A California woman who was sentenced to life in prison at 17 years old for killing her pimp was released from prison Thursday.
Sara Kruzan, 35, left the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla after being paroled under a new California law that allows for the resentencing of certain inmates convicted as juveniles. Kruzan spent 19 years in prison.
Kruzan was prosecuted for the 1994 fatal shooting of George Gilbert Howard in a motel room in Riverside. She said that Howard had sexually assaulted her at age 11, and that he raped her and forced her into sex trafficking at age 13.
In 2010, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence to 25-years-to-life with the possibility of parole.
"Given Ms. Kruzan's age at the time of the murder, and considering the significant abuse she suffered at his hands, I believe Ms. Kruzan's sentence is excessive," said Schwarzenegger's commutation message.
Kruzan's case was championed by state Sen. Leland Yee, who authored a bill to ease life sentences for juveniles.
"It is justice long overdue," Yee told the Los Angeles Times. He called Kruzan's case the "perfect example of adults who failed her, of society failing her. You had a predator who stalked her, raped her, forced her into prostitution, and there was no one around."
In January, Yee’s bill became law and Kruzan became eligible for parole when a Riverside County judge reduced Kruzan's conviction from first-degree to second-degree murder.
In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a second bill requiring parole boards to give special consideration to juveniles tried as adults who have served at least 15 years of long sentences. He decided last week to accept the Parole Board’s recommendation for her release.
While in prison Kruzan earned a college degree and was named Woman of the Year in 2009 by corrections officers.
“We are all very pleased to see her be released,” said Susan Munsey who runs the local nonprofit Generate Hope, which shelter’s victims of human trafficking in San Diego and helps them transition in to society. “It was an incredible injustice to see her have to serve the time she served, given that she was a minor tried as an adult and given the circumstances she endured....We hope that she is able to reintegrate back into society and that she is able to enjoy her freedom.”
Kruzan’s appeals lawyer, Ron McIntire, told KPBS that she is in an Orange County apartment in a program to help her do just that.