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Lawyer says Kansas woman, 19, doesn't deny killing; questions remain over why

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LAWRENCE, Kansas — The lawyer for a 19-year-old Kansas woman accused of killing her 52-year-old housemate says his client doesn't deny killing the man.

Sarah B. Gonzales McLinn is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Harold Sasko, who was found dead Jan. 17 after police went to the home the two shared and after McLinn's family reported her missing.

McLinn appeared with her lawyer, Carl Cornwell, on Thursday in Douglas County District Court, where a preliminary hearing was set for May 16, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1g576aV).

Sasko owned three pizza restaurants between Topeka and Lawrence. McLinn is accused of subduing and killing Sasko with an "edged instrument" on or around Jan. 14. A former employee of Sasko's, McLinn had been living with him since 2012.

Speaking after Thursday's hearing, Cornwell said McLinn told investigators after she was found sleeping inside his car at Everglades National Park in Florida that she had killed Sasko. McLinn has been in Douglas County Jail on a $1 million bond since being extradited from Florida in early February.

"She has never denied that," Cornwell said.

Cornwell also said after a February hearing that the case would center on her motive, not on whether McLinn committed the crime.

Cornwell said Thursday he wanted to waive the preliminary hearing during which prosecutors would present evidence, but the prosecution, led by District Attorney Charles Branson, wanted to have the hearing. If convicted, McLinn could serve 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

"I know what happened. . It's obvious what's going to happen: Everybody's going to know she committed the crime," Cornwell said of the preliminary hearing.

He said the understanding why it happened is another matter.

"This one is particularly sad," Cornwell said, "and not because Mr. Sasko's dead — that's a given. That's horrible. He's not going to be able to see his daughter or his family. That is horrible. But what got my client to that day and why she did what she did, I am having trouble wrapping my brain around it."


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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