Napa County Blamed for Toddler’s Killing

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Napa police and social workers’ negligence allowed 3-year-old Kayleigh Slusher’s mother and her boyfriend to beat the toddler to death, the family claims in court.
     Kayleigh’s father Jason Slusher and paternal grandparents Benny and Robin Slusher claim in Federal Court that the murder could have been prevented had Napa police and the county’s Child Welfare Services investigated their repeated reports that Kayleigh was being abused.
     “This is a very strong case against all of the defendants,” the family’s attorney Michael Haddad told Courthouse News in an interview.
     “From what we know from our limited investigation they had actual knowledge that a young child was in grave danger and they violated their mandated duties to protect her, and that violated Kayleigh’s constitutional rights.”
     Sara Krueger and her boyfriend Ryan Warner were arrested on Feb. 2, after police found Kayleigh’s body
tucked in bed at Krueger and Warner’s east Napa apartment, beaten to death. Police were responding to an anonymous tip.
     Krueger and Warner, both 23, were nabbed at El Cerrito del Norte Bay Area Rapid Transit station, an hour’s drive from Napa, the day after Kayleigh’s body was found.
     Kreuger later admitted that she had at one point placed her daughter’s body in a plastic bag and kept it in the freezer, the Napa Valley Register reported, citing a police search warrant.
     Kreuger and Warner have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and assault.
     Kayleigh had lived with her grandparents for more than a year, Benny and Robin Slusher say in the complaint. They say they had “the closest possible healthy relationship” with her.
     But in October 2013, while Jason Slusher was in jail, Krueger stopped letting them see Kayleigh, the grandparents say.
     Robin Slusher says she called Napa County Child Welfare Services on Jan. 27, just days before Kayleigh death, to report that the child was being deprived of food, that Kreuger and Warner were using drugs, and that there was an outstanding arrest warrant for Warner. She says two social workers told her there was nothing they could do and she should call the police.
     “She was desperately seeking their help and letting them know what was happening,” Haddad said. “They just said, ‘Sorry, call the police.'”
     But Slusher says had called the police, on Jan. 23, four days before she called Child Welfare. She claims in the lawsuit that an officer chose not to enter Krueger’s and Warner’s apartment to investigate, “because he determined that the environment in which Kayleigh lived was not safe for him or his partner to go there.”
     Robin Slusher says the officer and a partner returned to the apartment on Jan. 29, after a second call from her, “to inform them that her granddaughter was in grave danger, and requesting assistance.”
     According to the complaint: “Ms. Krueger refused defendants permission to enter the home to perform a welfare check on Kayleigh, and defendants were aware that Ms. Krueger actively tried to conceal the inside of her home from the officers by closing the front door against her body and peeking her head out to talk to them.”
     They also noticed a very malnourished Ryan Warner, who told them his name was Ryan Howard, and who appeared to be on drugs, along with another man who they knew from past contacts as someone on probation., according to the complaint.
     While they were searching the second man, Kayleigh vomited while sitting on her mother’s lap, the grandparents say. The police later learned that “Ryan Howard” was Ryan Warner, and that he had an active arrest warrant. But the Slushers say police told them that everything was fine, and that they would watch the apartment
     “They said everything appears normal and that they would keep an eye on the apartment, and that was after they’d been there,” Haddad said. “They had seen Ryan Warner was obviously high on some kind of drugs, and that there was some other strange guy on parole in the house. There were bruises on [Kayleigh’s] face. She was gaunt and sick and she vomited on the mother’s lap.”
     He added: “They just ignored all of these warnings and refused to do their jobs and that led to Kayleigh’s death.”
     Captain Jeff Troendly with the Napa Police Department said he couldn’t discuss the civil case because a judge in the Krueger and Warner criminal case had issued a gag order. “Even though this is a civil matter, it could interfere with the criminal matter. The court will not allow us to make any commments,” Troendly said. But he was able to add that the Napa city attorney had not been served with Slushers’ civil case as of Monday.
The Slushers seek punitive damages for civil rights and constitutional violations, negligence, vicarious liability, and want Napa police ordered to institute better polices and training for handling child abuse reports.
     Defendants include Napa County, its Child Welfare Services, two Napa police officers and the police chief, and two Child Welfare Service workers.
     Haddad is with Haddad and Sherwin in Oakland.




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