A jury recommended a 50-year prison sentence Monday for a woman convicted of killing her roommate and former employer by nearly decapitating him.
A Douglas County jury decided on the sentence for Sarah Gonzales McLinn of Lawrence after concluding her January 2014 killing of 52-year-old pizza shop owner Harold Sasko was committed in an “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner.” Jurors had the option of recommending a life term with parole eligibility after 25 years.
McLinn, who was convicted Friday of first-degree murder, is to be sentenced April 29.
During her trial, McLinn’s attorneys acknowledged their 20-year-old client killed Sasko, but they sought an acquittal on claims that she had mental disease or defect at the time of the slaying. Defense witnesses also testified that McLinn had multiple personalities. But jurors concluded McLinn was able to form intent in killing Sasko.
During the trial, jurors watched a videotaped statement by McLinn in which she told investigators she drugged Sasko with sleeping pills, then bound his wrists and ankles with plastic ties before feeling for his neck artery and plunging a hunting knife into his throat.
McLinn attorney Carl Cornwell told jurors during last Friday’s closing arguments that testimony revealed McLinn had been molested as a toddler and raped at age 16.
“We all know that she is broken,” Cornwell told jurors. “We all know that she needs to be safeguarded and we all know that she needs to be treated.”
But Charles Branson, the county’s district attorney, countered that jurors should ignore the defense’s “smoke and mirrors.”
Cornwell “spent a lot of time talking about other things. Don’t get confused,” Branson argued. “The evidence suggests overwhelmingly that these were intentional acts.”
On Monday, David Melton, an assistant district attorney, showed jurors a photograph of Sasko’s body and told them McLinn used a hunting knife rather than a gun to get the most out of the murder.
Cornwell countered that a 50-year sentence wasn’t appropriate, insisting such terms “should be reserved for somebody who is kept alive and tortured.”