Jury hears from Brother Aviator in the Arizona murder trial
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – The brother of a U.S. Air Force aviator on trial for the death of a Mennonite woman testified Wednesday that the defendant asked him to remotely erase information from his cell phone, briefly before he was arrested and later charged with kidnapping, murder.
Samuel Gooch’s testimony came as the trial of his younger brother Mark Gooch reached its scheduled half-time. A Coconino County Supreme Court judge issued an order to compel Samuel Gooch to testify after saying he would invoke his right to incriminate himself. He was granted prosecutor immunity.
Mark Gooch faces life imprisonment if convicted of first degree murder and other charges related to the death of Sasha Krause, 27. She disappeared from a Mennonite community where she lived in Farmington, New Mexico, in January 2020, and was found more than a month later in a clearing outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Prosecutor Ammon Barker urged Samuel Gooch into about 90-minute phone calls he had with Mark Gooch on the day Krause went missing, but Samuel Gooch mainly replied that he didn’t remember anything significant. Nor did he repeat a statement he made to investigators last year that Mark Gooch harbored a grudge against Mennonites.
“I can’t quite tell what Mark’s feelings might have been,” he said.
Samuel Gooch said he and Mark Gooch sometimes discussed aspects of Mennonite life that they disagreed with and negative feelings arose. You grew up in a Mennonite community in Wisconsin, but none formally joined the Church.
“My memory of the experience would have been that I easily felt that we were less accepted in this culture because we weren’t necessarily born into it, not into a multigenerational family that had lived in the Mennonites for decades,” he said .
The jury did not hear any details on a separate but related case involving Samuel Gooch. Authorities accused him of flying from Wisconsin to Arizona last year to pick up what he believed was the .22-caliber rifle that Krause was shot with. Samuel Gooch pleaded guilty to reduced charges of aiding and abetting obstruction of the law enforcement and is on probation.
On the witness stand, Samuel Gooch said on Wednesday that Mark Gooch asked him to remotely erase his phone and SD cards and to disable his Google account. Investigation records show that Mark Gooch deleted his location history from a Google account.
Authorities said they linked Mark Gooch to Krause’s death through cell phone location data, financial receipts and surveillance videos. Mark Gooch’s attorney Bruce Griffen has called science “weak”.
Barker has argued that Mark Gooch was motivated to kill Krause because he generally despised Mennonites and tried to cover his tracks after the murder. Griffen said his client texted his brothers and visited at least three churches in search of fellowship.
The word “Mennonites” rarely appeared in text messages, Griffen said, and did not imply any murderous intentions.
The jury also heard from the coroner who oversaw Krause’s autopsy on Wednesday, an employee of the state crime lab who collected samples from Gooch’s car, and an employee of a sheriff’s. Krause’s parents turned away when photos of their daughter were projected onto a screen.
Coroner Michael Madsen said Krause was hit with a blunt object and shot in the back of the head.