The Napa, California mother and her boyfriend taken into custody yesterday for questioning about the suspicious death of her daughter may now be facing homicide charges, say police. Napa Police Department Lt. Debbie Peacock has announced that the department seeks to have 23-year-old Sara Kreuger charged with the crime of “homicide with special circumstances causing a child’s death.” The special circumstances charge is reserved for those crimes deemed “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manifesting exceptional depravity.” If charged and convicted of this offense, she could face life in prison without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty.
Kreuger and her 26-year-old boyfriend, Ryan Scott Warner, were pursued by police after Kreuger’s daughter, three-year-old Kayleigh Slusher, was found dead in her bed by police performing a welfare check at the family’s residence on Saturday. Kayleigh reportedly suffered blunt force trauma and was a victim of a sexual assault. Kreuger and Warner were seen leaving the apartment earlier in the day carrying luggage. They were apprehended a day later at a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in El Cerrito, California.
Kayleigh’s father, 33-year-old Jason Slusher, has been informed of his daughter’s death, but has made no public comment at this time. Slusher is currently residing at the San Quentin State Prison where he has reportedly been serving time since October on charges of reckless driving and attempting to evade a peace officer.
Kayleigh’s grandfather, John Kreuger, has openly expressed his sorrow at the loss of the little girl. Family and friends planned a candlelight vigil for the three-year-old on Sunday night at the apartment complex where the family resided and where she was found unresponsive by police. Many have already left memorials for Kayleigh outside of the apartment as well.
Napa police say that the family was known to them. They report that they had been to the residence at least nine times to address a variety of issues over the course of the past eight months. Police also say that Kayleigh’s grandmother had requested that they perform a welfare check on the child just days prior to the one they performed on Saturday at the request of a concerned neighbor.
Neighbors agree that Kaylee was a friendly, darling child, but reports as to Kreuger and Scott seem to differ. Some neighbors have described Kreuger as “nice and friendly” and “helpful,” but others report that they had had suspicions about the couple’s drug use and physical abuse of Kayleigh for some time. A neighbor has also reported that the couple had been threatened with eviction if they didn’t get things straightened out and stop causing disturbances in the apartment complex.
The police investigation into the three-year-old’s apparent murder is ongoing and Napa, California police continue to request that anyone with any relevant information come forward immediately to assist them as they build their case.
Kreuger and Scott are being held in the Napa Valley Detention Center until they can be arraigned on formal charges. They are expected to appear before a California court in the afternoon on Tuesday, February 4. The mother and her boyfriend will then learn for certain whether they will be expected to answer to homicide charges and face the possibility of the death penalty.
By Michele Wessel