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‘Tragic Circumstances’: California Governor Pardons Woman Decades After She Was Sentenced to Life as a Teen for Killing Her Pimp

A California woman sentenced to life in prison at 17 years old for fatally shooting the man who abused and trafficked her has been granted clemency by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom pardoned Sara Kruzan on July 1 after she spent 18 years in prison for the 1994 murder. She was paroled in 2013.

Tragic Circumstances': California Governor Pardons Woman Decades After She Was Sentenced to Life as a Teen for Killing Her Pimp
Sara Kruzan received clemency in July 2022 for killing her pimp in 1994. (Photo: YouTube/ Testif-i Storytelling)

“Ms. Kruzan committed a crime that took the life of the victim. Since then, Ms. Kruzan has transformed her life and dedicated herself to community service,” according to the pardon. “This act of clemency for Ms. Kruzan does not minimize or· forgive her conduct or the harm it caused. It does recognize the work she has done since to transform herself.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Kruzan, an alleged victim of physical abuse, was just 11 years old when George Gilbert “G.G.” Howard lured her into his red Mustang with the promise of ice cream. The 31-year-old man forced her to have sex with 11 men her first night on the street.

Years later, she shot Howard while carrying out a plan to rob the pimp.

Kruzan grew up in Riverside, California, where she was on the honor roll and ran track. At home, her mother was on drugs. Kruzan’s mother admitted to abusing her as a child. Howard assumed a father-figure role in the young girl’s life.

“Gigi would start to take me and my little friends roller skating or to the mall and stuff,” Kruzan said in a 2013 YouTube interview.

After grooming Kruzman for three years, Howard “broke her in” and then started selling her to other men.

“Gigi’s hours were 6 in the evening to 5:30 and 6 in the morning,” Kruzan said. “The girls would bring their money and give it to him. He was married to all of us. I guess. That’s how they do.”

When Kruzan was 15 years old, she went to live with her grandmother. She started dating Johnny Otis at 16, who convinced her to get revenge for Howard hurting her. Otis and his uncle devised a plan to rob Howard. Kruzan agreed to meet Howard in a motel room, where her aunt, Anne Rogan, said she was ordered to kill the man.

“And this guy said to her, ‘well, I want you to get G.G.’s money, and I want you to shoot him, and if you don’t do this, I’m going to kill your mother’; and I believe he threatened her boyfriend at the time,” Rogan said.

“Apparently, when he started to pull out a sex toy, that is when she shot him. There was a fear that gripped her of all the abuse, and that’s when she shot him.”

Kruzan’s lawyer reportedly told her not to accept a plea deal, and she was tried as an adult and found guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutors tagged on a four-year consecutive firearm enhancement to the life sentence, according to reports.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence to 25 years to life in 2010. Her lawyers then asked the court to give Kruzan a new trial. Then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that Kruzan was not a victim of domestic violence but was in a professional relationship and not a dating relationship with Howard.

Harris later changed course. Kruzan’s charges were reduced to second-degree manslaughter in January 2013, a 19-year sentence, which made her eligible for parole. California stopped arresting children for prostitution in 2017.

“Ms. Kruzan’s tragic circumstances and the fact that she was a sexually exploited minor is the antithesis of what is traditionally thought of as ‘dating,'” Harris said in a 2012 letter apologizing to the court. “But we recognize that it may be applicable here or in other cases.”

Kruzan spends her time these days nurturing her 7-year-old daughter. She still lives with the trauma of the past, which she refers to as a “life built on quicksand.”

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