Jurors find woman guilty of 1st degree murder in death of Lawren - KCTV5


Jurors find woman guilty of 1st degree murder in death of Lawrence businessman

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A 20-year-old northeastern Kansas woman was convicted Friday of killing her roommate and former employer by nearly decapitating him, with jurors rejecting the defense's push for her acquittal on mental health claims.

Jurors in Douglas County deliberated nearly five hours before finding Sarah Gonzales McLinn of Lawrence guilty of first-degree murder in the January 2014 death of 52-year-old pizza shop owner Harold Sasko.

McLinn's attorneys had acknowledged that their 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, contrary to what her attorneys argued.

Family members from either side didn't want to talk as they left Douglas County court, but McLinn's attorney Carl Cornwell spoke about his client.

“They're just in shock because I will tell you folks, nobody takes a knife and puts it through a throat like she did and then you try to describe 'Well that's not the person I've always known, that's not the person I've been around,'" he said.

Prosecutors are seeking a 50-year sentence that doesn't carry the prospect of parole. Jurors will begin hearing the sentencing portion of the trial Monday. Cornwell said he plans to ask the jury and judge for McLinn to get psychological help.

During the trial, the 12 jurors watched a videotaped statement by McLinn in which she told investigators that she drugged Sasko with sleeping pills, then bound his wrists and ankles with plastic ties before feeling for his neck artery and plunging the knife into his throat.

Cornwell, in pressing that his client be found not guilty by reason of mental disease and defect, during closing arguments cited testimony that 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."

“She's got so much going on inside her head she just can't get this all figured out, she's just a broken child," he added after the trial.

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."

Reporter Caitlin Doornbos with the Lawrence Journal-World has been in court every day for the trial. She said details coming out from both prosecutors and the defense sent chills through the courtroom and the community.

“She took a long hunting knife that the prosecutor and the defense showed the jurors, she felt for his artery and she plunged it in," she said. “It rocked the core of Lawrence."

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