The jury found an Air Force aviator guilty of kidnapping and murdering a Mennonite woman and leaving her dead in the wild. Because of these convictions, the judge found him guilty of theft.
Mark Gooch, 22, kidnapped Sascha Krause, 27, from her ward near Farmington, New Mexico in January 2020 and took her to a clearing outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, authorities said. At some point he tied her wrists, the authorities said. Gooch hit her on the head with his rifle and then shot the victim in the back of the head, prosecutor Ammon Barker said jurors in closing arguments on Friday.
Gooch actually grew up in a Mennonite community, but he “rejected” life there and went to the military, his father James Gooch testified in a court in Coconino County, Arizona. He harbored a deep grudge that at least one brother shared. Virginia State Trooper Jacob Gooch told him he had issued a ticket to a Mennonite man and wrote that he coughed the man to give him COVID. Mark Gooch cheered him on: “Fuck yeah.”
He was enjoying the suffering of a man he didn’t even know, Barker said. He did that with Krause, the public prosecutor said. (Jacob Gooch resigned because of the text.)
That disdain flew in the face of his testimony to law enforcement about why he was in Farmington, Barker said. He claimed he was there because he missed the Mennonite community and wanted to join a church. However, Gooch is not a mastermind, said Barker. He failed to cover up the evidence and told lies that did not stand up to scrutiny. For example, he claimed to have stopped by a Mennonite church one afternoon to check service times, but the truth was he was there for three hours and 31 minutes, Barker said.
Gooch had written another brother Sam Gooch that he does “surveillance”, but only finds older people who, in his words, do not have “much to live”. This is evidence he was in Flagstaff on January 12, 2020, six days before Krause went missing, Barker said.
He tried to hide his traces in the Krause murder, but deleting his Google account information didn’t affect AT&T records, Barker said. Cell phone evidence neared his presence at the New Mexico kidnapping site and the Arizona murder site, and also helped catch Gooch lying, the state said.
Defense attorney Bruce Griffen alleged that the state’s alleged evidence was disproportionate or otherwise small. For example, he suggested that if Gooch really hated Mennonites, the records should have been far more robust than just two references over a four-year period. He claimed that Gooch really had an interest in being part of the Mennonite community. Gooch was lonely, he said, and was looking for fellowship.
[Booking photo of Gooch via Coconino County; picture of Krause via San Juan County Sheriff’s Office]
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