GALVESTON, Texas – Once a bright student who earned academic distinction, Kim Trenor's life began to unravel when she became pregnant at 16 with the daughter she's now accused of killing.
Trenor, now 19, and her husband, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, 24, have been arrested in the death of Riley Ann Sawyers, who disappeared in June after her mother moved to Texas from Mentor, Ohio, to marry a man she met online.
The little girl's body was found in Galveston Bay on Oct. 29, and Trenor has told authorities the grisly details of the how the girl was killed.
• Click here for photos of Riley Ann Sawyers.
Riley's father, Robert Sawyers, and others who know Trenor are struggling to grasp how her life came to this.
"I'm just trying to get through all of this. It's very rough," Robert Sawyers said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Kim Trenor showed promise in her first two years at Mentor High School in Ohio. She excelled in most subjects and her grade point average earned a summa cum laude distinction by the end of her sophomore year.
"She was a pretty good student," Mentor High Principal Joe Spiccia told the Houston Chronicle.
Spiccia said her performance began to dip when she became pregnant by Sawyers, her high-school sweetheart.
Trenor and Sawyers enrolled in a school program called GRADS, or Graduation, Reality and Dual-Support, which teaches basic parenting skills to pregnant students and their boyfriends. Trenor graduated from Mentor, but Sawyers dropped out to work at a machine shop. He later obtained his GED.
At the invitation of his mother, Sheryl Sawyers, the two teens moved into the Sawyers' home when Riley was born on March 11, 2005. Trenor and Sawyers lived with his mother for about two years.
Laura DePledge, a lawyer for the Sawyers family, said there was no child abuse.
"Obviously the parenting skills (of Robert and Kim) weren't what they needed to be," DePledge told the AP. "They were living with Sheryl. And Sheryl was pretty much the primary caregiver."
Beginning last fall, the relationship between Trenor and Robert Sawyers apparently began to deteriorate. Robert Sawyers told the Chronicle that in October 2006, Trenor abruptly ended the relationship.
Curiously, Trenor and her daughter continued to live with Sawyers' family. To complicate things further, Sawyers began dating a girl in his bowling league, Catherine Priester.
When Priester discovered she was pregnant last February and her own parents asked her to leave, she moved in with the Sawyers, Trenor and Riley.
By then, Trenor had developed an interest in World of Warcraft, an online fantasy game. Priester said Trenor would play it for hours, sometimes long past midnight.
Trenor met Zeigler online through the game, police say. Zeigler told her that he lived in Houston and worked as a Shell Oil contractor.
"Kim was young, I mean, 18 years old, naive," said Sheryl Sawyers. "Maybe he painted a pretty picture and that's, you know, what made her move down there."
On March 30, Trenor filed a domestic violence charge against Robert Sawyers and he was arrested. Her complaint alleged that he pinned her to a wall by forcing his hand around her neck. The charge against him was reduced to disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to receive anger management counseling.
The couple was back in court in May, fighting for custody of Riley. Trenor won, and after the hearing, she disappeared with the girl.
Later court documents filed by Robert and Sheryl Sawyers allege that Trenor never honored the visitation rights and that they never saw Riley again after May 25.
DePledge filed several motions and requests to bring Riley's mother back to explain herself. The requests were denied because Sawyers didn't have legal custody.
Trenor married Zeigler in Texas on June 1. She came back to Ohio briefly for a child-support hearing, then vanished again. Sawyers and his mother called relatives and friends, trying to locate Riley and her mother, to no avail.
DePledge discovered in August that Trenor had obtained a Texas driver's license. Attempts to serve her with court papers failed. Trenor told the Sawyers when they called that Riley was taking a nap or outside playing.
Riley died on July 24. Trenor told authorities the girl was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and then was thrown across a room, her head slamming into a tile floor.
Riley's remains were found inside a plastic storage bin in Galveston Bay.
For weeks, Galveston County Sheriff's investigators and FBI officials worked to track down the identity of the little girl. They distributed a police artist's rendering of the girl and the sketch caught the attention of Sheryl Sawyers, who called police.
That led police to Trenor and Zeigler, who were living in Spring, about 75 miles north of Galveston.
Trenor told police she and Zeigler beat and tortured Riley to death in a disciplinary session that veered out of control. Trenor said they hid the girl's body in a shed for two months before dumping it in the bay.
Sheryl Sawyers was hoping to see Riley again for Christmas.
"I feel devastated," she said. "It's hard to think that I'll never see her again. I guess knowing is better than not knowing. It still doesn't make it right."
The Houston Chronicle and Associated Press Writer M.R. Kropko in Mentor, Ohio, contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
APTV 12-03-07 0736EST