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Police: California mother, boyfriend charged in toddler's slaying stored her body in freezer

SAN FRANCISCO - A Northern California woman and her boyfriend accused of killing the woman's 3-year-old daughter a day after officers visited their apartment to check on the girl stored the tiny body in a suitcase and inside a freezer, authorities said.

Sara Krueger, 23, and Ryan Scott Warner, 26, both of Napa, were charged with murder and assault on a child resulting in death, Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein announced Tuesday. The couple put little Kayleigh Slusher's body in a suitcase and then in a freezer, Napa police Capt. Jeff Troendly said.

"Investigators learned through interviews with the suspects that the girl's body was kept in a suitcase at one point and then a freezer," Troendly said. "We believe that they are responsible for the death of Kayleigh Slusher."

Neither Krueger nor Warner entered a plea as a judge appointed them lawyers during their initial appearance in court Tuesday. The couple is accused of killing Kayleigh on Jan. 30, the day after Napa police officers did a welfare check on the girl, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

Krueger and Warner are each being held in jail without bail. They are due back in court on Feb. 25.

Each could spend up to 25 years to life in prison, if convicted.

Police found Kayleigh's lifeless body in her bed during another welfare check at Krueger's apartment in Napa on Saturday. Witnesses had seen Krueger and Warner leaving the apartment with luggage a few hours earlier, Napa police Lt. Debbie Peecook said.

On Sunday, the couple were arrested at the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit station in El Cerrito after they were spotted at a nearby restaurant, Peecook said.

The girl showed signs of having been sexually assaulted and blunt-force trauma, police said. Krueger and Warner were not charged with sexual assault, Troendly said.

Police have visited the couple's apartment numerous times in the past year in response to calls from neighbours, but no arrests had been made, he said.

Officers last visited the apartment on Jan. 29 to conduct a welfare check on the girl, Troendly said. Everything appeared to be all right as police conducted a field sobriety test on the couple and interviewed the girl, he added.

"There was no indication that there would be any danger in that household," Troendly said. "When you hear a case like this, it's shocking and disheartening.

"Our community is being impacted by how this could happen to someone at such a young age. It's mindboggling."

Linda Canan, Napa County's Child Welfare Services director, told KGO-TV Tuesday that while she could not comment specifically about Kayleigh's case, a child has died.

"Everything I know at this point in this point in time tells me there was nothing that was done incorrectly," Canan said. "That doesn't mean the system didn't fail. We have a dead child."

County spokeswoman Elizabeth Emmett said Tuesday that the child welfare services department plans to ask the court on Wednesday for permission to talk publicly about the girl's case.

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