Missing Mennonite woman found slain over 250 miles from New Mexico home, police say

A Mennonite woman who vanished from her New Mexico home late last month was found slain last week in Arizona, more than 250 miles from her home, authorities said.

Sasha Marie Krause, 27, of Farmington, disappeared around 8 p.m. Jan. 18 after leaving her home on Crouch Mesa, according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

The Associated Press reported that Krause lived with several other Mennonite women who were known to travel together. The Sunday school teacher left home to run an errand after eating dinner with her roommates, the news agency said.

Credit: San Juan County Sheriff's Office

Credit: San Juan County Sheriff's Office

Krause was reported missing around 3 a.m. the following day, at which time deputies were called to Lamp & Light Publishers, a Mennonite bookstore located across the street from the Farmington Mennonite Church near Krause's home. According to the AP, Krause had gone to the church to pick up some items.

Her car was found abandoned outside the church.

"Resources that Sasha would normally take with her, if she willingly left her residence, were left behind," Sheriff's Office officials said in a statement.

That included her wallet, money and driver's license, the AP reported.

San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said that Krause's disappearance was unique due to the fact she comes from a "very secluded" community, according to Fox 10 in Phoenix.

“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,” Ferrari said.

Watch a video statement from Sheriff Shane Ferrari below.

Though Mennonites are often confused with the Amish, the Mennonite Church USA explains the two are different offshoots of the same background.

"Mennonites and Amish come from the same Anabaptist tradition begun in the 16th century, but there are differences in how we live out our Christian values," the church's website said. "The distinctiveness of the Amish is in their separation from the society around them. They generally shun modern technology, keep out of political and secular involvements and dress plainly."

Ferrari said in a video statement that limited evidence and information at the scene made it difficult to determine if Krause had left voluntarily or if detectives were working a kidnapping. They explored both scenarios but ultimately deemed her disappearance a suspicious one.

Investigators began searching in earnest for Krause, working closely with her family, members of the Mennonite community, and a hired search and rescue team, which included a tracking dog, to comb the area surrounding the community.

Credit: San Juan County Sheriff's Office

Credit: San Juan County Sheriff's Office

As the month wore on, authorities tried to reassure the community that the search for the missing woman was ongoing and active.

"Detectives are actively pursuing every lead, tip and potential avenue of this investigation," a Jan. 30 statement said. "The Sheriff's Office continues to obtain search warrants and utilize other investigative tools to locate Krause. Detectives are currently working alongside our federal partners as they assist us with advanced, investigative technology and resources."

Investigators said tips had been coming in from across the country, but no new information had led to Krause’s location. They addressed social media groups that were discussing the case and said those pages were being monitored for legitimate tips.

"Please refrain from sharing inaccurate information and use caution when discussing hearsay that is lacking evidence," the department's statement said.

Watch part of an aerial search for Sasha Krause below.

By Feb. 12, a $50,000 reward had been offered for information leading to Krause’s recovery. Eight days later, authorities shared on Facebook a video snippet of an aerial search conducted of the area surrounding Lamp & Light Publishing and the community Krause called home.

Detectives' worst fear was realized Feb. 21 when a camper found the body of a woman near Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff, Arizona. San Juan County spokeswoman Jayme Harcrow said the dead woman matched Krause's description down to the gray, pinstriped dress, white jacket and black shoes she was last seen wearing, the AP reported.

Her remains were positively identified three days later.

"Fingerprints taken at the scene were matched (to) the Texas Motor Vehicle Department's driver license records to confirm her identity," Coconino County Sheriff's Office investigators said in a news release. "The Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office is continuing their investigation to determine cause of death."

It was not immediately clear when Krause was killed or how long her body had been at the location where she was found, according to Coconino County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jon Paxton.

"I think it's all just kind of a mystery right now," Paxton told the AP. "Once we get a cause from the ME, that's really going to lead us forward."

Her cause of death has not been made public, but San Juan County officials are now investigating the case as a murder.

"Based off her leaving unusually and being found dead in a remote location, our office is comfortable saying we're treating it as a homicide investigation," Harcrow said.

Credit: San Juan County Sheriff's Office

Credit: San Juan County Sheriff's Office

Ferrari said it was “with a heavy heart” that he announced Krause’s body had been found.

"To Sasha's family, I give my heartfelt condolences on behalf of not only myself, but the San Juan County Sheriff's Office," Ferrari said in a video statement.

He said the search for her killer is being conducted by his agency in partnership with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and federal authorities.

"We are fully committed in capturing this individual and bringing peace to the Krause family," the sheriff said.

Paul Kaufman, who worked with Krause at Lamp & Light Publishers, said the loss of his friend and colleague is a difficult one, Fox 10 reported.

“It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t happen to anyone,” said Kaufman, who worked with Krause at Lamp and Light Publishers. “(She is) a dedicated Christian, so yeah, she leaves a big hole with us.”

Krause’s family released a statement last week thanking everyone who helped find her.

"We don't have any more details yet, but we are truly thankful for everyone that prayed, hung flyers, and volunteered in searches," the statement said, according to KOB-TV in Albuquerque. "We are also profoundly thankful for everything law enforcement did in searching for and finding our dear Sasha. They never gave up, and we so appreciate that."

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