$5 Million Plus Police and CPS Reforms for Child Abuse Death of 3-year-old Girl

Three-year-old Kayleigh Slusher died from preventable child abuse and neglect at the hands of her mother and mother's boyfriend, who are serving life sentences for her murder. This lawsuit brought accountability, along with significant reforms, to the other parties responsible for Kayleigh's tragic death: The City of Napa Police Department, Napa County Child Welfare Services, and their employees. In the three weeks before Kayleigh's death, Napa police and CWS had been called to Kayleigh's home six times. Four times they ignored the calls and never even went to Kayleigh's home. Two times, Napa police went to Kayleigh's home, would have seen that she was covered in bruises and in excruciating pain from a broken rib and the intestinal infection that was slowly killing her, and did nothing. Napa Police Officer Garrett Wade even refused to go to Kayleigh's house one time to investigate a complaint of Kayleigh's possible abuse and neglect by her mother and a possibly armed man with an arrest warrant using crank (methamphetamine) in Kayleigh's presence because, as Officer Wade wrote in a report he made after Kayleigh's death, he was afraid for his own safety. When Officer Wade did go to the home a week later, while Kayleigh was near death from severe injuries and trauma, and finding known drug users in the apartment, he falsely told Kayleigh's grandmother, Robin Slusher, that everything appeared normal and that Wade would keep an eye on the apartment. He didn't even write a report as he was required to do. Likewise, Napa Police Officer Robert Chambers went to Kayleigh's home and saw her when she was covered in bruises and suffering from severe internal injuries that would lead to her death days later, yet he did nothing, and he also failed to report what he saw and knew as required by law. After Kaleigh's death, Officer Chambers reported that Kayleigh had appeared bubbly and normal with "pretty blue eyes" -- Kayleigh's eyes were hazel, not blue. All Napa Police Officers violated their legal duty to cross-report the reported abuse and neglect to CWS and the Napa County District Attorney's office. Napa County Child Welfare Services workers did no better, ignoring Robin Slusher's phone call about rampant illegal drug use in Kayleigh's home, the drugs being accessible to Kayleigh, a criminal with a warrant for his arrest in the home, and Kayleigh may be deprived of food. Napa County CWS Supervisor Ken Adams chose to close out the call and do nothing. Napa CWS also violated their legal duties to report the call to the Napa police and the District Attorney's Office. As one judge handling this case wrote: "The horrific murder of Kayleigh likely could have been prevented had the police officers and social workers involved in this case performed their jobs with any semblance of competence. Robin [Slusher]’s numerous reports were all but ignored, with tragic consequences." (USDC No. 4:14-cv-02394-SBA, Doc. 126, Order, p. 15:13-17). The $5 million recovery will be shared by Kayleigh's father, Jason Slusher, and Kayleigh's grandmother, Robin Slusher. An important reason for bringing this case was to win the reforms that the City and County of Napa have now agreed to implement, so hopefully, no other child in Napa County will suffer as Kayleigh did. We commend the Napa Police Department for agreeing to these important reforms. Photos of Kayleigh, her father and grandmother, appear at the end of this page.

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Related Headlines
  • Napa City and County settle lawsuit over Kayleigh Slusher's death for $5 million
    Courtney Teague, Napa Valley Register, January 2, 2019

    The city and county of Napa will split a $5 million payment to the father and the grandparents of 3-year-old Kayleigh Slusher, whose death in January 2014 resulted in murder convictions of the child's mother and the mother's boyfriend. Kayleigh's father, Jason Slusher, and her grandparents, Robin and Benny Slusher, sued the city and county in federal court in May 2015. They alleged that the Napa Police Department and county Child Welfare Services personnel did not properly investigate allegations that Kayleigh was abused, neglected, and in danger due to the meth use and conduct of her mother, Sara Lynn Krueger, and Krueger's boyfriend, Ryan Scott Warner. Haddad and Sherwin, the attorneys for the Slushers, issued a news release saying that the $5 million settlement was the largest tied to wrongful death suit in the history of the city and county. The release quoted U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong who wrote in an early opinion of the case: "The horrific murder of Kayleigh likely could have been prevented had the police officers and social workers involved in this case performed their jobs with any semblance of competence.” … The settlement agreement with Napa police specifies eleven actions the department has taken or will take in the future, related to training and responding to incidents of child abuse or neglect. Since February 2014 — a month after Kayleigh died — Napa police said it has updated child abuse and neglect policies to ensure that all reports of such activity are investigated, reported to the county Child Welfare Services and the District Attorney. A written report must be completed before the end of the officer's shift. Child abuse policies will again be revised in January 2019 and best practices will be incorporated, according to the agreement. Officers have received additional training in prevention, investigation and reporting of child abuse and neglect, as well as children who are exposed to drugs and domestic violence. The department has committed to train police 911 dispatchers in child abuse and neglect. Dispatchers and officers will be trained to identify risk factors for child abuse, such as living conditions, looking for previous events at the child's home address, histories of domestic violence or child abuse with family members, Chief Robert Plummer said in an interview. Officers will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they understand they must report child abuse and neglect, according to the settlement.

  • Napa city, county pay $5 million to settle suit over child's murder
    Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, January 2, 2019

  • Kayleigh Slusher Settlement Agreement: Napa Police Department Reforms
    December 28, 2018

    Here is the Settlement Agreement of the Napa Police Department's reforms agreed as a result of Kayleigh's lawsuit. These reforms will move the Napa Police Department to a nationally prominent role in protecting children from child abuse and neglect

  • Kayleigh Slusher state court Complaint filed in Napa County Superior Court
    December 28, 2018

    Here is the final state court Complaint against the City and County of Napa.

  • Within Our Reach
    Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, December 31, 2016

    United States government report on preventing child abuse and neglect