Brutal details in murder of Lawrence businessman revealed during first day of trial

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Sarah Gonzalez McLinn, 20, is standing trial in Douglas County for the brutal murder of her roommate, a 52-year-old businessman who owned a CiCi's Pizza restaurant in Lawrence and two others in Topeka.

Harold Sasko was killed Jan. 14, 2014, but he wasn't found for three days.  When police found Sasko's body at his home with his neck butchered, they realized McLinn was missing along with Sasko's 2008 Nissan Altima.  On January 25, McLinn was found in Sasko's car illegally camping in the Florida Everglades and taken into federal custody on an unrelated drug charge. She was soon returned to Kansas.

On Tuesday morning, March 17, jurors listened to opening statements, at which time McLinn's attorney, Carl Cornwell, told jurors that McLinn suffers from mental illness, causing her to have two personalities.

Testimony began shortly thereafter, with Detective David Axman, Lawrence Police Dept., taking the stand.

Axman showed a four-feet piece of sheetrock from Sasko's home. A stick figure with a face is drawn on it, along with a heart drawing, and the upper and lower abdomen, which was labeled with "Major Organ 1 & 2." The stick figure's thigh areas were circled and labeled  "Major blood vessel" with arrows pointing to groin area.

There are holes and indents all over the , and Axman says they are consistent with someone throwing a knife at the stick figure, leaving holes where the blade hit.

The prosecuting attorney, David Melton, told jurors that three of 15 beer cans found in the residence had traces of Ambien in them. According to investigators, Sarah McLinn admitted crushing sleeping pill into his beer so he would pass out.

During her preliminary hearing, Detective MT Brown, Lawrence Police Dept.,the detective who interrogated her after her arrest, testified that McLinn decided five days before she killed Sasko that he would be the target of her violent thoughts. She reportedly told Detective Brown that Sasko had mentioned taking his own life anyway.

For more on Brown's gruesome testimony during the preliminary hearing, click here for the previous story.

After Detective Axman's testimony, the coroner, Dr. Erik Mitchell testified. he showed jurors a picture of Sasko's head, face and neck, with deep, straight wound lines in his throat from side-to-side.  Dr. Mitchell says Sasko's neck was cut deep, almost to the spine.  When the prosecution questioned Dr. Mitchell about the murder weapon, he confirmed that a large hunting knife the prosecution showed jurors could have been used to kill Sasko.

As was the case in other court appearances, FOX 4's Melissa Stern reports that McLinn rarely looks up during the proceedings.

Friends of hers are there to support her, but admit the testimony is difficult.

"My Sarah has been dear and sweet, and a wonderful addition to our home and our family trips, and I love her very much and wish the best for her and her family," said her friend Rebekah Crawford. "It's been a lot to take in, and our thoughts and prayers are with Sarah and her family, and everyone involved in the process."

McLinn went to high school in Topeka. She worked for Sasko at one of his three CiCi Pizza restaurants. Sasko's relatives reported he let McLinn move into his house in Lawrence while she was dealing with personal problems.

District Attorney Charles Branson said the method used to kill Sasko has been determined as "heinous, atrocious, and cruel" in nature. Branson has requested a 'hard 50 penalty' in this case, which is a life sentence with a chance of parole after 50 years.

(on left) Harold 'Hal' Sasko, 52, (on right) Sarah Gonzales McLinn, 19

(on left) Harold 'Hal' Sasko, 52, (on right) Sarah Gonzales McLinn, 19

If McLinn is found guilty of premeditated first-degree murder and the felony theft of Sasko's vehicle, she would likely receive the 'hard-50' penalty due to the aggravated findings of this case. According to Branson, in the state of Kansas, the punishment would normally be life in prison with a chance for parole after just 25 years.

She is currently being held on a $1 million bond.

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Footage of press conference held on Monday: