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Sarah McKinley: The Widow Who Shot an Intruder to Protect Her Baby

inside the story of Sarah Mckinley

By Rare StoriesPublished 3 months ago 4 min read

Sarah McKinley was an 18-year-old widow and mother who made headlines in 2011 when she shot and killed an intruder who broke into her home on New Year's Eve. She was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher who told her to do whatever she had to do to protect herself and her three-month-old son.

She asked for permission to shoot the intruders if they came through the door, and the dispatcher said he could not tell her that, but she had to do what she had to do to protect her baby. She waited until the intruders, armed with a knife, entered her home, and then she fired a shotgun, killing one of them instantly.

The Beginning

Sarah McKinley lived in a mobile home in Blanchard, Oklahoma, with her husband Kenneth and their son Justin. Kenneth was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on Christmas Day, 2011, leaving Sarah a widow at 18. She said her husband had been her best friend and her protector, and that she missed him terribly. She also said she had to be strong for her son, who was only three months old at the time.

Sarah and her child

On New Year's Eve, 2011, Sarah was at home with her baby when she heard someone knocking on her door. She looked through the peephole and saw a man she did not recognize. She said he claimed to be a neighbor who needed help, but she did not believe him. She said he had a suspicious look on his face and she felt uneasy. She did not open the door and told him to go away. She said he then went to the back door and tried to break in. She said she heard him say, "Let me in, or I'll kill you."

Sarah grabbed her shotgun and her pistol and called 911. She barricaded the door with a couch and asked the dispatcher what she should do. She said she had two guns in her hand and asked if it was OK to shoot the intruder if he came in. The dispatcher told her to do whatever she had to do to protect herself and her baby, but he could not tell her to shoot him. He said he would stay on the line with her until the police arrived.

Justin Martin, the intruder

Sarah said it took the intruder about 20 minutes to get through the door, and she was terrified. She said she did not want to kill him, but she had to defend herself and her son. Sarah waited until he was inside the house, and then she shot him.


The police arrived shortly after Sarah shot the intruder and found him dead on the floor. He was identified as Justin Martin, 24, who had a criminal record and was holding a knife when he died. The police also arrested his alleged accomplice, Dustin Stewart, 29, who had fled the scene when he heard the gunshot.

Stewart called 911 and confessed that he and Martin had tried to break into Sarah's home, looking for prescription drugs. He said he thought Martin was addicted to painkillers and that he did not know Sarah or her husband. He said he was sorry for what happened and that he did not want anyone to die.

Martin's accomplice Dustin Stewart

The police said they found evidence that Martin and Stewart had planned the burglary and that they had targeted Sarah's home because they knew her husband had died and they thought she had drugs. They said they also found a flower on Martin's body, which they believed was a tribute to Sarah's husband. They said they did not know why Martin had brought a flower, but they speculated that he might have wanted to mock Sarah or to make her feel sorry for him.


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The police said they did not find any drugs in Sarah's home, and that she had acted in self-defense. They said she had the right to use deadly force against an intruder, according to Oklahoma law. They said they would not file any charges against her, but they would charge Stewart with first-degree murder because Martin's death was caused by their attempt to commit a felony. They said Stewart could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.


(1) Okla. mom Sarah McKinley won't face charges for shooting intruder

(2) No charges for US widow Sarah McKinley who killed intruder

(3) Sarah McKinley | Real Life Heroes Wiki | Fandom

(4) Find out about ITV News’ Sarah McKinley


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Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  • Margaret Brennan3 months ago

    My husband and I watch true crime stories every night. We're fascinated by them. GREAT writing. Love it.

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