A U.S. airman has been arrested in connection with the murder of a Mennonite woman from a small community in New Mexico.
Sasha Marie Krause, 27, disappeared Jan. 18 after leaving her home around 8 p.m. Her body wasn’t found until a month later in Coconino County, Arizona, nearly 270 miles from her home, according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Office in New Mexico.
"Sasha was a person of utmost integrity. She loved her Lord, she took life very seriously, a very studious kind, type of person," her friend, Samuel Coon, told 12 News.
Mark Gooch, 21, an airman first class, has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder, first-degree murder during the commission of a crime, kidnapping and theft in connection in the case, police said.
Police said the case was “suspicious” because Krause lived in a “very secluded” Mennonite community.
"They have a business, they live on site, and we never respond there very often for anything, so it struck us as very odd that we had someone missing, especially because you see them out in a group and having someone gone was very strange to us,” San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said.
Police said the community had been fearful after Krause’s body was discovered because they weren’t sure if a “predator was living inside” their community.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said they determined that "during the time Sasha Krause went missing, Gooch had traveled from Luke Air Force Base, where he lives, to Farmington, New Mexico.” They also alleged that he’d been near Sunset Crater, where Krause’s body was found.
It's unclear how and if the pair were connected.
A $50,000 reward was offered for information about Krause’s disappearance, but police are now putting the public’s mind at ease.
"I can assure you, we have our man,” Ferrari said.“The Sheriff of Coconino County and I are committed to making sure that Mark Gooch receives a max sentence for these horrible crimes, and yes, Arizona still has the death penalty," Ferrari said in a video statement. "We have the right person responsible for this horrendous crime."