FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - Opening statements in the case of a U.S. Air Force airman charged in the shooting death of a Mennonite woman are scheduled to start Friday.
Mark Gooch, 22, faces up to life in prison if he is convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in the disappearance and death of Sasha Krause, 27.
Jury selection wrapped up late Wednesday after two days. The process was slowed by protections in place to keep jurors more socially distant during the pandemic. The court won’t be in session Thursday.
Krause was gathering material for Sunday school in a Mennonite community in Farmington, New Mexico, when she disappeared in mid-January last year. A camper discovered Krause’s body in a forest clearing outside Flagstaff, Arizona, more than a month later.
Krause’s parents and members of her community in Farmington were in court Wednesday during jury selection. Fifteen jurors were picked, some of whom unknowingly are alternates and won’t weigh in on the verdict.
Gooch was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in metropolitan Phoenix at the time. He told investigators he was near Farmington — about a seven-hour drive — when Krause went missing because he had been seeking out Mennonite churches for the fellowship. But he said he did not kidnap or kill her, according to a recording of the interview.
There is no indication that they knew each other. Krause moved to Farmington from Texas where she was a teacher. Gooch grew up in the Mennonite faith in Wisconsin but never officially joined the church, he told investigators.
Prosecutor Ammon Barker will try to convince the jury that Gooch was motivated to kill Krause by a general disdain for Mennonites. A bullet taken from Krause’s skull was fired from a .22-caliber rifle that Gooch owned, a state crime lab report showed.
Authorities said they tied Gooch to the crime using cellphone data, financial records and surveillance video. Gooch’s attorney, Bruce Griffen, has said using cellphone data to determine location isn’t scientifically sound.
The trial began Tuesday in Coconino County Superior Court. It’s scheduled to last three weeks.
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