Airman convicted of kidnapping, killing Mennonite teacher

Oct 13, 2021, 12:16 AM | Updated: 7:16 pm
U.S. Air Force airman Mark Gooch, center, leaves Coconino County Superior Court between a pair of d...

U.S. Air Force airman Mark Gooch, center, leaves Coconino County Superior Court between a pair of detention officers after being found guilty of first degree murder and kidnapping in the January 2020 death of Sasha Krause in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. The two didn't know each other and lived hundreds of miles apart but shared an upbringing in the Mennonite religion. Krause committed to the church, but Gooch did not. Gooch, 22, faces up to life in prison. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

(Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Sasha Krause loved words. She loved learning and translating them into different languages. She loved reading them in nursery rhymes and assembling them into poetry.

She wrote about her purpose in life, her unwavering faith, the possibility of dying young and the glories of heaven — all of which have taken on new meaning to her family after her death last year, said her father, Bob Krause.

On Wednesday, a jury in Arizona found U.S. Air Force airman Mark Gooch guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder in Krause’s killing. The two didn’t know each other and lived hundreds of miles apart but shared an upbringing in the Mennonite religion. Krause committed to the church, while Gooch did not.

Krause, 27, was last seen in January 2020 at the church in her tight-knit Mennonite community outside Farmington, in northwestern New Mexico, where women wear head coverings and long dresses and men don plain, button-up shirts. She had been gathering material for Sunday school.

Her body was found more than a month later in a forest clearing outside Flagstaff, Arizona, nearly 300 miles (480 kilometers) away. A camper collecting firewood spotted Krause face-down among pine needles near a national monument. Krause’s wrists were bound, and she had been shot in the head.

Gooch was raised in a Mennonite community in Wisconsin, where he worked on his family’s dairy farm and went to school through eighth grade. He later rejected the religion and joined the U.S. Air Force.

During his trial, half the courtroom was filled at times with Krause’s parents and others who shared in the conservative Christian faith, including the general manager of the Farmington publishing ministry where Krause worked. Paul Kaufman said Wednesday his heart goes out to both families, and the community doesn’t want to be vindictive toward Gooch.

“We desire his complete repentance, that he would turn from darkness to light,” Kaufman said.

Gooch, 22, faces up to life in prison at his sentencing, set for Nov. 24. Coconino County Attorney William Ring said his office will seek swift justice and thanked the jury for its service.

“Through some hard work, the community will be a safer place tonight,” he said in a statement.

Jurors heard 10 days of testimony from those who knew Krause and investigated her disappearance. They heard from ballistics experts who disagreed on whether the bullet taken from her skull was fired from a .22-caliber rifle Gooch owned. They heard from Gooch’s father, Jim, but they did not hear from the defendant.

Gooch showed no emotion when the verdict was announced. He stood in a military stance, with one hand resting over the other behind his back. As he left the courtroom, he looked at two family members who sat behind him. They declined to comment.

Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols separately convicted Gooch of a misdemeanor charge of theft, related to Krause’s belongings.

Gooch’s attorney, Bruce Griffen, tried to raise reasonable doubt among the jury by pointing to a lack of forensic evidence and to testimony about another car seen in the Mennonite community the day Krause went missing. He said Gooch was peaceful and volunteered information to a detective who interviewed him at Luke Air Force Base in metropolitan Phoenix, where he was stationed.

“The circumstantial evidence from my perspective was substantial, and the jury perhaps concluded that the circumstantial evidence was enough to outweigh those problems,” Griffen said Wednesday.

Sean Clements, a spokesman for the air base, said proceedings would begin soon to discharge Gooch from the Air Force following his conviction.

Jim Gooch testified that his son left the Mennonite faith and joined the military because he lacked a converted heart — words that prosecutor Ammon Barker drew on during closing arguments.

“What the scripture says is you turn from darkness to light,” Jim Gooch said. “What it says is you’ve decided to follow the lord with your entire heart and with the tenets of the scripture would call for.”

Krause taught school for six years at a Grandview, Texas, Mennonite community before moving to Farmington less than two years before she died. She was a person of deep faith who found great joy in working with children and learning, her father told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“She was always studying something, especially languages, which came almost naturally to her,” he said. “She loved words: big words, funny words, poetry, classics and nursery stories — very word-oriented but not garrulous.”

The last stanza in a poem she wrote titled “I do not walk alone” perhaps was about passing in old age, he said, but “it is amazingly apt to what seems to have happened to her.”

Sasha Krause wrote:

“When stress + fear shall take their toll

When cruel tyrants grasp my soul

When death + all its horrors roll

I shall not walk alone”

For Sasha Krause’s headstone, her family chose the words: “She did not walk alone.”

No one saw Krause being taken from the community or killed. When the camper found her body near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, her wrists were bound with duct tape, she had suffered blunt force trauma, and she had a gunshot wound in the back of her head.

Authorities used cellphone and financial records, and surveillance video to tie Gooch to the crimes. Barker said Gooch was driven by a resentment for Mennonites, partly displayed through text messages with his brothers.

Authorities found inconsistencies in Gooch’s story when he talked to a sheriff’s detective shortly before he was arrested in April 2020. They said Gooch’s cellphone was the only device that communicated with the same cell sites as Krause’s phone before her signal dropped off west of Farmington.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Detective Lauren Nagele said the hundreds of hours spent on the investigation and the jury’s decision brought justice for Krause and her family.

“The verdict unfortunately cannot bring Sasha back, but it does protect our society by preventing Mark Gooch from ever murdering another innocent person,” she said in a statement.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico, which investigated her disappearance, said it will pursue a separate kidnapping charge against Gooch since the case originated in that state.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This image provided by the Yale Center for British Art, on Oct. 27, 2021, shows of an early 18th ce...
Associated Press

Painting of Yale namesake and enslaved child back on display

An early 18th-century painting depicting Yale University’s namesake with an enslaved Black child has been returned to public display at one of its museums even as art experts investigate its origins and campus discussions about the school’s ties to slavery continue. The nearly life-size, oil-on-canvas portrait shows Elihu Yale and family members sitting at a […]
15 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Harris County, Texas, Sheriff's Office shows Brian W. Coulter. A...
Associated Press

Sheriff: Kids lived in dire conditions as body decomposed

HOUSTON (AP) — The three abandoned brothers were thin, malnourished and hungry, living alone for months with no blankets to keep them warm inside an unfurnished Houston area apartment with soiled carpet, flies and roaches. The trio were barely surviving, abandoned and set adrift alongside the decomposing body of their 8-year-old brother. Authorities on Wednesday […]
15 hours ago
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washin...
Associated Press

White House skeptical Iran ready to restart nuclear talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Wednesday responded skeptically after Iran’s chief negotiator announced that Tehran was ready to return to nuclear negotiations in Vienna by the end of next month. Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator for the talks, in a Twitter posting said Iran has agreed to restart negotiations […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Trooper charged with murder in pursuit that killed girl, 11

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York state trooper was charged with murder Wednesday in the death of an 11-year-old girl by ramming his patrol vehicle into her family’s vehicle in December, the state’s attorney general announced. Trooper Christopher Baldner was indicted on charges of murder, manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the death of Monica […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Young Saudi man released from prison after nearly a decade

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A young Saudi man was released from prison on Wednesday after spending nearly a decade behind bars in a case that drew international scrutiny because until recently he’d been facing a possible death sentence for protest-related crimes committed as a minor. Ali al-Nimr’s case also drew attention because his uncle […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

McCloskey against abortions for young rape or incest victims

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Republican Mark McCloskey, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said he does not support allowing abortions for young girls who become pregnant through rape or incest. McCloskey, a St. Louis personal injury lawyer who gained national attention after he and his wife waved guns at racial injustice protesters […]
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Airman convicted of kidnapping, killing Mennonite teacher