Trooper resigns after text about coughing to spread COVID-19

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia state trooper has resigned after he claimed in a text message that he coughed on a driver he ticketed in hopes of spreading the coronavirus.

Virginia State Police began an internal investigation into Jacob Gooch after the texts surfaced during a homicide investigation in Arizona. Gooch's brother, Mark Gooch, is charged in the killing of Sasha Krause, a Sunday school teacher who disappeared from a Mennonite community in New Mexico earlier this year.

In one text exchange in mid-April, Jacob Gooch told Mark and another brother that he gave a Mennonite man a ticket and coughed on him “so he would spread Corona to the wedding they were going too. lol.”

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the text exchange was part of an internal investigation into Jacob Gooch.

He was placed on administrate leave May 8 as part of a separate criminal investigation and resigned late last month, Geller said. She declined to discuss details but said the criminal probe is unrelated to the death of Krause.

Jacob Gooch, 30, graduated from the State Police Training Academy in October and was assigned as a patrol trooper in northern Virginia.

Mark Gooch, a 21-year-old U.S. Air Force airman stationed near Phoenix, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. 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.

One of his brothers told investigators Mark Gooch holds a grudge against the Mennonite community over perceived mistreatment.