US Air Force aviator murder case in Arizona goes to jury

By FELICIA FONSECA Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – No one saw Sasha Krause being taken to a Mennonite community in northwestern New Mexico where she worked in the Publishing Department, dominated by card games and ping-pong, and where his poetry has become a song.

No one has seen the calm, passive-demeaned woman killed hours’ drive in northern Arizona with a gunshot wound to the back of her head, her wrists tied with duct tape and left in the cold icy among the pine needles.

FILE – (L) Sasha Krause (Erica Sauder via AP), (R) Mark Gooch (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

Prosecutor Ammon Barker argued on Friday that cell phone data, receipts, financial records, repeated lies and a cover-up scheme pointed to Mark Gooch, a U.S. Air Force aviator stationed in metropolitan Phoenix. Barker said Gooch was motivated by a resentment for the faith he grew up in in Wisconsin.

“If you examine the evidence by reason, common sense and experience, you will know beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty,” Barker told jurors in closing arguments.

Gooch’s attorney, Bruce Griffen, argued that there was reason to doubt Gooch killed Krause. He pointed to a lack of forensic evidence, another car seen in the Mennonite community and differing opinions from ballistics experts as to whether the bullet extracted from Krause’s skull was fired from a .22 caliber rifle belonging to him. to Gooch.

“Bad gun, bad bullet, bad car,” Griffen said. “How does that add up? Bad guy. You have to deal with the objective evidence that we have that creates a reasonable doubt. You cannot ignore reasonable doubt.

The 12-member jury began its deliberations on Friday afternoon.

Gooch faces life in prison if convicted of first degree murder and kidnapping in Krause’s death. His disappearance on January 18, 2020 triggered a frantic search. A camper eventually found her while collecting firewood near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in the same clothes Krause was wearing when she disappeared – a gray dress, white coat, and hiking boots.

There is no indication that Krause and Gooch knew each other or that Krause had a fight. Their families are part of a conservative group of Mennonites who dress modestly, reject most forms of technology, and practice non-violence and non-resistance. Gooch never officially joined the church.

Both of their parents were in the courtroom for the trial. Krause’s mother grimaced and turned away as Barker displayed photos of her daughter for the jury during closing arguments. Gooch’s parents had an emotional exchange with their son’s lawyer.

Krause, 27, taught in Texas, where his family still lives, before moving to the Mennonite community of Farmington, where “Lamp + Light” is spelled out in white rocks painted on the side of a mesa. Krause worked at the Publishing Department with that name. One of his sisters previously lived in Farmington.

Krause was collecting items for Sunday school when she disappeared.

Gooch, 22, told a sheriff’s detective he was in Farmington that day to check church service times because he was missing Mennonite Communion. His estimates of travel time were inconsistent with cell phone data, financial records and surveillance video, Barker said.

Gooch didn’t just walk past the church like he said, Barker argued. He spent over three hours near the church and detoured the highway for two hours in the area where Krause’s body was found.

Gooch then deleted his phone’s location history, bought bleach, asked a friend to itemize his car to store his rifle, Barker said.

Gooch’s phone was the only device that communicated with the same towers as Krause’s phone before its signal fell west of Farmington, prosecutors said. Barker posted text message exchanges between Gooch and his brothers which he said showed Gooch had a general contempt for Mennonites.

“From all the testimony we heard during the trial, Sasha Krause was a light, a light for her family, her community, the world.” said Barker. “And this accused suffocated him.”

Griffen told jurors that Gooch willingly cooperated with a detective and was non-violent. He argued that cell phone data is scientifically weak and cannot indicate specific activities. He said two text message exchanges mentioning Mennonites since 2016 do not mean Gooch is guilty.

And he asked jurors a question to find out if anyone trying to carry out a secret mission would have used a cell phone or credit cards that leave traces.

“He doesn’t do any of these things, he doesn’t try to avoid any of these things,” Griffen said. “This is all inconsistent with the State’s suggestion that he is the guy.”

About Jessica J. Bass

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