afraid of Warner’s friends, two rapes that she said she was a victim of at age 14 and about how those rapes, as well as being molested, affected her. McEntee had not asked Krueger about the two rapes, which were one right after another by two men, during his direct examination on Wednesday.

Lernhart’s cross examination had Krueger repeat testimony she had just given about the rapes. His questioning made it sound as if at least one of the rapes was consensual sex, but Krueger denied it.

Therapist says Krueger is a ‘battered woman’

Dr. Linda Barnard, a marriage and family therapist based in Sacramento, took the stand on Thursday afternoon.

Barnard, who interviewed Krueger while she was in jail, said she thinks Krueger is a “battered woman.” Barnard’s testimony corroborated testimony given by Krueger herself on various traumatic events that have happened in her life including suffering abuse from both Jason Slusher, Kayleigh’s father, and Warner.

“People who have experienced a lot of trauma … learn to accommodate abuse or trauma,” Barnard said. Krueger’s numerous instances of trauma stacked up, and, according to Barnard, after Krueger saw Kayleigh dead on the bathroom floor, she went into a dissociative state – meaning that she was able to separate her actions from her feelings. Krueger’s actions after finding Kayleigh – for example, leaving with Warner – could be explained by her response to the trauma, she said.

Barnard also testified that Krueger may not have seen any additional bruising on Kayleigh’s body due to being in a dissociative state. Her memory of the events may also be “jumbled,” she said.

Barnhard diagnosed Krueger with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. She said the dissociative state may have been tied into her PTSD.

Lernhart asked Barnard – hypothetically – if a person under the influence of or withdrawing from methamphetamine injured someone but was horrified by it, could it trigger a dissociative process.

Barnard said it could.

Tisher told the court she thinks closing arguments will be next week and expects to give jury instructions next Friday. How long deliberations last, she said, is up to the juries.

The jurors were excused until Monday morning when McEntee plans to call two more witnesses to the stand.

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

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