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Kayleigh Slusher Murder Trial-combo

Sara Lynn Krueger, right, and Ryan Scott Warner are on trial for murder in the death of Krueger's daughter Kayleigh Slusher.

Defendant Ryan Scott Warner admitted to spanking Kayleigh Slusher, but denied abusing her during his interview with Napa Police on Feb. 2, 2014, the day after the 3-year-old’s body was found.

Video of his interview was shown to the jurors assigned to his case in Napa County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.

Warner, 29, is on trial along with the child’s mother, Sara Lynn Krueger, 26. The two are being tried at the same time in the same courtroom, but separate juries will be deliberating their cases. Krueger’s jury was dismissed before Warner’s interview was shown.

The approximately one-hour video begins with Warner’s head resting face down on a table in an interview room. He’s cuffed, wearing a gray beanie, red shirt and a jacket. He’s skinny and bearded – much different than he appears now as he sits in court in a dress shirt and dress pants. Warner, who has been in custody since his and Krueger’s arrests on Feb. 2, 2014, is visibly heavier, cleanly shaven and wears his long hair in a slicked-back ponytail.

In the video, jurors can hear Napa Police Sgt. Andrew Hess, who was the lead detective on the Kayleigh Slusher case, address Warner and say “Let me take those cuffs off you.”

Warner tells Hess that he’s “relieved” to be there.

After being read his rights, Warner lets out a deep breath and begins to tell Detective Hess the nature of his and Krueger’s relationship. Although the two never put a “label” on their relationship, Warner said that he had been staying at Krueger’s apartment and sleeping in her bed for six months. During that time, he said, he and Kayleigh became “close.”

At one point during the interview, he characterized his role in Kayleigh’s life as fatherly, but the two would say that they were “best friends.”

When Hess asked Warner about what happened to Kayleigh, Warner said that Kayleigh became sick after possibly drinking cleaning solution on Jan. 29, 2014.

“I remember going into the bathroom and Kayleigh was kind of hunched over,” Warner told Hess. He said that he found the measuring cup the cleaning solution was in near Kayleigh as she got sick in the bathroom. Kayleigh told him that she had put fresh water in the cup before drinking it, he said. That was in the early evening, he said, before Napa Police came to the apartment at 2060 Wilkins Avenue for a welfare check.

Krueger and Warner then discussed what they should do to help Kayleigh, whether or not they should call Poison Control and if she could flush out the toxin by drinking water and throwing up, he said.

“At this point I’m stepping back (as a parent),” Warner said. He let Krueger make the final decision about what to do with Kayleigh, he said.

Interrupting Warner, Hess asks why neither of them called the paramedics or police to help Kayleigh.

“I was scared of the reality of what would happen,” Warner said. “I was scared we could get in trouble or something like that.” The two of them, he said, had been using methamphetamine earlier and were both high.

After the officers who came for the welfare check were gone, Warner said he checked on Krueger who was in the bathroom with Kayleigh.

“She’s like ‘Oh my God, I almost lost my daughter,’” he said. Krueger’s biggest fear, he said, was Kayleigh being taken away from her, especially since Child Protective Services had been in their lives previously.

Warner said that he listened to Krueger “deal with Kayleigh for a while” before stepping in and helping Kayleigh go to the bathroom. At about 4 a.m., he said, he helped Kayleigh on the toilet and, when she said she was going to be able to poop, he gave her a hug and a kiss, told her he was “proud” of her and, before he left the room, Kayleigh gave him a thumbs-up. Warner then went into the bedroom with Warner and fell asleep, he said.

When Krueger and Warner woke up 12 hours later at 4 p.m., he said he told her to go check on Kayleigh. The next thing he said he heard was Krueger saying “Why is my daughter sleeping on the bathroom floor?” Then she said “Oh my God, Ryan, she’s dead,” he said.

Warner said that he listened to Kayleigh’s heart and looked at her fingers.

“I don’t know, dude,” he told Hess. “Bottom line, she’s dead.”

After finding Kayleigh, the two of them discussed calling the police, but didn’t, he said.

“Now I’m kinda like scared, in shock,” Warner said. “It feels like we’re gonna get in trouble for this shit.” They knew Kayleigh drank something that might have made her sick, but they didn’t take action, he said.

They put Kayleigh’s body into her bed and shut the door, Warner told Hess.

Krueger told him that the two of them had to get out of the apartment, run away and “start a new life” somewhere else, Warner said.

The following day, Jan. 31, Warner said that he put Kayleigh’s body in a plastic bag, then put that bag into a red duffel bag.

“Trust me I felt f***ing demented,” he tells Hess.

Then, he said, he and Krueger left the apartment to take a walk. They ended up going to Target and buying some ice cream, he said.

“We come back and it’s like OK, reality has set back in,” Warner said, noting that Kayleigh’s body was still in the apartment. When the two decide that they are going to leave Napa, he said that he decided to put the red duffel bag carrying Kayleigh’s body into the freezer so that her body would be preserved for an autopsy. An autopsy, he said, would reveal the truth about Kayleigh’s death, which he believed was caused by the solution she drank.

Kayleigh’s body was in the freezer for about six hours, he said, before Krueger decided on Feb. 1 that she had to get her “out of there.” She tucked Kayleigh’s little naked body into bed, covered her with blankets, read her a story and gave her some toys, he said.

Then “it was time to go,” Warner said. The two traded a PlayStation console and some games for a ride to Vallejo, then went to “Frisco” to wait until Krueger’s money came through on Feb. 2.

“At this point I’d never been in a situation like this,” Warner told Hess. “Sara seemed to have control of it.”

When Hess asked about putting Kayleigh in the suitcase, which Warner said was his idea, Warner said that “it was basically kind of a mutual thing.”

After a coffee break and a brief conversation about Kayleigh’s potty-training, Hess asked Warner about the bruises found on Kayleigh’s body.

He had noticed them, he said. Kayleigh had bruises on her back and down her butt from getting spanked, he said.

“She (Krueger) would spank her and once in a while I would spank her too,” Warner said. Over the course of six months, he said, he spanked Kayleigh on the bottom maybe four or five times. Other times, he said, he would discipline her by having her sit in the corner for 20 to 30 minutes.

“I know that there was a lot of bruises on her,” Warner admitted to Hess. Krueger had been “flipping out” on Kayleigh the night before she died, he said.

Hess asked if Krueger had beaten Kayleigh that night.

“I think that’s a possibility,” Warner said. He later said, though, that he didn’t think Kayleigh had been beaten to death.

“You need to start manning up to this mess,” Hess told Warner, noting that he was the last person with Kayleigh before she died.

“I did not beat that child,” Warner said.

The jury was shown two other videos before being dismissed for the day, both seemingly bolstering prosecution’s argument that the defendants were acting normal even while Kayleigh was dead in the apartment. One vidoe showed Krueger and Warner at the South Napa Marketplace Target buying ice cream and another showed the two of them riding the AirTrain at San Francisco International Airport.

“They looked to be having a good time,” Hess said of the airport security footage. Warner and Krueger could be seen talking, giggling and snuggling, he said.

The approximately 16 minutes of video showed Krueger and Warner sitting beside each other on the AirTrain. For the majority of the time, Warner’s hands were folded in front of him while Krueger’s remained in her jacket pockets. Krueger swung her feet, Warner shook his head like someone trying to wake up, they both took turns yawning and, for a moment, Krueger rested her head on Warner’s shoulder.

At one point, they got off the AirTrain and got back on. When Warner lay down, Krueger sat next to him. They exited at West Field Road.

Warner’s jury was dismissed until 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Prosecutors are planning to show Krueger’s interview to the jury deliberating her case when the trial continues at 9 a.m.

Both juries were present during several witness testimonies Tuesday morning, including during testimony from forensic toxicologist and expert witness Nadina Giorgi who said that neither Warner nor Krueger had methamphetamine in their systems on the day of their arrests. They did, however, test positive for marijuana, she said.

That doesn’t mean that they hadn’t done any methamphetamine, but, if they had, it wasn’t within a time frame that was detectable, Giorgi said. Depending on the individual and the amount of the drug used, she said, meth can be detected in the blood for several days.

When Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind asked “hypothetically” if methamphetamine could be detected almost four days after use, giving a time-frame from 8:40 p.m. Jan. 29 until 4 p.m. Feb. 2, Giorgi said “probably” not.

Marijuana, though, can stay in someone’s system up to several weeks depending on the individual’s use, Giorgi said.

Witnesses testified earlier in the trial that Krueger and Warner were heavy users of methamphetamine in the weeks before the child’s death, raising concerns about Kayleigh’s welfare.

Four peace officers also testified on Tuesday morning about their roles in investigating the death of Kayleigh.

Napa Police Officer Keri Sedgley, was involved with transporting both Krueger and Warner from El Cerrito to Napa and processed Krueger, she said.

Inside Krueger’s black-and-white floral purse, Sedgley found a cellphone, a dream catcher, two thawed freezer pops and a wallet containing her and Kayleigh’s medical cards. Sedgley noted that Krueger’s right index finger was swollen.

Both Warner and Krueger were found with BART tickets for that day in with their belongings, officers testified.

The trial, which began last week, continues Wednesday. The trial is scheduled to last through the end of the month, possibly into the first week of June.

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