FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) – An Airman from Luke Air Force Base who tried, fatally, and dumped her body in northern Arizona for the kidnapping of a Mennonite woman in New Mexico attempted unsuccessfully to trace the murder in the January 2020, a prosecutor told jurors in opening statements on Friday.
Prosecutor Ammon Barker said Airman 1st Class Mark Gooch had his car professionally examined, asked someone to hold his rifle, and returned to the clearing outside Flagstaff, Arizona, where the body of 27-year-old Sasha Krause was two days after the murder dumped and would be discovered a few weeks later.
Although Gooch’s cell data showed he was driving from Metro Phoenix to a Mennonite community in Farmington, New Mexico, and then to the Flagstaff area, the prosecutor said that Gooch originally obtained his location history from another digital account – a Google Account – deleted the killing.
“With that in mind, the defendant didn’t cover his tracks – he highlighted them,” Barker said, adding that Gooch later deleted all location history information from his Google account.
Gooch’s attorney Bruce Griffen told the jury that his client had no connection with Krause, had cooperated with investigators and was not trying to hide anything. “The state really has no motive for trying to claim that a peaceful, non-violent person who did not know that person had any reason to kidnap, let alone harm, them,” said Griffen.
Gooch, 22, was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in the metropolis of Phoenix at the time. He told investigators he was near Farmington – about a seven-hour drive away – when Krause went missing for looking for Mennonite churches for the fellowship. Gooch grew up Mennonite in Wisconsin but never officially joined the Church, he told investigators.
Gooch claims that he neither kidnapped nor killed Krause and was not guilty of any murder, kidnapping or theft allegations.
Krause disappeared when he wanted to get reading material to prepare for an upcoming Sunday school class.
Authorities say her body was found with head injuries and in the same clothes she was wearing when she disappeared.
On the day Krause went missing, Griffen said Gooch went to Flagstaff to ski at a resort, but it was closed because of the pandemic. Then he decided to go to Farmington, realized there would be no service that day, and drove back to the Phoenix area, Griffen said.
Griffen told the jury that there were no witnesses for the crimes.
Authorities said a report from the state crime lab showed that a bullet made from Krause’s skull was fired from a .22 caliber rifle owned by Gooch. Griffen told jury that the ballistic evidence gathered in the case could not be conclusively linked to his client’s rifle.
Gooch’s cell phone was the only one that communicated with the same cell towers as Krause’s cell phone before hers left West of Farmington, authorities said. The prosecution is not sure why he targeted Krause.
Other evidence from prosecutors includes text messages exchanged between Gooch and his brothers talking about surveillance of Mennonite churches in metropolitan Phoenix and one of them praising for issuing a ticket to a Mennonite during a traffic stop.