Neighbors who knew Kayleigh Slusher have said that in the weeks before learning the 3-year-old was dead they saw a girl who had lost her sparkle. It is believed that the abuse suffered at the hands of her mother, Sara Lynn Krueger, and Ryan Scott Warner, her mother’s boyfriend, had been going on for weeks. The once bright and bubbly Kayleigh appeared malnourished and had been covered in bruises. When a family friend finally called for a welfare check on the toddler it was already too late. Kayleigh’s partially frozen body was found in a suitcase sitting on top of a bed.
An autopsy revealed over 41 injuries were found on Kayleigh’s tiny body. The fatal blow had been an intestinal rupture, making the girl’s death a slow and painful one. The couple later explained that they believed the girl had died as a result of injesting poison, never explaining the substantial amount of bruising Kayleigh’s body had sustained.
Once the couple noticed that Kayleigh was dead, her mother and her boyfriend placed the child in the freezer for several hours. She would later be removed from the freezer and her body was then placed into a suitcase on top of her bed, which is where investigators would later find her. The couple, however, was nowhere to be found.
Realizing the police were closing in, the couple decided they had no choice but to go on the run. Police attempted to contact the couple through their cell phones to no avail. Neither Krueger nor Warner owned a car, making it more difficult for the police to track down the couple. They would eventually be arrested on February 2, 2014, three days after Kayleigh’s death, as they waited at a BART station in El Cerrito. Both were charged with first-degree murder.
It was learned after the couple’s arrest that Krueger had social workers at her and Warner’s apartment on January 29, just a day before it is believed that Kayleigh had died. Someone called to report that they suspected that Krueger had been using drugs and had been failing to feed her daughter. After meeting with Krueger and Warner, children’s services determined that Krueger did not appear to be under the influence of drugs and found no reason to remove the child from the home at that time, pending further investigation. The defense later admitted to the court that methamphetamine played a major role in the tragic death of the 3-year-old.