FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — An Air Force airman convicted of kidnapping a woman from a Mennonite community in New Mexico and fatally shooting her in northern Arizona is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
Mark Gooch faces life imprisonment for Sasha Krause’s death The two did not know each other, but both grew up in large families and in the Mennonite church. Krause agreed, but Gooch rejected the belief and enlisted in the Air Force.
A Coconino County jury convicted Gooch, 22, in October of kidnapping and first-degree murder. Prosecutors argued he was driven by a disdain for the Mennonite faith, which was evident in text messages he exchanged with his brothers. Gooch’s attorney tried to cast doubt on the jury as to Gooch’s responsibility.
Krause went missing on January 18, 2020 while collecting supplies for Sunday school outside the Mennonite Church in Farmington, New Mexico. She had visited her family on vacation in Grandview, Texas less than three weeks ago.
The Krauses weren’t in the habit of taking family photos, but Robert Krause said he felt they might not get the chance to get back together. So they gathered in front of a cabinet displaying dishes and took photos, both serious and silly.
Sasha Krause pulled out of the driveway in the dark and crashed into a pickup truck, knocking off her passenger mirror, as she started a 14-hour drive back to Farmington. Her parents were concerned she was traveling alone, but Robert Krause said she returned safely, only to disappear weeks later.
The community’s frantic search for Krause turned up nothing.
A camper collecting firewood outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, discovered a body in a forest clearing more than a month later and alerted authorities. It was Krause, lying face down with her hands tied with duct tape. The 27-year-old was shot in the head.
Authorities used cellphone and financial records, as well as surveillance video, to tie Gooch to Krause’s disappearance and death. He was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in metropolitan Phoenix, hundreds of miles from Farmington Church, which he reportedly attended in search of the Mennonite community he remembered growing up in Wisconsin as a child .
Gooch has been jailed since his arrest in April 2020.
A spokesman for Luke Air Force Base said the process for Gooch’s release would begin after he was convicted in the Arizona case.
Krause’s parents said they would not be attending the hearing, but wrote to Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols to say that Sasha Krause was a good sister, conscientious, avid readers from an early age and determined. She had a sense of self that her sisters sometimes found “domineering,” they wrote.
They shared pictures of Krause reading to children, with her family and on a snowy outing in Colorado so the judge could see her as more than a victim, Robert Krause told The Associated Press.
Sasha Krause was baptized into the Mennonite Church at the age of 12, learned Spanish and taught in Grandview for six years. She played a role in raising her younger siblings.
In Farmington she worked at the publishing ministry called Lamp and Light. She continued to write poetry and learned French. She also prepared to move into her own trailer.
Her parents said they would never understand why their daughter was kidnapped and murdered, but they said it must be part of God’s plan.
“God will use her death for His glory and I am convinced He has eternal goals for Sasha which from here we can only guess,” they wrote.
Gooch did not testify at the trial. He was raised on his family’s dairy farm and attended school through the eighth grade, as was customary among Mennonites. He was a mechanic in the Air Force. His family and friends described him in court documents as hardworking, respectful, curious and kind.
They demanded a punishment that would allow Gooch to one day get out of prison.
“I pray for him that his life will not be wasted behind bars but that one day he will be free to fulfill his divine calling in life and be a blessing to others,” wrote his mother Anita Gooch.
The Farmington Mennonite Church community sent a letter directly to Gooch ahead of the sentencing hearing, although it’s unclear if he’ll see it. They described his crimes as heinous but wrote that they believe he had some remorse and urged him to repent fully.