Law enforcement investigators say an Air Force airman charged with murdering a Mennonite woman from New Mexico had once been part of a Mennonite community.
Mark Gooch, 21, was arrested April 21 in connection with the death of Sasha Marie Krause, 27, who went missing Jan. 18 from the parking lot of Farmington (N.M.) Mennonite Church, which is connected to the Lamp & Light community in Farmington.
The Associated Press reported Coconino County Sheriff’s Office lead investigator Lauren Jones testified in a May 14 hearing that Gooch told investigators he traveled more than 400 miles from Luke Air Force base near Phoenix to Farmington in search of a new church.
His cell phone was the only one communicating with the same cell towers as Krause’s phone before hers dropped off west of Farmington.
Sheriff’s records obtained by the Associated Press indicate Gooch told investigators he was raised in a Mennonite family in Wisconsin and joined the military to escape a difficult, sheltered and restricted life. He said he felt like an outsider because his family wasn’t born into the religion. He told investigators the family left its Wisconsin church around 2015.
The Arizona Daily Sun of Flagstaff elaborated that Jones testified Gooch has family members who are Mennonite, but never officially joined a church himself. Investigators submitted a text message between him and his brother Jacob Gooch — a state trooper in Virginia — to illustrate his animosity toward the religious group.
In the message, Jacob Gooch says he issued a Mennonite a ticket and coughed on him “so he would spread Corona to the wedding they were going too. lol.” The Associated Press reported that brother was placed on administrative leave May 8 and later resigned over the text.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said Krause had gone to the church to pick up schoolbooks and load them into her car, which remained at the church. Her body was found Feb. 21 more than 250 miles away near Flagstaff, Ariz.
Church surveillance footage shows a car matching Gooch’s vehicle in the area of the Lamp & Light community the day Krause was taken, and Air Force base records show he left and returned in a matching time frame. A receipt shows Gooch had his car cleaned a day after news broke that a body had been found in an Arizona forest.
Cell tower data indicates Gooch was in the general area where Krause’s body was found in Arizona for three hours before driving back to the base.
Another brother, Samuel Gooch, was been charged with impeding an investigation after flying from Wisconsin to Arizona to allegedly retrieve a gun that may have been used to shoot Krause.
Gooch has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and theft charges. Until prosecutors say they will not seek the death penalty, Gooch is being held without bail.