Posted: September 15, 2003
Four members of a neo-Nazi skinhead group in Arizona were arrested in connection with the violent murder of a 40-year-old man.
Sean Gaines, 22, Jessica Nelson, 27, Patrick Bearup, 26, and Jeremy Johnson, 20, were arrested by Phoenix police on September 10 and 11, 2003 on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping. Gaines and Bearup, son of a candidate for Maricopa County sheriff, were also charged with misconduct involving weapons.
Investigators said the victim, Mark Mathes, lived with Jessica Nelson, who accused him of stealing from her. Tony Morales, a detective with the Phoenix police, said Nelson asked the three other suspects to help her "take care of this matter."
In February 2002, according to authorities, the four suspects allegedly beat Mathes unconscious, packed his body in the trunk of a car and drove him to the desert near Crown King. There, they beat him with a baseball bat, cut his finger off for a ring, shot him in the head and threw him off a ravine near the remnants of Swastika Mine. The body wasn't found until a year later.
The suspects are members of a violent skinhead group led by Joshua Fiedler, Nelson's former fiancée. Fiedler, 25, served three years in prison on felony endangerment and aggravated assault charges in 1997 after firing an assault rifle at a fleeing car in Glendale. The shooting stemmed from a confrontation between Fiedler, a Black man and a Hispanic man. Patrick Bearup was also involved in the shooting and sentenced to four years in prison.
Sean Gaines is Fiedler's second-in-command, according to police. Gaines' criminal record includes car theft and aggravated assault on a Hispanic man. According to a local newspaper, Gaines also allegedly beat a Jewish boy unconscious last September.
Other members of Fiedler's group, which he calls the SS Guardians, allegedly beat a man to death outside a North Phoenix pool hall on October 16, 2002. Bearup, who was at the pool hall when the killing took place, reportedly provided information that led to the arrest of Christopher Weston Whitley, one of the suspects in the murder.
Two other associates of Fiedler's group, Nicolas Elkins, 23, and Nathan Greeson, 22, were arrested on aggravated assault charges in Phoenix on June 13, 2003 for beating an African-American man in a parking lot.
Todd Gerrish, a gang investigator for the Arizona Department of Corrections, says a rising number of skinheads are "establishing themselves as more of a presence with the younger crowd, the 18- to 21-year-old group that is more prone to violent activity."
The Anti-Defamation League's Arizona Regional Office issued a statement commending law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation for their determination in solving the Mathes case and tracking down the suspects.