Family of Slain Mennonite Teacher Shared Photos So Judge Would See Her as More Than Victim

An Air Force airman was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after being convicted of the kidnapping and first-degree murder of a Mennonite teacher in 2020.

Sasha Krause, 27, had decided to run an errand before teaching Sunday School on January 18, 2020, according to Inside Edition. She never returned to the church and, according to the Associated Press, was kidnapped outside the building by Mark Gooch, who fatally shot her, leaving her in a forest clearing in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Five weeks later, a camper gathering firewood located Krause's body. Her wrists were bound with duct tape, and she had a gunshot wound to the head.

Gooch, 22, was arrested in April of 2020 and has been in jail ever since. He was convicted by a Coconino County jury in October on charges of kidnapping and first-degree murder.

Krause was baptized into the Mennonite church when she was 12. She was preparing to move into her own trailer at the time of her death. Her parents said they would not be at the sentencing hearing, but they shared pictures in a letter addressed to Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols.

In the letter, they showed pictures of Krause reading to children, on a snowy outing in Colorado and with her family. Robert Krause AP they did it to show that their daughter was more than a victim.

"God will use her death for His glory, and I am convinced He has eternal purposes for Sasha that we can only guess about, from here," the family wrote.

The Farmington Mennonite Church Community also addressed a letter, one directly to Gooch, ahead of the sentencing hearing. It is unclear if he will see it. According to AP, they described his crimes as heinous, but they believe he has some remorse and urged him to repent fully.

Krause's family last saw her less than three weeks before she went missing, when she visited them in Grandview, Texas. The family did not usually take pictures, but Krause's father, Robert Krause, said he had a feeling they might not have the chance to get together again, AP reported.

The family took photos, then Krause pulled out of the driveway to begin the 14-hour drive back to Farmington, New Mexico. Robert informed the family she had returned home safe.

Gooch, who also grew up in the Mennonite faith, had denounced the religion and joined the military. According to his father, Jim Gooch, who testified during the trial, his son left the faith because he "lacked a converted heart."

During the trial, according to AZCentral, jurors heard 10 days of testimony from those who knew Krause and investigated her disappearance. Authorities used cellphone, financial records and surveillance footage to tie Gooch to Krause's disappearance.

Update (01/19, 5:29 PM): This story has been updated with Gooch's sentencing.

An Air Force airman faces life in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday after being convicted of the kidnapping and first-degree murder of a Mennonite teacher in 2020. Above, a horse-drawn buggy is parked with a view of farmland. (STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images)