Airman gets life sentence for murder, kidnapping

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

An Airman will spend the rest of his life behind bars, after an Arizona judge sentenced him Jan. 19 for the kidnapping and first-degree murder a New Mexico woman.

Airman 1st Class Mark Gooch, 22, formerly assigned to the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, was given a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, following a guilty conviction last year.  

On April 15, 2020, during the early stages of the murder investigation, Gooch was named as a person of interest by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in Flagstaff, Arizona, after the victim’s body was discovered in a nearby forest.

Over 300 miles away, the victim had already been reported missing from her Farmington, New Mexico, community. On Jan. 18, 2020, the San Juan County Sheriff's Office started their search for the victim. 

Law enforcement agents from New Mexico and Arizona teamed with Office of Special Investigations Detachment 421 at Luke AFB in a joint investigation, joined by the nearby Glendale Police Department, outside of Phoenix.

From April 15 to 21, 2020, Det. 421 observed Gooch’s activities on base, while the Arizona detectives monitored his off-base activities. By April 21, Gooch was brought in for an initial interview regarding the incident. 

Despite Gooch’s efforts to mislead authorities, he was arrested that month.

Investigators also uncovered video, cell phone data, and other pertinent information indicating Gooch lied during the April 21 interview.

Together with the Glendale authorities, the Det. 421 special agents searched Gooch’s residence. Around this time, authorities later discovered a .22 caliber rifle, which confirmed was used during the fatal shooting.

In addition, on-base video evidence showed Gooch leaving and entering the installation around the time of the incident, which corroborated what the CCSO detectives suspected, the report stated.

“The Office of Special Investigation’s Detachment 421 team is the epitome of dedicated professionals,” said Brig. Gen. Terry L. Bullard, OSI commander. “The team’s technical know-how coupled with an outstanding partnership with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office unquestionably ensured justice was served for [the victim] and her family.”