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Couple who starved, tortured, killed toddler and froze her body found guilty of murder and assault

A woman and her boyfriend who tortured and killed a 3-year-old girl were both found guilty of murder and assault on Tuesday, stemming from the toddler’s 2014 death in Napa, California.

The Napa Valley Register reports that Sara Lynn Krueger, 25, and Ryan Scott Warner, 27, both face life without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder, for the torture and killing of Krueger’s daughter, Kayleigh Slusher. They also face 25 years to life for assault on a child causing death.

Kayleigh Slusher [Photo: Handout]
According to court documents, Krueger and her boyfriend Warner were using crystal methamphetamine (meth) heavily during the months leading up to Kayleigh’s death on January 30, 2014. According to Krueger’s friend, Allen Elpperson, Krueger had smoked meth for years, but quit when she became pregnant with Kayleigh. Elpperson said when he met Warner for the first time in January 2014, he had a bad feeling about Krueger’s new boyfriend. Weeks later, Kayleigh was dead.

Elpperson testified that when he started visiting the couple, he noticed numerous signs of drug abuse. Elpperson admitted to smoking meth with the pair occasionally but said that Krueger lost a lot of weight and looked “strung out.” He said Kayleigh would watch cartoons while they did drugs in another room.

“They both looked strung out like they’d been using,” he said.

Justin Kent, another friend, testified in court that he also used drugs with Krueger and Warner. However, he said the little girl was always in a different room when the drug use took place.

According to court documents, when Warner moved in with Krueger, he started taking over some of the parenting duties of Kayleigh, including discipline. Although Warner said that he would only spank Kayleigh, evidence showed bruises all over the little girl’s body, including her chest, arms, and face. Kayleigh also had signs of malnutrition. A forensic pathologist determined that the little girl’s cause of death was “multiple blunt impact injuries to the head, torso, and extremities.”

Police were alerted on February 1, 2014, after a neighbor who wanted to remain anonymous called authorities and said the couple left the home carrying luggage without bringing their child with them. The neighbor also indicated that there was likely child abuse and neglect going on.

Police entered the couple’s home off of the 200 block of Wilkins Ave. and found Kayleigh, lying naked and lifeless on her bed, with multiple bruises on her body and dried up blood around her nose. He skin felt ice cold, something the responding officer found to be strange.

Both Krueger and Warner fled a pancake restaurant the following day when they were spotted. Later, after an anonymous tip, they were arrested on February 2, 2014, after police found them in an El Cerrito restaurant. They were charged with murder and assault. A few weeks later, they both pleaded not guilty. A judged denied bond for Warner and set bail at $10 million for Krueger.

[Photo: Handout]
During an interrogation with detectives, Warner admitted that he froze Kayleigh’s body after they found her unresponsive on the bathroom floor. He told authorities that the little girl was wrapped in a plastic bag and kept frozen for around six hours before Krueger panicked and said they needed to “get out of there.”

Krueger tucked Kayleigh’s lifeless, frozen body into her bed, placed toys around her, and read her a bedtime story before the couple fled the apartment the following day.

Deputy District Attorney Lance Hafenstein, one of the prosecutors in the case, hopes that the verdict sends a clear message that child abuse and assault will not be tolerated in California.

“These verdicts are a message to our community that our children are to be treated with love, patience, and respect. What was done to Kayleigh Slusher by these two defendants was simply inhuman. She was taken from us much too soon.”

Sentencing for Krueger and Warner is scheduled for July 27.

[Feature Photo: Handout/Napa County PD]