Mark Gooch, 22, will spend the rest of his natural-born days in prison. The former Airman was convicted of kidnapping and murdering a Mennonite woman in New Mexico. After pumping a few rounds in her bonneted skull, Gooch dumped her body hundreds of miles from her home where it was later discovered half-frozen in a forest clearing by an unfortunate camper who has yet to mentally recover.
Gooch’s sentencing has been two years in the making and when Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown-Nichols handed down the final verdict, he showed no emotion. No remorse. No sympathy for his victim’s family.
Brown-Nichols said this has been the most perplexing and senseless case she’s ever had to handle. Through the entire hearing procedure, Gooch refused to reveal his motives, and chances are, we will never know them.
The only known commonality between Gooch and his victim, Sasha Krause, 27, is that they were both raised in the Mennonite faith. To everyone’s knowledge, the two were total strangers.
Brown-Nichols said, “Even if he knew the person, it wouldn’t be justified. But the fact that he didn’t even know her was so very senseless and mindboggling.”
The Feds tied some surveillance video together with financial and cellphone records to come up with their guy. They were able to trace Gooch leaving Luke Air Force Base in the Phoenix, Arizona area and continuing east through Flagstaff and the Navajo Nation before stopping at a Mennonite publishing ministry in Farmington, New Mexico where Krause worked.
She had been busy preparing material for a Sunday school class when her soon-to-be murderer arrived. She was never heard from again.
Gooch has never denied taking the trip, but how could he? He said it was because he missed being around his own Mennonite community and he just wanted to spend some quality time with a few like-minded peeps. He maintains he had nothing to do with killing Krause and that he never met her.
When the startled camper stumbled upon a body lying face down in a remote area with its hands duct-taped in the back and several bullet holes in its head, because the camper couldn’t get a cellphone signal, he headed to the closest town. That town was, you guessed it, Flagstaff. How convenient. And incriminating.
Prosecutors considered the loose-marble angle by suggesting Gooch had been driven to the brink of insanity by his hatred of the Mennonite community he’d been raised in but never became an official card-carrying member of.
Gooch came from Wisconsin where even his brothers, discovered through a series of text messages, had begged him to join the church he held such disdain for. Gooch’s ticket out of the community was the Air Force, where he enlisted himself and worked as an aircraft mechanic. But, then, something must’ve snapped.
Coconino County Attorney William Ring felt sorry for Gooch after his sentencing was announced. He didn’t excuse what he had done, he was just pointing out the circumstances that most likely led him to do it, and how, in some ways, Gooch is also a victim.
In a statement, Ring said, “Now, instead of honorably serving his nation, he is going to serve a humiliating life term in prison. The victim’s faith was important to her, so as guided by Proverbs, we all do right by caring that justice gets done for the vulnerable ones.”
Bruce Griffen, Gooch’s attorney, expressed disappointment that his client will miss out on decades of his life, and this is only should he one day be paroled. At the same time, Griffen continues to wrestle with the motive.
Griffen said, “I call it the unanswered question. Still think there’s a disconnect. I don’t understand it. I don’t think anybody understands it at this point.”
Obviously, something in Gooch’s head went pop for him to plan and carry out such a horrendous and senseless deed. Perhaps any Mennonite could have been his victim and Krause was the first person he ran across, or maybe this wasn’t the case.
No matter the theory or opinion, Gooch is where he needs to be. Get him away from society and, then, figure out what’s wrong with the guy before he snaps again. We all have our crosses to bear. Who agrees?