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Crime

Calif. Mom and Boyfriend Tortured and Killed Her 3-Year-Old Daughter Before Stuffing Body in Freezer

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A Napa, California, mother and her boyfriend were convicted Tuesday of killing her three-year-old daughter, who was found partially frozen at the couple’s apartment after her body was put in the freezer, PEOPLE confirms.

Sarah Lynn Krueger, 27, and her 29-year-old boyfriend, Ryan Scott Warner, were both found guilty of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of torture in the death of Kayleigh Slusher, who died from multiple blunt force injuries. The fatal injury caused a rupture in her small intestine.

The couple were also found guilty of abuse of a child under eight causing death.

Both of the verdicts were read Tuesday. Sentencing is scheduled for July 27. Both potentially face life without the possibility of parole.

Their attorneys could not be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear if they planned to appeal.

“It was a really emotionally difficult case,” Napa Valley Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind, who co-prosecuted the case with Deputy District Attorney Lance Hafenstein, tells PEOPLE. “It was pretty horrific the things that happened to her.”

The investigation began in 2014 when Napa police received a 911 call from the couple’s friend on February 1 to check on Kayleigh’s welfare. The friend later told police that he went over to the couple’s apartment the night before and discovered Kayleigh was dead.

“He didn’t want any part of it so he told them to call the police,” says Lind. “They did not call the police so he took it upon himself to call.”

Once inside the apartment, police found Kayleigh’s body in her bed. She was partially frozen.

“She was in [the freezer] for at least a number of hours,” says Lind. “Her body was still extremely cold to the touch when the officers found her. We don’t know for sure how long she was in the freezer.”

(Lind says she was placed in a regular freezer atop the refrigerator. “The little freezer that sits on top of your refrigerator,” she says.)

According to Lind, Krueger and Warner had fled earlier that morning before police arrived, but the pair was arrested the following day shortly after a woman spotted them at an IHOP Restaurant.

Lind says police found searches on Krueger’s cell phone for most populous cities in the U.S.

Source: For the Love of Kayleigh Jayne Slusher/Facebook

An autopsy determined that the young girl had 41 distinguishable injuries to the exterior of her body.

“She had severe injuries and bruising to her head,” says Lind. “Essentially just all over her body, arms, legs, torso, buttocks… It was tough. The medical examiner described the amount of pain and suffering she would have been in during the time she was dying. It wasn’t a quick process.”

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Lind says she believes the beatings began months earlier.

“It appears most of the abuse took place the month or two prior to her being killed,” she says.

The couple told authorities they thought Kayleigh had died after she drank something that was poisonous.

“Neither of them had any legitimate explanation for the multitude of bruises and injuries on her body,” says Lind.

During the trial, Warner’s defense attorney, Mervin C. Lernhart, Jr., argued  there was no evidence that his client abused the child or knew anything about the abuse, the Napa Valley Register reports.

During closing arguments, Krueger’s attorney, Jim McEntee, put the blame on Warner, alleging that he was the one responsible for the fatal blow that killed Kayleigh, according to the paper.

McEntee said that Krueger had used methamphetamine leading up the death of her daughter.