FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Mark Gooch, an Air Force airman convicted of kidnapping and killing a Mennonite woman, was sentenced to natural life in prison Wednesday afternoon in an Arizona courtroom. That means he has no chance at parole.
Sasha Krause, 27, disappeared from a Mennonite community in northwestern New Mexico in January 2020. Her body was found more than a month later at Sunset Crater outside Flagstaff.
She had been shot in the head. The two didn't know each other but both grew up in Mennonite communities — Krause in Texas and Gooch in Wisconsin.
Gooch was sentenced to another five years for the kidnapping charge. It will run consecutively with the natural life sentence for murder.
Gooch will also have to pay restitution.
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols during the proceeding called this case "the most senseless case" she's presided over.
“It just makes no sense why one human being would do this to another human being," Nichols said.
Gooch was 20 when the crimes were committed.
A confident young woman
Krause joined the church, but the 22-year-old Gooch rejected the faith.
In a letter a victim services representative read in court on behalf of Laura Krause, Sasha's Krause's mother, she wrote about how involved Sasha Krause was in their family. Laura Krause said Sasha Krause was the oldest of her siblings, was a determined and confident young woman.
"Sasha was more than our daughter, she was our friend," Laura Krause said in the letter.
Laura Krause said Sasha Krause was excelling at her work at Lamp and Light and was about to move into her own trailer.
"So why did this happen? Why was she kidnapped and murdered? God, in His goodness, allowed the devil's plan to proceed. So He in His goodness will not allow her efforts to be wasted, God will use her death for His glory," Laura Krause wrote.
The prosecuting attorney with the Coconino County Attorney's Office, Ammon Barker, read part of a poem written by Sasha Krause when she was 19.
It was titled, "If I Die Young.'"
"The second stanza says, 'If I die young think not the hours wasted I spent preparing for some future day my God is not unrighteous to forget it," Barker said.
An "extremely callous" crime
Nichols said during the hearing that what Gooch is convicted of doing is an "extremely callous crime."
Gooch's father did speak during the hearing, saying he and his family would be praying for leniency and that his son might be released at some point in his life.
Nichols did give Gooch the opportunity to speak before he was sentenced.
"Firstly, I’d like to extend my sincere condolences to the deceased’s family and also like to express my thankfulness for the love and support in my own family in this difficult time," Gooch said.
Nichols weighed various aggravating and mitigating factors during her decision to sentence Gooch.
Gooch's military service and having no prior criminal history were mitigating factors in her decision.
>> The Associated Press contributed to this report
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