Missing Mennonite woman, 27, found dead 250 miles from her secluded community
The body of a Mennonite woman who disappeared from her New Mexico home at the end of January was found last week in Arizona, more than 250 miles away, and authorities said Tuesday they believe she was kidnapped and murdered.
Sasha Marie Krause, 27, was last seen leaving her Crouch Mesa home at 8 p.m. on Jan. 18, according to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico. Deputies responded to Lamp & Light Publishers, a Mennonite bookstore across the street from Farmington Mennonite Church, at 3 a.m. on Jan. 19, at which point Krause was reported missing.
Statements from the sheriff’s office said Krause’s vehicle was quickly located at a church near her house, but she was nowhere to be found.
“Resources that Sasha would normally take with her, if she willingly left her residence, were left behind,” statements said. Investigators considered Krause’s disappearance to be “suspicious.”
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On Feb. 21, the the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona called officers in Krause’s home county to report that a body matching hers had been found by a person camping near Sunset Crater National Monument. Deputies from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office made the 270 mile trip to Arizona to assist in the investigation.
Three days later, an autopsy confirmed the body belonged to Krause, authorities announced. The medical examiner is still working to determine Krause’s cause of death.
On Tuesday, San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said the investigation has become criminal, as authorities look to “identify and apprehend the individual that’s responsible for Sasha’s kidnap and murder.”
Authorities have asked the public to report any suspicious activity they noticed in the area of Sunset Crater and nearby Wupatki National Monument.
Ferarri told Fox affiliate KSAZ in Phoenix that the case was peculiar from the start because Krause disappeared from 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,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff’s office had spent weeks updating the public on the search for Krause.
Officers worked with the missing woman’s relatives and members of the Mennonite community, an independent search-and-rescue team from out of state, volunteers and federal investigators. Crews first focused on the area surrounding Lamp & Light Publishing, using a tracking canine, then deployed a helicopter to search greater San Juan County.
“Detectives have obtained search warrants on cell phone records, bank statements, are continuing to interview potential witnesses and are using advanced, investigative technology and resources to locate Krause,” the sheriff’s office said on Feb. 12, when it announced a $50,000 reward for information that could lead to finding Krause.
Elisha Fieldstadt is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.