Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.
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I am writing to express my support for the Topeka West High School, Wichita State University, and University of Kansas students who staged protests last week, accusing their local officials of not doing enough to hold male students accountable for sexually assaulting their female classmates.
I also support the U.S. Olympic gymnasts who recently shined a bright light on how authorities covered up the sexual abuse they’d suffered at the hands of their team doctor.
At some point, I hope the protesters will broaden their cause to include the women at Topeka Correctional Facility who killed the men who were raping them. Their stories, too, have been covered up.
My daughter, Sarah Gonzales-McLinn, killed her controlling abuser in Lawrence in 2014. At the time, she was 19, he was 52. A jury found her guilty of first-degree murder; the Kansas Supreme Court upheld her Hard 50 sentence. The sentence was later reduced to a Hard 25-to-life in exchange for her giving up her right to further appeals.
Should my daughter spend another 18 years in prison for killing the man she says had been raping her two to three times a week for almost a year? I think not.
Did the judicial processes get to the bottom of what was going on behind closed doors between my daughter and her abuser? No, it did not.
Did the Kansas Supreme Court’s 66-page decision include the word “rape”? No, it did not.
At the women’s prison, my daughter’s story is not unique. The systems that are slow in addressing sexual assaults and find ways to cover up a team doctor’s pedophilia are the same as those that dismiss the inmates’ stories with a centuries-old disclaimer: “If he was so bad, she could have left him.”
Is that acceptable? No, it’s not.
Michelle Gonzales, Topeka
“I am the mother of Sarah Gonzales-McLinn, the 19-year-old woman who killed Hal Sasko in 2014. … To imply that my daughter’s sentence was cut in half is misleading,” Michelle Gonzales writes in this column.
“Because this case is closed, we ethically can address misconceptions that have arisen from a misguided narrative based on supposition and speculation,” Douglas County DA Suzanne Valdez and defense attorney Jonathan Sternberg write in this column.
Sarah Gonzales-McLinn will spend about 18 more years behind bars, minimum, for the 2014 murder of Harold “Hal” Sasko.
An attorney fighting to get Sarah Gonzales-McLinn’s hard-50 sentence overturned has come to an agreement with prosecutors: they’re asking for 25 years to life instead for the 2014 murder.