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 Oct. 13, a jury in Arizona found U.S. Air Force airman Mark Gooch guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder in Sasha Krause’s killing. The two didn’t know each other and lived hundreds of miles apart but shared an upbringing in the Mennonite faith. 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, N.M. She had been gathering material for Sunday school.
Her body was found more than a month later in a forest clearing outside Flagstaff, Ariz., nearly 300 miles away. 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 faith 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 Lamp and Light Publishers, where Krause worked. Paul Kaufman said 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,” he said.
Gooch, 22, faces up to life in prison at his sentencing, set for Nov. 24.
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 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,” he said.
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.
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 Oct. 13.
“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.”