Shawn Ryan Grell's account to investigators as he was charged with first-degree murder was that he had driven his 2-year old daughter to her death under the guise that she was going to look at Christmas lights. Grell took his 2-year-old daughter who was laying in the grass, doused her in gasoline and set her on fire. She died face first in a nearby ditch.
When he set her on fire she was lying on the ground, she got up and ran about 12 feet, walking in circles at one point as the blaze spread towards her face. The heat was so intense that a barrette on the left side of Kristen’s head melted, and the plastic started running down her face. She finally collapsed face first in a ditch and died.
Autopsy shows that her lungs were covered in soot, proving that she was alive when she was set on fire.
Dr. Seth Asser, an expert in child trauma and burn injuries, testified today that there is no doubt in his mind that little Kristen Salem suffered horribly as she burned to death, the majority of her body consumed by flame. "Kristen became extremely confused from the lack of oxygen before her heart eventually stopped," he said. The little girl "would have had to be in pain from the quickest instant when she was set on fire until she fell over, and maybe sometime after that," Asser said.
Kristen's mother, Amber Salem, ran from the courtroom crying during Asser's testimony.