FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – Jurors hearing the case against Luke Air Force Base Airman Mark Gooch heard a lengthy testimony Friday from a cell phone data expert who mapped the route Gooch allegedly drove on the day where a Mennonite woman from northwest New Mexico was abducted.
Sasha Krause, who worked at a publishing department in the Mennonite community, was found more than a month later with a gunshot wound to the head in a clearing outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. Gooch, 22, faces life imprisonment if convicted of first degree murder and other charges on her death.
No DNA evidence, eyewitnesses, or fingerprints bind Gooch to the crime.
The prosecutor asked the jury to look at various pieces of the puzzle that, when assembled, show Gooch traveled from Luke Air Force Base, where he was stationed in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, to the Mennonite community in Farmington, New Mexico, where Krause was collecting materials on Sunday school when she disappeared.
The testimony of Sev Dishman, a cell phone expert and retired Army sergeant major, took up much of the day on Friday. He led the judges through an extensive presentation that explained the types of cell phone data, the concentration of cell phone locations, and the level of accuracy of the location data.
Dishman admitted during cross-examination of Gooch’s attorney Bruce Griffen that none of the evidence brings Gooch directly onto church grounds or into the woods, nor does it explain what happened in either location.
The data places Gooch’s cell phone within half a mile of the church and 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) from the location where Krause’s body was found, based on the phone’s communication with cellular sites, Dishman said. Gooch’s phone was also the only device that communicated with the same locations as Krause’s phone before their signal dropped west of Farmington, Dishman said.
The data created a trail from the air base early January 18, past the snow-capped mountains of Flagstaff and through the Navajo reservation, where receipts showed Gooch stopped in Farmington for food and then gasoline. Two photos taken with Gooch’s cell phone showed locations along Interstate 17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff.
Gooch’s cell phone recordings showed his phone was in the Mennonite Church for a few hours before returning on the same route but with a detour to the woods outside Flagstaff after midnight. A base surveillance video showed his car returned around 7 a.m. the day after he left.
Dishman explained gaps in cell phone data with the lack of cell phone locations on the vast Navajo Nation and near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where a camper discovered Krause’s body. Location data would be more accurate, he said, if a cell phone user had GPS.
All location data generated by AT&T that is based on assisted GPS must be verified, Dishman said. Both Krause and Gooch had AT&T service, he said.
Records showed that the Google location history was deleted from Gooch’s phone. Gooch had asked his brother Samuel to remotely wipe his phone and SD cards, cancel automatic payments and empty an account, according to a recorded prison conversation between them and a testimony from Samuel Gooch earlier this week.
The jury is expected to hear the entire conversation between Mark Gooch and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Detective Lauren Nagele, who interviewed him at the airbase in April 2020, sometime next week. In the interview, Gooch admitted traveling to Farmington when Krause was reported missing.
He said he had time for a long drive, wanted to stop at a ski resort outside of Flagstaff, and then decided to attend a Mennonite church service near Farmington since he had been hours into the weekend trip and longed for fellowship. He denied having kidnapped or killed Krause.
According to the interview, Gooch said he thought he returned to the air force base around 2 a.m. the next day. No one else had access to his phone that day, he said, according to the sheriff’s records.
There is no evidence that Gooch and Krause knew each other. Gooch grew up in a Mennonite community in Wisconsin but never officially joined the Church. Krause, 27, taught a school in Texas, where her parents still live, before moving to New Mexico.
The process will continue on Tuesday.