An Air Force airman has been charged with allegedly kidnapping and murdering a Mennonite Sunday school teacher whose body was found two months ago in Arizona—hundreds of miles away from her secluded home, authorities said Wednesday.
Mark Gooch, a 21-year-old airman with the United States Air Force, was charged with premeditated first-degree murder, first-degree murder (during the commission of a crime), kidnapping, and theft for the slaying of 27-year-old Sasha Krause, who went missing from her Farmington, New Mexico home on Jan. 18, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday.
Gooch, who was arrested at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona, was being held in Maricopa County on Wednesday and eventually will be transferred to Coconino County—where Krause’s body was found near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument outside Flagstaff, Arizona on Feb. 22.
“Over the last few months, San Juan County has lived in fear, not knowing if we had a predator living inside of our community or somebody that was preying upon it,” San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said in a video message announcing the arrest. He declined to provide further details about the joint investigation with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. “I can assure you, we have our man,” he said.
While the Coconino County Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting the case, Ferrari added that authorities are pushing for the “maximum sentence” against Gooch—which is the death penalty in Arizona. Authorities have yet to release the official cause of death or a motive behind the grisly murder.
“We don’t know that he was going there necessarily to seek her out,” Lt. Brian Tozer, from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, told Stars and Stripes. “We just know he was there in Farmington.”
Krause was seen leaving her home at 8 p.m. on January 18 after she finished eating dinner with her roommates, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said. After dinner, she left to run an errand at the Farmington Mennonite Church, where she taught Sunday school.
When she was reported missing the next day at 3 a.m., deputies responded to Lamp & Light Publishers, a Mennonite bookstore and publishing company across the street from the church. Authorities found Krause’s car in the church’s parking lot, but investigators did not immediately rule her case as suspicious because evidence suggested she had taken her cell phone.
Members of the church, however, previously told The Daily Beast they immediately suspected foul play. Krause, who grew up in Texas, had recently volunteered to go to New Mexico to work for the publishing house that distributes Bible correspondence courses in foreign languages. Her father, Robert Krause, even told The Daily Beast in February that his daughter was “loving” working at the publishing house. She had “found her niche in life,” he said.
“We were convinced from the start that it was an abduction because we are a close-knit community. We know our people. We knew her integrity,” Samuel Coon, an editor at the publishing house added at the time.
On Feb. 12, a $50,000 reward was offered by a police foundation but did not yield any credible tips. Then, ten days later, New Mexico authorities were notified that a camper found a body matching Krause’s description near Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument—more than 270 miles away from where Krause was last seen.
An autopsy confirmed Krause’s identity. She was also found in the same clothing—a gray dress with white pinstripes, a white jacket, and black shoes—that she had on the day she went missing.
While authorities were searching for Krause, detectives with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office learned that “Gooch had traveled from Luke Air Force Base, where he lives, to Farmington,” the office said in a Tuesday press release.
“Further investigation placed Gooch near Sunset Crater in Coconino County where Krause’s body was located,” the release added, though authorities are still trying to determine a connection between the Mennonite teacher and the airman.
It was not clear on Wednesday if Gooch had a lawyer. Luke Air Force Base did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.