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Lawrence woman who killed her abuser seeks clemency from Kansas governor

Sarah Gonzales-McLinn didn't know what was in store for her when she moved into Hal Sasko's house in Lawrence. This image was taken on the day she moved in.
Kansas Reflector
This photo was taken the day that Sarah Gonzales-McLinn moved into Harold Sasko's house in Lawrence, Kansas. She was 17; he was 50.

Sarah Gonzales-McLinn was 19 when she murdered 52-year-old Harold Sasko in January 2014. He had allegedly raped her, controlled her financially, coerced her into getting plastic surgery, and held her captive in his Lawrence home for months. She is now seeking clemency on her sentence from Gov. Laura Kelly.

In 2015, Sarah Gonzales-McLinn was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to a minimum of 50 years in prison, later accepting a plea deal that relinquished her right to appeal in exchange for a minimum of 25 years in prison.

A group of advocates filed an application for clemency on Gonzales-McLinn’s behalf in December 2022. Without clemency, the soonest she will be released is 2039.

Roxanne Merriman is Gonzales-McLinn’s former roommate at the Topeka Correctional Facility. She wrote one of the letters of support for the clemency application.

“Society has labeled her and made her appear to be a monster, and it’s very easy for people, anyone in general, to follow what they’ve been told,” Merriman said on Up To Date. “In my letter, my main point that I wanted to get through is that this young woman is far from a monster. She’s beautiful. She is intelligent. She was very traumatized. To me, rather than looking at what she did, I would like people to look at what was done to her to make her feel this was her only option.”

The advocacy group has held two informational sessions about the clemency application on May 20 and May 22, 2024.

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