WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Jacob Gooch, a former state trooper assigned to patrol in Virginia's Fairfax Division, allegedly sent a text to his brothers in mid-April that said he gave a Mennonite man a ticket and coughed on him “so he would spread Corona to the wedding they were going too."
The text ended with "lol."
The message was uncovered in a murder investigation into that trooper's brother, Mark Gooch, a 21-year-old U.S. Air Force airman stationed near Phoenix. The murder victim is a Mennonite woman.
Jacob Gooch has since resigned from the Virginia State Police department.
MURDER INVESTIGATION INTO MARK GOOCH
Mark Gooch has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the death of Sasha Krause, a 27-year-old Sunday school teacher who disappeared from a Mennonite community in New Mexico in mid-January. Her body was found cold and stiff, with a bullet wound to the back of her head, in a forest clearing outside Flagstaff in February.
Raised in a Mennonite family in Wisconsin, Mark Gooch joined the military to escape what he told investigators was a difficult, sheltered and restricted life, according to sheriff's records obtained by The Associated Press. The records hint at disdain for the Mennonite community by Gooch and at least two of his brothers, including former Virginia State Trooper Jacob. Mark never became part of the church, a process that involves a period of study, a commitment to be a follower of Jesus, and baptism usually in teenage years.
Gooch said he felt like an outsider because his family wasn’t born into the religion. He once told a friend that he found life on his family’s organic dairy farm depressing and wanted to live like other people. His older brother, Sam Gooch, told investigators his brother holds a grudge against the Mennonite community over perceived mistreatment, but he didn’t elaborate.
Mark Gooch acknowledged traveling to Farmington, New Mexico, on Jan. 18, when Krause was reported missing. He said he had time for a long drive.
He left the base early that Saturday morning and drove north, past Flagstaff’s snow-capped mountains and through the Navajo reservation, stopping for food and then for gas in Farmington.
He said he went to the Mennonite church on the outskirts of town where the words “Lamp + Light” are spelled out in painted white rocks on the side of a mesa — a nod to the publishing ministry where Krause worked. He said he wanted to attend a service because he missed the fellowship of Mennonites. But he hadn’t checked to learn when services would be held and instead hurried back to the base to meet a friend the next day.
Detectives say there were inconsistencies in Gooch’s story. Cellphone records indicate he was around the church for a couple of hours and in the forest outside Flagstaff after midnight. Surveillance video at the base showed his car returned about 7 a.m. the day after he left. Gooch said he thought it was no later than 2 a.m.
A receipt showed Gooch had his car detailed a day after authorities announced a body had been found in the forest. In addition, Gooch’s phone was the only device that communicated with the same towers as Krause’s phone before her signal dropped off west of Farmington, prosecutors said.
Authorities aren't sure yet whether the .22-caliber bullet believed to have killed Krause was fired from a rifle that belonged to Gooch. Results also are pending on DNA from under Krause’s fingernails and on her neck.
Gooch was assigned to Luke Air Force Base in October and worked in equipment maintenance. Base officials wouldn't say whether he's ever faced disciplinary action.
Sam Gooch was arrested after authorities said they suspected he flew to Arizona to pick up the rifle used in the killing. He was released on bond and hasn’t been charged.
Sam Gooch said the family left a Mennonite church in Wisconsin around 2015. As the siblings grew older, some went separate ways but kept in touch through occasional phone calls and text messages.
In what has been chalked up to coincidence, one of the elder Gooch brothers attended Bible school with Krause in her hometown in Texas several years ago and had dinner at the Krause home.
A former school teacher in Texas, Krause arrived in Farmington two years ago to work for the publishing ministry. She knew Spanish, a skill that proved valuable to the ministry known for its outreach to Spanish-speakers, and she was learning French.
Krause was part of a group of conservative Mennonites where women wear head coverings and long dresses or skirts. Men wear plain clothing. They practice non-resistance and believe in forgiveness, said Paul Kaufman, general manager of Lamp and Light Publishers.
Krause also was a poet whose words became hymns. Some were sung at her memorial service. Her father Robert Krause described her as friendly and deeply compassionate with “zero ability” to hide stress or emotion.
On the evening she disappeared, Krause drove to the church to pick up materials for use as she filled in at Sunday school. She parked her silver Ford Focus close to the sidewalk and went inside the church.
She wouldn’t be seen alive again by anyone in her community.
Gooch’s phone records indicate he returned to the forest a couple of nights after authorities said he left Krause’s body beneath the brush.
A camper discovered her body while gathering firewood. She noticed something white on the ground amid the black volcanic cinders and dry pine needles.
JACOB GOOCH'S STATUS
In accordance with Virginia State Police department policy, Jacob P. Gooch was placed on administrative leave with pay on May 8, according to Corinne N. Geller, VPD's Public Relations Director. He has since resigned.
All Geller would say about the administrative leave was that it was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Virginia State Police and that the investigation is unrelated to his brother's homicide investigation.
Gooch was hired on March 20, 2019, and graduated from the state police academy on Oct. 4, 2019.
"The text conversation is part of the internal administrative investigation and the Department is not able to discuss such personnel matters, per state law," Geller says. "However, the Virginia State Police does not take the alleged actions lightly. The Department adheres to strict policies regarding employee conduct and requires our employees to perform their duties with exceptional professionalism and integrity, and to treat the public with fairness and respect at all times."