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Sara Jessimy KRUZAN





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (16) - Kruzan was forced to work as a child prostitute
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 10, 1994
Date of arrest: 4 days after
Date of birth: January 8, 1978
Victim profile: George Gilbert Howard, 36 (her alleged pimp)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Riverside County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on May 10, 1995. Commuted to 25 years with the possibility of parole on January 2, 2011
photo gallery

The Court of Appeal of the State of California
Fourth Apellate District

Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and to Redress Sentencing Error

Sara Jessimy Kruzan (born January 8, 1978) is an American convicted murderer and victim of human trafficking. In 1995, at the age of 17 years, she was convicted of the first degree murder of her alleged pimp, George Gilbert Howard. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. As a result of her status as a convicted juvenile sentenced to life without parole, Kruzan has received national attention from individuals and judicial reform groups, who advocate for a new trial.

On January 2, 2011, as a result of the media attention, Kruzan was granted clemency by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who commuted her sentence to 25 years with the possibility of parole. As of 2012, she remains incarcerated at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. In January of 2013, her sentence was reduced to 2'nd degree manslaughter and 15+4 years, effectively time served. Making her eligible for a parole hearing. On june 12'th 2013,, she was found suitable for parole and is awaiting final confirmation from Governor Brown of CA.

Early life

Sara Kruzan was born on January 8, 1978. She was raised by her mother in Riverside, California, where she was an honor roll student at school. During her childhood she met her father only three times because he was serving long prison terms. During her childhood, Kruzan experienced severe depression, resulting in numerous hospitalizations.

George Gilbert Howard


When Kruzan was 11 years old, she met George Gilbert "G.G." Howard. Twenty years her senior, Howard initially served as a surrogate father for Kruzan. Kruzan stated in court records that upon their introduction, he began grooming her for a life of prostitution. She also testified that by the age of 13, she became a victim of human trafficking. Under the control of Howard, she was forced to work as a child prostitute and was subjected to sexual abuse.

Murder and arrest

In March 1994, when Kruzan was 16 years old, she moved into a Rubidoux-area home belonging to James Earl Hamilton. Kruzan arranged to meet Howard on March 9 for a date and agreed to spend the night with him. On March 10, Kruzan shot Howard in the neck at close range in a room at the Dynasty Suites Motel. She then took $1,500 from his wallet, as well as the keys to his Jaguar. She then went to meet Hamilton and her boyfriend, Johnny Otis in a local supermarket. Howard's body was discovered by a member of the motel's housekeeping staff. When law enforcement officials at the scene found Kruzan's identification card and purse left behind in the motel room, a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Kruzan was arrested in Pomona on March 14, 1994. During questioning, Kruzan made a confession to the police. The District Attorney of Riverside County opted to ignore the pleas for extenuating circumstances surrounding Kruzan's actions, and he sought to have her tried in an adult court for first degree murder. An evaluation by California Youth Authority concluded she was amenable to treatment in the juvenile justice system. However, a local judge, at the urging of the prosecutor, Tim Freer, transferred her to the adult court.

Trial and sentencing

During her trial, Kruzan testified that she had killed Howard because Hamilton had ordered it and had threatened to kill both her and her mother if she did not carry out his orders. As a result, defense attorney, David Gunn, told the court of information provided to the police by Hamilton. Neither Hamilton nor Otis were charged with the crime due to a lack of legally sufficient corroborating evidence to support Kruzan's statement.

In his closing arguments at her trial, Freer cautioned jurors not to be swayed by the appearance of an attractive, petite teenager who may not fit their image of a murderer. On Thursday May 11, 1995, a Riverside Superior Court jury of seven women and five men found her guilty of first degree murder, affirming two special circumstances – that Howard was murdered during a robbery, and that Kruzan had been lying in wait to kill him – to justify a sentencing of life, with no possibility of parole.

Judicial reform advocacy

As a result of her status as a juvenile convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole, Kruzan has been the focus of national petitions and judicial reform groups that are advocating for a retrial. Some campaigning groups have suggested that Kruzan was suffering from Battered Person Syndrome, a physical and psychological condition that often results in victims of abuse murdering their abusers.

The National Center for Youth Law has spoken out against the US, for the frequency with which it sentences juveniles to life without parole, with Kruzan often mentioned as an example of the need for greater compassion.

In February 2009, Human Rights Watch published a video on YouTube, which features Kruzan, in an effort to highlight their campaign for a ban on sentences of life without parole for juveniles in California. In November 2010, began a petition to then-current California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant Kruzan clemency before leaving office. In reaction to this case Democratic Senator, Leyland Yee of San Francisco stated, "Life without parole means absolutely no opportunity for release.... It also means minors are often left without access to programs and rehabilitative services while in prison. This sentence was created for the worst of criminals that have no possibility of reform and it is not a humane way to handle children. While the crimes they committed caused undeniable suffering, these youth offenders are not the worst of the worst."


Sara Kruzan

Sara Kruzan (d.o.b. January 8, 1978) is a survivor of child molestation, rape, child-sex trafficking and of intimate partner battering. On March 10, 1994, as 36 year old George Gilbert Howard motioned to rape 16 year old Sara inside a hotel room, Sara let off the fatal gunshot that ended his life. Howard had molested, indoctrinated, raped and trafficked Sara from the age of 11 – 16 in 1994.

On May 10, 1995, Sara was convicted of the first degree murder [PC 187] of George Gilbert Howard and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus four years. Signed on December 31st, 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California commuted Sara’s sentence to twenty-five years to life, plus four years. January 18, 2013 a settlement in Riverside reduced Sara’s sentence from first to second degree murder, coinciding with a reduction to 15 years to life, plus four years.

Early Life

Sara Kruzan grew up in Riverside, California with an older sister and a single mother on welfare. Sara’s father was an ex-convict and heroine addict. On one of three occasions when Sara met her father, she witnessed him shooting up heroin in a bathroom. Sara’s mother was mentally ill, emotionally unstable and addicted to cocaine. She battered Sara and Sara’s sister physically and psychologically since they were infants. In one of Sara’s earliest memories, her mother smacked her across the face until blood splattered from her nose onto a nearby dresser. Child Protective Services opened an investigation in 1989, due to being notified (by Sara’s school) of bruises on Sara’s body. In 1993, Child Protective Services determined it to be unsafe for Sara to reside with her mother.

Sara was molested by several of the men her mother brought home. Sara’s earliest memory of molestation is cited at age five. As these incidents persisted, Sara’s mother did nothing to stop them, but instead displayed jealousy and blamed Sara. Sara was exposed to her mother’s sex and drug activity. By fourth grade, Sara started cutting. By age 11, Sara began to leave home without permission. Sara’s mother showed no sign of concern. Instead, she physically assaulted Sara and forced her out of her residence. At age 11, Sara was hospitalized for attempted suicide. Rather than to provide Sara with adequate safety, the State sent Sara home.

Child-Sex Trafficking

At age 11, George Gilbert Howard picked up Sara as she was walking home from school. G. G. bribed Sara with ice cream, then took her to his residence, where he undressed her and molested her, thereby committing a first degree felony sexual assault. From that date forward, G. G. Howard indoctrinated Sara into the child-sex trade. At age 12, Sara’s mother set Sara up with a 23 year old “mentor”, who furnished Sara with alcohol and raped her repeatedly over the course of a year. [In the State of California under PC 261.5, sex with a minor is defined as rape.] At age 13, Sara was gang raped by three men. Sara’s mother refused to allow Sara to press charges. She insisted it would backfire and that Sara had “asked for it”.

At age 13, 33 year old George Gilbert Howard raped Sara Kruzan [PC 261.5] then immediately began to sexually exploit Sara, selling her body for three years in the child-sex trade. G. G. Howard threatened Sara and set her in dangerous situations, in addition to the dangers of prostitution. At age 15, Sara was hospitalized when she survived a fatal car crash. Sara was then placed in five or six foster care homes, while she repeatedly ran away to return to G. G. Howard over the course of five months.

Plans to Escape

November of 1993, Sara attempted to escape a life of child sex slavery by going to Ontario with a 15 year old male friend. Sara’s mother threatened to report kidnap, ergo Sara returned to her mother’s neighborhood. Sara’s friend found a place where the two could temporarily stay with the friend’s uncle, James Earl Hampton. “James Earl” was a convicted felon and drug dealer out on parole. [James E. Hampton, Prisoner ID P23654, has since been convicted of rape and attempted murder, and is serving out a life sentence in the State of California.] As James Earl bragged of the murders he committed, waved guns and threatened to take Sara’s friends life, Sara hoped to borrow money from G. G. Howard to get her own apartment. When James Earl caught wind of this, he continued his murderous threats and devised for Sara a plan of his own.

The Crime Scene

March 9, 1994, James Earl Hampton ordered Sara to call G. G. Howard to arrange that the two of them meet. He then garnered Sara with a pistol. James Earl Hampton brought Sara to a third party who would bring Sara to meet with G. G.  Sara and G. G. proceeded to a movie theater where Sara began to receive several pages from James Earl Hampton, who instructed “187″ (as Sara knew to be the California Penal Code Section for Murder). G. G. escorted Sara to the Dynasty Suites Hotel where he had raped her on prior occasions. While G. G. payed for the room, Sara called James Earl and asked to speak with her friend. James Earl declined to allow it and threatened Sara that they would not survive if she did not follow through with the murder and robbery of G. G. Howard.

Passed midnight, in the hotel room, 36 year old G. G. Howard put on a pornographic movie and began undressing and molesting 16 year old Sara. G. G. took out a large sex toy. Sara dreaded being raped by G. G. Howard. When G. G. turned to plug the sex toy into the wall, Sara shot him. Sara took G. G. Howard’s money and keys as instructed, yet left behind her purse, identification and shoes. She delivered the car and money to James Earl. James held a gun to Sara’s head and instructed her of what to say if she were questioned. James Earl brought Sara to some other residence where he ordered her to be locked away in a room for days. When James Earl brought Sara to his mothers house, she was arrested. Sara initially repeated the story that James Earl demanded, yet she soon confessed to the shooting.

Her Life Sentence

Sara was 16 years old and had no priors. The convicted James Earl Hampton and the minor (then a friend of Sara’s) were never brought to trial. Sara’s defense counsel, David Gunn, advised Sara to take the case to trial. Sara Kruzan was tried in Riverside County Superior Court, with Judge J. Thompson Hanks presiding. The testimony lasted two and a half days. The jurors were not aware that George Gilbert Howard had sexually assaulted, raped and indoctrinated Sara into the child-sex trade. While no expert witnesses spoke in Sara’s defense, Sara agreed to nearly every leading question the prosecutor asked. The probation officer assigned to Sara Kruzan’s case overlooked PC 190.5, that granted court discretion to sentence minors convicted of first degree murder to 25 to life with the possibility of parole. The officer incorrectly stated that State law required the court to sentence Sara to life without possibility of parole. On May 10, 1995, at the age of 17, Sara was sentenced to life in prison, plus four years, without possibility of parole.

Intimate Battering

Two key experts independently concluded that Sara suffered from the effects of intimate partner battering at the time of the shooting and that expert testimony would have affected the outcome of the criminal proceedings. After a thorough evaluation of Sara Kruzan and her documents, Dr. Linda S. Barnard concluded that, “Sara was suffering from the effects of intimate partner battering in March 1994 and her behaviors and actions were affected – if not controlled by – the years of abuse she endured. By failing to have an expert on intimate partner battering and its effects to explain the many complexities involved in this case, Sara Kruzan’s defense was severely limited.” Dr. Nancy Kaser-Boyd concluded, “Ms. Kruzan clearly suffered the common effects of intimate partner battering on the night of the shooting. Most young people [suffering from intimate partner battering and its effects] respond well to therapy and become healthy adults with therapeutic intervention.”

Free Sara Kruzan

Free Sara Kruzan was founded in 2006, by Kim Deanne, whose dedication was inspired by her friend Sara Kruzan to combat her plight as a victim of child-sex slavery and subsequently being sentenced as a youth to life in prison with no possibility of parole. A kindred spirit of Sara’s since she saw Sara on the news  in 94, in 2010 The Boston artist Earth Saylove started organizing in 2010. The San Diego activist and close ally of Sara’s, Carrie Christie, came to organize on the ground in California in 2012. The Global Human Rights Campaign to Free Sara Kruzan was restructured in 2011-2012 with a mission to raise awareness of Sara’s story, to facilitate her release from prison and to educate for the prevention of child-sex slavery. With the aid of international supporters and Sara’s 2007 interview by Human Rights Watch, on the last day of 2010, Sara’s sentence was commuted by Governor Schwarzenegger to 25 to life plus 4 years with parole. Optimistic, organizers revved up social media, phone calls and letters to government officials and soon launched perpetual activities alongside supporters to create a positive public atmosphere in support of Sara’s release. Sara’s final appeal was dated July 19, 2012, yet granted several extensions.

September 17, 2012, Carrie Christie hand delivered their petition of over 800 pages and more than 25,000 signatures to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. In October, the campaign’s sky lit “Sara Kruzan” bridge barricade prompted the Tense Reunions episode on Dr. Phil. January 18, 2013, a settlement removed Sara’s appeal for a new trial, yet reduced her sentence to 15 years to life, plus four years.

June 12, 2013 Sara Jessimy Kruzan was granted suitable for parole. She currently resides in an honors dorm in a women’s facility in the State of California where she awaits a final decision by Governor Jerry Brown regarding her conditions of parole. Sara has earned a college degree and has been named Woman of the Year by Correctional Officers. The Global Human Rights Campaign to Free Sara Kruzan (I am SJK and Forces For Sara) is currently lobbying for the protection of victims of sex trafficking and for Sara’s immediate release.



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