A Coconino County judge denied the opportunity for bail at a Thursday hearing for an airman who allegedly kidnapped and killed Sasha Krause, citing phone location data and texts from the suspect’s phone.
Lauren Jones, lead investigator with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, testified before a judge about the case being built against Mark Daniel Gooch, an airman from Luke Air Force Base near Glendale. Jones explained that investigators have found cell phone records, interviewed people close to the suspect and victim, and interviewed the suspect about the case.
While Jones said investigators could not prove Krause and Gooch had previously known each other, the investigator cited Gooch’s past association with the Mennonite community and texts that prosecutors said showed his "animosity" for people of the religion.
A grand jury has charged Gooch with first-degree murder, kidnapping and theft. Additionally, his brother, Samuel Gooch, was charged with impeding an investigation after allegedly flying to Arizona to retrieve the possible murder weapon. Mark Gooch was arraigned earlier this week in the Coconino County Superior Court.
Krause was a Sunday school teacher who moved to the Lamp & Light community near the Farmington Mennonite Church in Farmington, New Mexico, about one year before the alleged killing took place. She was originally from Texas.
Gooch has family members who are Mennonite, but was never officially a part of the religion himself, Jones said. In one text exchange with another brother Jacob Gooch, who works as a state trooper in Virginia, the trooper told the airman he pulled over someone who was a Mennonite.
Mark Gooch texted back: “[expletive] yes, I hope you treated them like [expletive],” prosecutor Ammon Barker said.
Barker believed the text displayed Gooch's animosity toward people who were Mennonite, and the case being built against Gooch pointed to him “executing” Krause after making the over 400-mile trip to the Lamp & Light community on Jan. 18.
Matthew Springer, Gooch’s defense attorney, argued the state lacked the evidence to hold Gooch without the opportunity for bail.
As of Thursday, the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab was waiting for test results from male DNA found on Krause’s neck and under her nails. Investigators are also waiting to see if Gooch’s gun matches the bullet used in the case.
At the time of the hearing, investigators said the bullet could match one of 53 possible firearms that include Gooch’s .22 caliber Marlin long rifle.
Bound with duct tape
Jones said her part in the investigation began when a woman searching for firewood reported finding an unidentified body face down in the woods off of Forest Road 545 and Forest Road 244 near the area of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
An autopsy would later show the body belonged to Krause, and that she had been hit and shot in the back of the head before she was found in the “dirt and pine needles,” Jones said. Krause’s hands were bound with duct tape when she was found.
While Jones was on the stand, Barker asked Jones what she’s learned about Krause’s history in the Mennonite community.
Jones said people in the Mennonite community use little to no technology — although Krause was not the only member of the community who owned a cell phone. She also said Mennonites are peaceful as a part of their religion, and some go as far as not believing in acting in self-defense.
Investigators found that people from the Lamp & Light community described Krause as a kind and good member of their community.
Krause was last seen wearing a Mennonite head covering, a white jacket and a grey-pinstripe dress. Her head covering was missing when her body was found in Coconino County.
Cell phone records
After the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office investigators could not find any likely suspects in their community, Jones said she and Coconino County investigators looked into Krause’s cell phone records.
Phone records obtained by investigators through search warrants led them to a cell phone near Krause's phone around the time she went missing. Warrants helped investigators trace the phone to Mark Gooch.
The records showed Gooch made the long drive to the Lamp & Light community in the time before Krause was reported missing on Jan. 18. Jones explained that cell phone tower data cannot be used like GPS and can only show a general area where a phone is located, within 25 meters or about 82 feet.
Krause’s flip phone data showed her phone was within range of cell phone towers along the same route as Gooch's until it was lost on Highway 160. Gooch's phone could be traced along the same route at a similar time frame. From Flagstaff, a driver could reach Highway 160 by taking Highway 89 and turning east through Tuba City.
Cell data showed investigators that Gooch stayed within the general area where Krause's body was found for three hours before driving back to Luke Air Force Base using Interstate 17 on the morning of Jan. 19.
Surveillance footage in the community shows a car matching Gooch’s Volkswagen Jetta in the area of the Lamp & Light community on the day she was taken. Base records show Gooch left and returned within a time frame consistent with the sheriff's investigation.
Gooch later said in an interview with investigators that he had gone to New Mexico during the time Krause was first reported missing and no one else had used his car during that time.
Every defendant in first-degree murder cases is eligible for the death penalty or life in prison until 60 days after their arraignment. Given the high crimes levied against Gooch, Judge Cathleen Brown-Nichols denied the airman’s bail, relying on the cell phone data, the airman’s testimony and that he asked a friend to hold his gun for him.