FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona court has set bond for a U.S. Air Force airman charged in the fatal shooting of a Sunday school teacher who was living in northwestern New Mexico at $2 million cash only.
Mark Gooch became eligible for bond after the deadline passed for prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in the case. Gooch is facing life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in the death of Sasha Krause.
The 27-year-old Mennonite woman disappeared from her church community outside Farmington in January as she was gathering materials for a Sunday school class. Her body was found more than a month later in a forest clearing near Flagstaff with her hands bound with duct tape.
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols weighed more than a dozen factors in setting the bail amount Thursday during a hearing in the case. Those included the wishes of the victims, Gooch’s history and the evidence already presented in the case.
“The court does believe that if the defendant is released, he poses a risk to other members of the community if he, in fact, committed this offense,” she said.
Gooch, a 21-year-old who was stationed at Luke Air Force base near Phoenix, is being held at the Coconino County jail in Flagstaff.
Authorities used cell phone records to tie him to Krause, but they have not said what led him to her. Testing of a bullet that was taken from her skull determined it was fired from a rifle owned by Gooch, authorities said.
Gooch’s attorney, Matthew Springer, pointed to Gooch’s lack of criminal history, in arguing for bail. He didn’t advocate for a certain amount but said whatever concerns prosecutors and Krause’s family might have could be addressed in the conditions of release.
“Regardless of the evidence in this case, he still has the presumption of innocence,” Springer said. “I know the state seems confident in the evidence they have in this case … but we have our defenses, certainly, in this case as well.”
Prosecutor Ammon Barker requested at least a $2 million cash-only bond, saying Gooch has exhibited a pattern of animosity against the Mennonite community that he grew up in.
“The victims in this case do not want this defendant released for obvious reasons,” he said. “He killed their daughter, and they expressed they would only feel safe if he remains in jail.”
Barker said prosecutors intend to take the case to trial but would consider a plea offer made by the defense.
The next hearing in the case is set for late September.
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