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Children Find Mother, Her Boyfriend Dead

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two children came home early Monday to find their mother and her boyfriend dead in their bedroom, and their death remained a mystery as investigators found no signs of foul play.

The 6-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy entered the San Fernando Avenue home about 8:25 a.m. with a baby sitter who had taken care of them for the weekend. The children discovered the bodies and alerted the baby sitter, who called sheriff’s deputies, authorities said.

Neighbors identified the dead couple as Robert Alan Kruger, a 37-year-old financial planner, and his girlfriend, Kristi, whose last name was not known.

“I went out in the street and the children told me that Mommy wouldn’t move and Alan was blue and purple,” said neighbor Arna Crittenden, who took care of the children for several hours Monday before Ventura County Child Protective Services officials took temporary custody of them. “We’re a pretty close community here, and everyone is pretty shocked.”

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After obtaining a search warrant, sheriff’s investigators scoured the inside of the beach home for more than an hour, but found no signs of forced entry, drugs, or any obvious clues into what might have caused the couple’s death.

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“I’m not often perplexed, but this case has me perplexed,” said coroner’s investigator Jim Wingate. “We don’t know the cause or manner of death.”

Animal control officers removed a pet scorpion, dog and snake from the home, but authorities stressed it was for the safety of the animals and not because they were somehow linked to the deaths.

Neighbors said Kruger had three children from a previous marriage and had lived in La Conchita for about five years, renting two separate homes in the area during that time. No one had seen the couple or spoken to them since Friday evening, police said. Neighbors said they had not seen the couple’s cars move since they returned from dropping the children off at the baby sitter’s Friday evening, and their dog had not been let out.

Sheriff’s detectives had not ruled out the possibility of murder.

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“Everything is open right now,” said Sgt. Chris Lathrop. “There are no overt signs of trauma. Looks like we’re going to have to wait until the coroner’s autopsy to find out what happened.”

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Kristi also left behind a 3-year-old boy, who lives with his father.

“The children are the ones that made the discovery, so they obviously know what is going on,” Lathrop said. “How they are dealing with it, I don’t know.”

Representatives of the Paine Webber office in Oxnard confirmed Monday that Kruger had worked there as a financial planner, but declined to comment further. Neighbors said he also had three children from a former marriage, a 3-year-old son and daughters ages 13 and 16, who live in Santa Barbara.

One neighbor, who declined to give his name, described Kruger as an avid surfer who encouraged him and other surfers in the area to plan their financial future.

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“He was a really smart guy,” the man said. “I think he made a lot of money.”

Crittenden said Kruger had been seeing Kristi for only six months, and had seemed a little down after his ex-wife took one of his children away. He had also suffered a surfing injury, she said.

Crittenden added that Kruger had complained of being financially strapped recently. He was paying child support for his own kids as well as helping support Kristi’s children, she said.

Miguel Bustillo is a Times staff writer and Dawn Hobbs is a correspondent. Times staff writer Scott Hadly also contributed to this story.

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