Prosecutor: aviator accused of murder tried to cover his tracks
FLAGSTAFF, Arizona – A U.S. Air Force aviator on trial for kidnapping a Mennonite woman in New Mexico, shooting her and throwing her body in northern Arizona, tried unsuccessfully to cover his tracks after the January 2020 murder, a jury prosecutor said in opening statements Friday.
Prosecutor Ammon Barker said Mark Gooch had his car professionally detailed, asked someone to keep his rifle and, two days after the murder, returned to the clearing outside Flagstaff, Ariz. , where the body of Sasha Krause, 27, had been were dumped and would be discovered several weeks later.
Although data from Gooch’s cell phone showed he drove from the Phoenix subway to a Mennonite community in Farmington, New Mexico and then to the Flagstaff area, the prosecutor said Gooch initially deleted his history. location of another digital account – a Google account – during the time of the killings.
“In that sense, the accused did not cover his tracks – he highlighted them,” Barker said, adding that Gooch subsequently deleted all of the location history information from his Google account.
Gooch’s attorney, Bruce Griffen, told jurors his client had no connection to Krause, had cooperated with investigators and was not trying to hide anything.
“The state really has no reason to try to suggest that a peaceful, non-violent person who did not know this individual would have had any reason to kidnap him, let alone hurt him,” Griffen said. .
Gooch, 22, was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in the Phoenix metro area at the time. He told investigators he was near Farmington – about a seven hour drive – when Krause went missing because he was looking for Mennonite churches for fellowship. Gooch grew up in the Mennonite faith in Wisconsin, but never officially joined the church, he told investigators.
Gooch maintains that he neither kidnapped nor killed Krause and has pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder, kidnapping and theft.
Krause disappeared as he went to pick up reading materials to prepare for an upcoming Sunday school class.
Authorities say her body was found with head injuries and in the same clothes she was wearing when she went missing.
On the day Krause went missing, Griffen said Gooch had traveled to Flagstaff to ski at a resort, but it was closed due to the pandemic. He then decided to travel to Farmington, realized there would be no church service that day and returned to the Phoenix area, Griffen said.
Griffen pointed out to jurors that there were no witnesses to the crimes.
Authorities said a report from a state crime lab showed that a bullet extracted from Krause’s skull was fired from a .22 caliber rifle belonging to Gooch. Griffen told jurors the ballistic evidence gathered in the case could not be conclusively linked to his client’s rifle.
Gooch’s cell phone was the only one communicating with the same cell towers as Krause’s phone before his fell west of Farmington, authorities said. Prosecutors aren’t sure why he targeted Krause.
Further evidence from prosecutors will include text message exchanges between Gooch and his brethren where he spoke about monitoring Mennonite churches in the Phoenix metro area and praised one for issuing a ticket to a Mennonite during a road control.