Mark Gooch, the airman charged with first-degree murder for the kidnapping and killing of Sasha Krause, could be placed on bail at a hearing next Thursday if the state does not intend to invoke the death penalty.
The point was brought up by Matthew Springer, Gooch's attorney, at a hearing Monday in Coconino County Superior Court. Gooch was charged with first-degree murder for the kidnap and killing of Sunday school teacher Krause, who lived in a Mennonite compound near Farmington, New Mexico. Sam Gooch, the airman's brother who pleaded not guilty to the charge of hindering a prosecution, also had a hearing Monday during which lawyers indicated they were continuing to review evidence in the case.
Springer's verbal motion caught prosecutors in the case unprepared by alleging the time limit for the state to file the death penalty had passed and his client could not be held without bail. Gooch is currently being held without the chance for bail after prosecutors successfully argued to hold him without a chance for early release due to the possibility to invoke the death penalty.
People close to the case have previously pushed for the death penalty, including Shane Ferrari, San Juan County Sheriff from where Krause was kidnapped. The decision of whether to invoke the death penalty can only be decided by prosecutors in the case.
The death penalty is reserved for first-degree murder cases, and requires significant prosecutorial investigations. Additionally, defendants in death penalty cases are required to take extra steps like hiring death penalty certified attorneys due to the severity of the possible punishment.
Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols said she has heard similar arguments before in different cases, and if the time limit had passed without prosecutors filing the death penalty she would be inclined to side with the defense.
"I've looked into this on other homicide cases. I don't believe he should be held no bond," Brown Nichols said. "I'm inclined to set, quite frankly, a high, cash-only bond."
Eric Ruchensky, county prosecutor, attended the hearing on behalf of prosecutor Ammon Barker, who is assigned to the case. Ruchensky said he wasn't prepared to argue the question on behalf of Barker and was unsure if the time limit on filing notice had passed. Ruchensky deferred to Barker's knowledge of the case, and asked to hold off the question until a later date.
Krause was found face down with her hands bound and underwear missing in Coconino County in February, a month after her disappearance from New Mexico. Prosecutors allege Gooch traveled from St. Luke's Airforce Base in Glendale to the Mennonite community, kidnapped Krause and killed her in the forests near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. An autopsy in the case found that Krause was not sexually injured.
Gooch does not deny he traveled to the community, but said he went because he missed the "fellowship" of Mennonites. He said he hadn't checked when services would be held, and instead hurried back to the base.
Gooch was born into the Mennonite community, and Sam Gooch said Mark held a grudge against the community over perceived mistreatment and never became a part of the church.
Investigators have not found a strong connection between Mark Gooch and Krause, nor establish a motive.
The court set a hearing to argue the bail matter for Thursday, Aug. 6.
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