Jurors found an Air Force base airman guilty of kidnapping and murdering a Mennonite woman and leaving her dead in the wilderness. Based on those convictions, the judge adjudicated him guilty of theft.
Mark Gooch, 22, kidnapped Sasha Krause, 27, from her community near Farmington, New Mexico in January 2020, and brought her to a forest clearing outside Flagstaff, Arizona, authorities have said. At some point, he had bound her wrists, authorities said. Gooch bashed her head with his rifle and then shot the victim in the back of the head, prosecutor Ammon Barker told jurors in closing arguments on Friday.
Gooch actually grew up in a Mennonite community, but he “rejected” life there and joined the military, his father James Gooch testified in the Coconino County, Arizona, court. He harbored a deep resentment shared by at least one brother. Virginia state trooper Jacob Gooch told him he ticketed a Mennonite man, and wrote he coughed on the man to give him COVID. Mark Gooch cheered him on: “Fuck yeah.”
He was relishing in the suffering of a man he did not even know, Barker said. That’s what he did with Krause, the prosecutors said. (Jacob Gooch resigned over the text.)
This contempt flew in the face of his statements to law enforcement about why he was in Farmington, Barker said. He claimed he was there because he was missing the Mennonite community and wanted to join a church. Gooch was not mastermind, however, Barker said. He failed to cover up the evidence and told lies that did not hold up to scrutiny. For example, he claimed to have “swung by” a Mennonite church one afternoon to check out service times, but in truth, he was there for three hours and 31 minutes, Barker said.
Gooch had written another brother Sam Gooch that he was doing “surveillance,” but only found older people, who, in his words, did not have “much to live for.” This is proof he was in Flagstaff on Jan. 12, 2020, six days before Krause went missing, said Barker.
He tried and failed to hide his tracks in the Krause murder, but deleting his Google account information did not touch AT&T records, Barker said. Cell phone evidence approximated his presence at the kidnapping site in New Mexico and the murder site in Arizona, and it also helped catch Gooch in his lies, according to the state.
Defense lawyer Bruce Griffen maintained that the state’s purported evidence was blown out of proportion or was otherwise slight. For example, he suggested that if Gooch really did hate Mennonite people, the record should have been far more robust then just two references over a four-year period. He maintained that Gooch really did have an interest in being part of the Mennonite community. Gooch was lonely, he said, and looking for community.
[Booking photo of Gooch via Coconino County; picture of Krause via San Juan County Sheriff’s Office]
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