Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson announces that today in the Division Five Courtroom the Honorable Paula B. Martin sentenced Sarah Brooke Gonzales McLinn, 21, to a hard 50 sentence for the January 2014 slaying of Harold Sasko in his own home. This sentence ultimately means Ms. Gonzales McLinn must serve at least 50 years before she can be considered for parole.
In March of this year, jurors convicted Ms. Gonzales McLinn in the brutal knife death of Harold Sasko. Jurors heard arguments by the State and defense attorney about whether the crime was committed in a “heinous, atrocious and cruel” manner. The jurors then came to a verdict as to whether or not the Court could consider the Hard 50 sentence and it agreed with consideration of the sentence.
Investigation into the case began in the late evening hours of Friday, January 17, 2014 when officers with the Lawrence Police Department (LPD) were called to a residence in the 2900 block of West 26th Street for a missing person call. Family and friends of both Mr. Sasko and Ms. Gonzales McLinn (who both lived in the home) were very concerned for their wellbeing as neither of them had reported to work, answered cell phone calls or kept planned visits for several days. Multiple officers met at the scene and knocked on the home’s doors. When the doors were not answered, an officer peered through a blind and could see someone lying on the floor. Officers forced open the home’s rear door and found the deceased victim in a large pool of blood.
The investigation quickly started to focus on Ms. Gonzales McLinn (then age 19) after a search of the home revealed her clothing was missing from her closet, her bed was stripped of its bedding and an empty picture frame was found on her bed. Officers learned the victim’s car with its K-Tag entered the Kansas Turnpike in Lecompton shortly after midnight on January 15, 2014 and exited later at the Southern Terminal. Investigators would learn it was Ms. Gonzales McLinn who had taken the car.
It was determined she killed the victim late on Tuesday, January 14 and she left in his car very early Wednesday morning. She drove to southern Texas and then to southern Florida before being apprehended by Park Rangers in the Everglades National Park in Dade County, Florida on Saturday, January 25 for being inside the park beyond the park’s hours.
The park ranger who found the car ran the license plate and learned it was being sought in connection with the Lawrence, Kansas homicide. Park rangers found inside the car two guns, nine boxes of ammunition, a taser, a long ax, a machete and multiple knives. One of the knives was a survival style knife that was ultimately determined to be the murder weapon. They also found cases of water, food, binoculars, a map and approximately $2,000 in cash.
When questioned by investigators, Ms. Gonzales McLinn told them that killing someone was something she had been thinking about for some time and that she had decided about five days prior to the murder to kill Mr. Sasko. She told investigators that she put ground up sleeping pills in his beer, waited for him to fall asleep; zip tied his hands and feet and then cut his throat with a large knife. It was later determined she owed Mr. Sasko money for rent and other expenses. Those combined factors were believed to be the motive behind the murder.
During the trial, her defense counsel conceded from the beginning of the trial that Ms. Gonzales McLinn committed the murder, but argued she was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Counsel claimed she had dissociative identity disorder and therefore she could not form the necessary intent to commit murder. The jury rejected the defense.
The Honorable Paula B. Martin presided over the case. It was investigated by the Lawrence Police Department and it was prosecuted by District Attorney Charles Branson and Chief Assistant District Attorney David Melton.