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Teen Charged with Killing Pizza Shop Boss Who Tried to Steer Her from Gangs

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Courtesy Kimberly Qualls; Courtesy McLinn Family

Sarah Gonzales McLinn, the teen sought in the slaying of her former boss at a chain of Kansas pizza restaurants, subdued Harold Sasko and beat him to death, Kansas authorities said Monday, adding that she will be prosecuted for first-degree murder.

After Sasko’s body was discovered in his home Jan. 18, police had said it was unclear whether McLinn, 19, was a suspect or another victim, with McLinn’s family saying they were concerned she was a victim.

But after McLinn was interviewed by investigators in Florida on Sunday, officials shared Monday that they were confident that McLinn was solely responsible for Sasko’s death.

Investigators said they were still trying to determine motive, something that would probably come out at trial.

“Everybody wants to know how, why, and when,” Lawrence, Kan., Police Chief Tarik Khatib told reporters. “Those are the kinds of things we will be asking her.”

Officials believe the murder happened on or around the evening of Jan. 14 in the home that Sasko shared with McLinn. According to Sasko’s ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Qualls, Sasko generously helped many of his employees at his three Topeka-area Cici’s pizza restaurant franchises. He allowed McLinn to move in with him in 2012 to distance her from drugs and friends in gangs.

Lawrence police said last week that McLinn’s car, which had mechanical issues, was still at the Sasko house, but that his 2008 Nissan Altima was not.

According to Khatib, McLinn traveled roughly 1,600 miles since the murder, driving across the south by way of Texas in the Altima before taking refuge in Florida’s Everglades National Park. There, park rangers detained her Saturday night for camping after hours and on an unrelated drug charge, and determined that she was wanted in Kansas.

Lawrence police traveled to Florida Sunday to interview McLinn, but she will have to waive extradition or have an extradition hearing before the teen can be returned to Kansas, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson told reporters.

Branson said McLinn committed the slaying with “premeditation and intent,” and “we have not ruled out other possible charges.”

Khatib said they were still piecing together how the crime occurred, but it appeared that McLinn somehow knocked Sasko unconscious with “an edged weapon,” subdued him and beat him to death.