Share This Page

Calif. girl who killed her pimp as teen in '94 freed under new law

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — A woman who was sentenced to life in prison as a teenager for killing her former pimp was released on Thursday under a new California law that allows resentencing of certain inmates convicted as juveniles.

Sara Kruzan was paroled from Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla after serving 19 years, said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

She was 17 when she was sentenced for fatally shooting George Gilbert Howard in a Riverside motel room in 1994. She said Howard sexually assaulted her at an early age and she began working for him as a prostitute at 13.

Prosecutors said Kruzan was no longer working for Howard when she killed him.

In January, a Riverside County judge reduced Kruzan's conviction to second-degree murder, making her immediately eligible for parole. She was released less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown decided against blocking her parole.

On his last day in office in 2011, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had commuted Kruzan's sentence to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole, noting her “significant abuse starting at a vulnerable age.”

Her petition for clemency also cited years of abuse and psychiatric reports saying she suffered from battered woman syndrome.

The law sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, permits inmates who were sentenced as juveniles to life in prison without parole to seek new sentencing hearings.

Yee was at the prison in Chowchilla with Kruzan's supporters and friends.

Kruzan was the first inmate to earn the new sentence under the law, Yee said. As of June, 286 inmates were serving life without parole for crimes they committed before they turned 18. Before dawn Thursday, a corrections employee drove her from the prison in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley about 135 miles southeast of Sacramento.

Patino said Kruzan, now 35, was paroled to Orange County because a location there gives her the best opportunity to re-integrate into society. She will remain on parole for a maximum of three years.

Advocates used her case to push for giving second chances to criminals who were sentenced as juveniles to lengthy prison terms.

In a statement issued before her release, Yee called Kruzan an “inspiring example of the capacity for young people to recover from trauma and abuse.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.