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Air Force member sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping, killing woman

Sasha Krause, a 27-year-old Mennonite woman, was kidnapped in New Mexico and murdered. Her body was found more than 270 miles away in Arizona.

An Air Force member convicted of kidnapping and killing a 27-year-old Mennonite woman in 2020 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in Arizona.

Mark Gooch, an airman first class, was convicted by a jury in October on one count each of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Sasha Krause. Krause's body was found Sunset Crater National Monument in Arizona a month after she disappeared.

Gooch, now 22, and Krause did not know each other.

“This case is truly the most senseless case I have ever presided over,” Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols said in handing down the sentence.

Gooch, who has denied kidnapping or killing Krause, showed no emotion as the judge sentenced him to prison for the rest of his natural life, which means no possibility of parole.

He made brief remarks in court Wednesday, and he expressed his condolences for Krause’s family and said he was thankful for the support of his own family.

Krause was last seen on the night of Jan. 18, 2020, leaving her home in the Mennonite community of Crouch Mesa in the northwest part of New Mexico.

She was kidnapped as she went to her church building, and was found in February in Arizona. She had been shot in the back of the head, officials have said.

Gooch grew up in a Mennonite environment in Wisconsin and attended Mennonite school until the eighth grade, according to court documents. He left at 18 to join the Air Force and was an airman first class when he was arrested.

Prosecutors argued that he made disparaging comments about Mennonites and committed the crimes out of malice of Krause’s faith. The judge did not find malice as an aggravating factor Wednesday, saying that would call for some speculation.

Gooch’s lawyer said the evidence was circumstantial, and sought a life sentence with an evaluation for possible release after Gooch served at least 30 years.

Krause’s parents were not in the court for sentencing, but said in a statement read at Wednesday’s hearing that their daughter was confident, wrote poetry and was a teacher.

“Why was she kidnapped and murdered? I will never understand that in this life,” mother Laura Krause said in the statement. “But God in His ultimate wisdom and goodness allowed the devil’s evil plan to proceed.”

“God will use her death for his glory, and I am convinced He has eternal purpose for Sasha that we can only guess from her on,” the statement said.