Murder trial: McLinn describes killing Sasko in police interview
Sarah Gonzales McLinn, 20, of Lawrence, appears emotionless while confessing to the brutal slaying of 52-year-old Harold “Hal” Sasko in a video of her police interview following her arrest in Florida last year.
McLinn is charged with intentional, premeditated murder in the Jan. 14, 2014, death of Sasko, a Lawrence resident. McLinn lived with Sasko at the time of his death and had previously worked for him at Sasko’s CiCi’s Pizza restaurant.
Jurors saw video of her post-arrest interview Wednesday, the second day of testimony. McLinn sat quietly in a purple cardigan as Lawrence detective M.T. Brown showed jurors footage from his interview with her from Jan. 26, 2014, the day after she was arrested on a warrant in Everglades National Park.
In the video, McLinn was seen speaking with Brown and detective Jaime Lawson. She spoke nonchalantly and without tears, telling the investigator that she knew why he was there and admitting to drugging Sasko with five sleeping pills, zip-tying his wrists and ankles, feeling for his artery and plunging the knife into his neck.
To help Brown get a fuller idea of the way she killed Sasko, McLinn used Brown’s head as an example. She had Brown lay his head on the table, placed her left hand on Brown’s head, which was facing her, and gave a stabbing motion with her right hand.
“That’s when I ran it through with the blade face down, and I then pulled down,” McLinn said.
McLinn then described writing on the wall in Sasko’s blood, showering off his blood, packing her clothes in trash bags and putting her dog in Sasko’s Nissan Altima. Before she left, McLinn said, she called her sister and grandmother because she wanted them “to think (she) was OK.”
When asked why she killed Sasko, McLinn told the investigators that it was something she’d been thinking about for some time. She said she decided to kill Sasko about five days before the homicide.
“I had violent thoughts for two years and they progressed, I guess,” McLinn said. “They just became really intense.”
McLinn told the investigators that she “killed a couple rabbits” before, skinning and cleaning the bodies before eating them. Her attorney, Carl Cornwell, showed Brown a Nov. 11, 2013, receipt from Lawrence’s Pet World, 711 W. 23rd St., that documented McLinn’s purchase of a pet dutch rabbit.
In the interview, McLinn said she killed Sasko “almost the exact same way” as she killed the rabbit. She also used the same knife.
After she killed Sasko, McLinn said, she “just didn’t feel anything.” Later, she told Lawson that as Sasko lie dying, “everything was screaming at me.”
McLinn told detectives she intended to kill Sasko when she cut his throat, but answered “no” when asked if she was glad Sasko was dead. When Lawson asked what she regretted the most, she said, “hurting my sister and my family.”
McLinn remained calm in the interview, until she began to speak about giving up her dog, Oliver, in Florida. McLinn said her dog had an ear infection and she told a veterinarian in Fort Myers, Fla., that she was having trouble taking care of him. She also began to cry when speaking about her family.
Brown told McLinn in the video that he knew McLinn “recently had some thoughts about things” and said “we know that’s not you.” McLinn said that she had been on depression medication for about six months prior to the homicide, switching from Zoloft to Pristiq “a few days before everything happened,” and that the antidepressants intensified her violent thoughts.
“I’ve not been in a good place,” McLinn said. “It’s like really hard to explain. Little things make me turn and see red almost.”
McLinn also told investigators she had borderline personality disorder and “wanted out of that life.” She said she had “spent some time in a mental institution at 15 or 16” after a suicide attempt.
During opening statements Tuesday, Cornwell told the court McLinn suffers from dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personalities. He said that it was not McLinn who wanted to kill Sasko, but it was her alter-ego “Alyssa” who did. Cornwell said that McLinn has several personalities, including the kinder “Vanessa,” and another one without a name “who takes all of the horror and takes it in.” Cornwell said McLinn’s psychologist will testify to her multiple personalities later this week.
McLinn mentioned “Vanessa” in her police interview, saying she and Sasko talked about aliases they’d use if they ran away together someday. McLinn said Sasko wanted to be called “Scott.”
Cornwell is arguing the “not guilty by mental disease or defect” defense and said jurors should find McLinn not guilty because she was not in control of herself when she killed Sasko.
McLinn’s family lined the first two rows of the defendant’s side of the courtroom Wednesday. On the prosecutor’s side, Sasko’s brother and sister looked on.
Sasko’s brother, Tom Sasko, said he missed the trial yesterday because he was called as a witness. Wednesday morning, he got a call releasing him from his subpoena and came to the courthouse dressed in a CiCi’s Pizza polo shirt.
Tom Sasko said he has been in town the past two weeks helping Hal Sasko’s 18-year-old daughter sell Hal Sasko’s CiCi’s Pizza businesses in Lawrence and Topeka. He said he has been helping keep the businesses afloat for his niece until she was of age to decide what she wanted to do with them.
Follow the testimony via the tweets of Journal-World reporter Caitlin Doornbos, who will be covering the trial throughout the week.
Warning: some testimony may be graphic.