Jurors on Friday convicted Sarah Brooke Gonzales McLinn in the brutal knife death of Harold Sasko. Today jurors heard arguments by the State and defense attorney about whether the crime was committed in a “heinous, atrocious and cruel” manner allowing for the Hard 50 sentence. The jury returned with a verdict just before noon today agreeing with the State.
Following the jury’s verdict, District Attorney Branson stated, “Every murder is horrific, however the extreme brutality of the method of his murder was shocking to everyone in our community.” Branson went on to say, “We will ask the Judge to impose the ‘Hard 50’ sentence in this case.”
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 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 K-Tag entered the Kansas Turnpike in Lecompton shortly after midnight on January 15, 2014 and existed 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 past park hours.
The park ranger who found the car ran the 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 she them she decided about five days prior to the murder to kill Mr. Sasko and that killing someone was something she had been thinking about for some time. 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.
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.
Jury selection for Ms. Gonzales McLinn’s trial began on Monday, March16 and the selection continued through part of Tuesday morning. Opening arguments were delivered late Tuesday morning and the case was presented throughout the week. Closing arguments were delivered mid-morning Friday and the case was turned over to the jury around noon. The jury deliberated for about five hours before returning its verdict.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 29 at 9:00 a.m.
The Honorable Paula B. Martin presided over the trial. The case was investigated by the Lawrence Police Department and it was prosecuted by District Attorney Charles Branson and Chief Assistant District Attorney David Melton.