Sean Gaines Gets 25 Years in Skinhead Slaying, While Patrick Bearup Remains on Death Row

Patrick Bearup.jpg
Patrick Bearup: Facing the needle, while his cohorts cheat death

Someone contacted me recently, wondering whether or not I support the death penalty. I told them I do not, but not because I think it's such a bad idea to give the needle to those who are dead-to-rights guilty of a capital crime.

Rather, I have two problems with it. First, it is arbitrarily applied, subject to all sorts of legal chicanery and judicial i-dotting, the same as in all criminal cases. The main difference being that a man or woman's life may be forfeited as a result.

The second reason is that if someone is falsely accused and imprisoned, there is always hope that the individual's name might be cleared and compensation offered for time spent behind bars. But there is no compensation possible -- at least not for the condemned -- should the state wrongly take someone's life.

It's the first reason that's exemplified in the recent sentencing of racist skinhead Sean Gaines to 25 years for his role in the 2002 murder of Mark Mathes.

See, Gaines and two of his accomplices, fellow skin Jeremy Johnson and white-trash den mom Jessica Nelson, successfully avoided the death penalty by each copping plea deals.

His third accomplice, Patrick Bearup, the son of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's right-hand-man-turned-Joe-foe Tom Bearup, is currently on death row. There's one big problem with that: Even prosecutors admit that he's not the one who actually murdered Mathes.

As I previously reported in a 2008 Bird column, Superior Court Judge Warren Granville chastised the County Attorney's Office at the time over the disparity in sentencing in the Mathes affair.

Both Nelson and Johnson plead guilty to second degree murder. Each caught 14 years with credit for time served, and could be out in 2019. Both testified against Bearup at trial.

And yet, the murder was at the behest of Nelson, who wanted vengeance for money she believed Mathes stole from her. Johnson beat Mathes unconscious with a baseball bat. The body was placed in the trunk of a car, and driven to an abandoned area, appropriately named Swastika Mine. The body was dumped, and according to court documents, Gaines shotgunned Mathes twice.

Though Bearup didn't kill Mathes, he did something equally gruesome according to the court. He clipped off Mathes' ring finger with wire cutters, possibly while Mathes was still alive. This, to obtain a cheap ring on his finger for Nelson.

Granville was not pleased that Bearup was the only defendant facing the death penalty.

He wrote in a 2007 minute entry:

"The County Attorney, as the law allows, made a unilateral decision not to withdraw the death notice for Mr. Bearup, a defendant who, even under the State's theory of the case, did not cause the physical death of Mr. Mathis.[sic] Under the State's theory of the case, Mr. Bearup acted only as support for Mr. Johnson as he baseball batted Mr. Mathis [sic] to death or to near death, and helped drag Mr. Mathis [sic] to a car trunk and the desert. Under the State's theory, Mr. Bearup's act of cutting off Mr. Mathis' [sic] ring finger while cruel and heinous, was not a cause of the death."

Granville further noted:

"This Court, nonetheless, finds that Mr. Bearup's death penalty sentence for Count 1 was not justified in the context of the relative responsibility of the co-defendants whom the County Attorney chose to withdraw the notices of death and reduce their sentencing range. It is the County Attorney's motto that `let justice be done.' This, of course, coincides with a prosecutor's unique ethical responsibility. This Court finds that justice was not done for Mr. Bearup in Count 1."

However, in 2009, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld Bearup's death sentence in a ruling you can read, here. Methodically, the court chips away at Bearup's claims until there's nothing left. He presented an "all or nothing" defense. He did not present mitigation evidence at his sentencing. He was a major participant in the murder, even if he did not strike the death blow. And so on.

Far be it from me to second guess the august legal minds of the Arizona Supreme Court. They ruled on precedents. Nevertheless, the opinion itself reads like the jurisprudence version of a Rube Goldberg contraption.

Bearup didn't do A, B, and C, so he can't do X or Y. Divided by the square root of Z, his death penalty stands.

And Sean Gaines pulls 25 years imprisonment? Even though he supposedly shotgunned Mathes? With credit for time served, he could be out in 2028.

Don't get me wrong, I have little sympathy for the lot of them. Even though my former New Times colleague Susy Buchanan profiled Gaines for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, depicting him as repentant and having renounced neo-Nazism and the skinhead lifestyle, there's still the issue of Mathes' corpse and justice.

Patrick Bearup was no angel, by all accounts. I know his father was upset when I said in my 2008 column that I figured Bearup probably deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison. But to face execution, when the ringleader and the main protagonists cheat death? That's more than a little whack.

Which is why I regard the death penalty as an obscene joke, one that should be banned. The Mathes murder is but one example. There are a plethora of cases just like it, where justice is a card sharp's game. But they receive little or no attention.

The jurists and attorneys involved are all playing their assigned roles. I wouldn't argue that they shouldn't. 

But if Bearup is executed while those more responsible for Mathes' slaying live on with the hope of eventual release, that just further proves that capital punishment should be abolished, because our criminal justice system is not capable of meting out such draconian judgments equitably.

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I'm outright confused & outraged!!!!!!!! It makes no sense to me that Patrick Bearup is on Death Row, while the other individuals that WERE also involved in this incident didn't themselves get the Death Penalty. It is NOT fair that Patrick himself got a death penalty sentence, & those others WILL again see & have their freedom someday returned to them. I don't personally feel that Patrick should be on DR, although I do feel his role in this incident should not however go unpunished. He was afterall there that day if I gathered my research right on this case, BUT I also see there might be the possibility that he was NOT there that day, but regardless of that wondering question, even IF he was there that day, to give him a DP sentence when the others who were there didn't themselves get a death penalty sentence is just not at all making an logic or sense to me whatsoever. From what I know & have reserached of this case, Sean & Jessica should be the ones who are punished MORE severly in this case, however neither got what they deserved for their roles in this murder. Jessica I feel WAS without any doubt in my opinion the ring leader in this, with Sean right beside her, so why oh why will she be released in several more years is like so beyond me.urrr!.... this outright angers me!!! ~ It also seems quite obvious that Sean has traded information in exchange for his sentence, which I tend to strongly believe was information given based on either complete lies or on drastically distorted lies, which is another aspect that puzzles me, especially since he is a KNOWN Liar. He was/is merely just trying to escape a Death Sentence, which I see now he has, which outright sickens me. Just as Jessicas own sentence also sickens & outrages me. Look more into this case, with intense research, & you will see that there has been LOTS of action going on behind the scenes, information being handed to the Courts & the Feds from Sean, Jessica & Jeremy, info being given where the records on those days are being sealed. The case has TONS of changes occuring, even as of today information was handed. Lies in exchange for lighter sentencing/better treatment. ..........What more can I say, excpet that it's so obvious to me that the Arizona legal system is outight corrupt........ My heart goes out to Patrick & his family.


"But if Bearup is executed while those more responsible for Mathes' slaying live on with the hope of eventual release, that just further proves that capital punishment should be abolished, because our criminal justice system is not capable of meting out such draconian judgments equitably."

It's time to abolish the death penalty - premeditated murder by the state. We all know the justice system is broken in Arizona and lawyers are held to the lowest professional standards of a Bar that does not punish it's own. The Death Penalty is used for political gain and wastes millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars. This sick game must come to an end.

It's time to get Bearup off death row -- he was caught in the political enemies war of the MCSO/MCAO and control of the courtroom. By now the public can see how it operates.


Patrick was never offered any plea agreement! I am not sure where you heard this but as I have already said, the actual murders were offered a plea in exchange for testimony saying that Patrick was at the scene. It does seem strange that the actual murders would be offered a plea when their own testimony says that Patrick just stood there. Anyway, the truth will come out some day.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

"where justice is a card sharp's game."

Is that one of your very rare typos, Mr. Lemons? Perhaps you meant card shark's game, instead? Or is this a new term I'm simply not aware of?

If memory serves me correctly Mr. Bearup turned down a plea deal, yes?


While County Attorney Andrew Thomas brought in a special prosecutor for Patrick's case it does not show me that there was anything fair about this case. As you may remember, I was Joe Arpaio's right hand but chose to leave the Sheriff's Office when Joe decided that he was above the law. He also wanted me to lie on the stand in reference to the Scott Norberg death in the Maricopa County Jail. He also told me that he would have me walking a beat in Gila Bend if I pursued any investigation of the missing pink short money that was handled by none other than David Hendershott. David as you might remember is on administrative leave while he is being investigated for possible criminal actions while he was the Chief Deputy. I say, go back through his troubled career with the Sheriff's Office and see the many problems handling money. This is the person that Joe hand picked to run the Office. In reference to Patrick and his case I can tell you that the only ones at the crime scene that said that he was there were the ones that made a plea agreement with the County Attorney that was tied at the hip to none other than the toughest sheriff in America who wanted nothing more than to see me drop out of the Sheriff's race against him. There were three other witnesses that were at the crime scene that said they never saw Patrick nor heard him there. Mark's own family cleaned up the blood and never reported him missing until investigators made contact with them a year later all while they cashed his paycheck. The person that received the ring back was the nephew of Mark and he testified that the Patrick that delivered the ring was 6'2", 250 lbs, with brown eyes. Patrick Bearup is approximately 5'8" tall, 165 lbs and crystal blue eyes that no one could miss. Even the judge said that justice was not served. Could Andrew Thomas, the same man that the Bar Association investigator recommends disbaring have been so close to Joe Arpaio to do his dirty work in an attempt to pay Joe back for political support in getting him elected by Thomas getting back at me, Joe Arpaio's political enemy. The rest of the story has not been told but the time is coming that the truth will be known. I can assure you that if I thought for a minute that Patrick was guilty of this crime I would have taken him in myself. There are many that will say that naturally his father is going to protect him but anyone that knows me personally, knows that if he did the crime he would have to do the time. One of the people that made comments on this story knows the truth as Sean Gaines personally told him that the skin heads were going to kill Patrick, but now the state was going to do it for them, but the funny thing was that Patrick was never there. What a deal! I can tell you that if they do kill Patrick, his blood will be on the hands of Andrew Thomas, Joe Arpaio and David Hendershott. Those of you that have followed the antics of these three men should know that they are capable of doing anything to get back at their political enemies. Tom Bearup


There was a lot more to this case that will ever be told.

I know this for a fact, things that would have helped Bearup avoid the death penalty were not allowed to be said during the trial.

That's not to say he didn't deserved to be in prison, becasue he did for his part of a brutal, stupid murder, but one thing for sure, he didn't deserve a death sentence when nobody else got one in this case that were far more responsible.


I agree with your equitable imposition qualifier, but there is another reason to abolish the State's power to take life - if they can take one life they can take any life for any reason given time and the zeal of the citizenry for the spectacle of death.

It is actually in every citizen's best interests that the State NOT be empowered to take the lives of its citizens. The constitution was set up specifically to prevent a State from encroaching on it's citizen's rights, including the right to LIFE. You can still have liberty and happiness in prison, as long as you have life.

Should you think I speak from inexperience, my first wife was murdered and her tormenter is on death row, where I hope he stays until his natural life. I know that I for one do not want to see another death as a result of my first love's own demise.

In addition


I am in TEXAS and A former Corrections office / PI   I say KILL ALL OF THEM  they are all just worthless pieces of shit anyways so why  WAIST TAXPAYERS MONEY Housing them send them down here if yall don't have the balls to do it WE sure as hell will

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Sorry, Tom. That's why I asked the question. It might be that I mixed your son's case with that of another similar case of a friend of mine in Californica. I hear that someone in Californica has clone Coz and the clone is seen aimlessly wandering the streets, shouting, "I've never been to Arizona, don't blame me".

Sadly, my friend in California died this past week from a brain tumor and he will never see what happens on his son's appeal.


If a person believes they are innocent of a crime, they will NOT take a plea. The prisons are filled with those that the truly guilty defendants pointed the finger at, just to save themselves. This looks like another clear cut case of the same.


card sharp / card sharkDave Wilton, Friday, January 02, 2009One of the etymologies that is frequently debated in bars and other public gathering places is that of card shark v. card sharp. The question is which is the original. Both terms mean someone skilled in cheating at cards, but card sharp is the older of the two, appearing in Bret Harte’s 1884 On The Frontier:

We ain’t takin’ this step to make a card sharp out of him.

The term card sharper is even older, dating to George Sala’s 1859 Twice Round The Clock:

German swindlers and card-sharpers.1

Card shark, on the other hand, doesn’t appear until the mid-20th century, when it is glossed in the Berrey and Van Den Bark’s 1942 American Thesaurus of Slang:

CARDSHARP. Broadsman, card or pasteboard shark, shark, chiseler, Greek, grafter, keener, philosopher, shark, sharper, short-card player, yentzer.2

One might think that card shark was formed by mishearing the older card sharp, but this is not the end of it. Both shark and sharper, without the attending card, go back much further.

Sharper, meaning one who cheats or swindles, dates to 1681 when it appears in Narcissus Luttrell’s A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs:

Many of them sharpers about town.

And from Matthew Prior’s 1709 poem Cupid and Ganymede:

A Sharper, that with Box and DiceDraws in young Deities to Vice.3

Sharper is likely from the idea that one must have keen or sharp wits to make a living in this fashion.

Shark, used in the same sense, is even older, appearing in Ben Jonson’s 1599 The Comicall Satyre of Every Man Out of His Humor:

Shift. A Thredbare Sharke. One that neuer was Soldior, yet liues vpon lendings. His profession is skeldring and odling, his Banke Poules, and his Ware-house Pict-hatch.

This slang-filled quotation needs some translation. Skeldring means begging or swindling. Odling is a rare word that probably means the same thing. The reference to Poules is a bit cryptic, but may refer to the cathedral of Saint Paul’s in London—not, given the date, the familiar Christopher Wren church, but its predecessor. In the 16th century the cathedral was continually looted, thus the facetious reference to it being his “bank.” Pict-hatch was a notorious red-light district in London.

Note that this is not the same word as the name of the fish, which has a different etymology. This shark is of uncertain origin, but probably is a borrowing of the German schurke, which had the meaning of a cheat or swindler in the 16th century.4

So both sharp and shark have long histories of being used in the sense of cheating and swindling. While the exact form card sharp is older, it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be construed as the true or original form.

1Oxford English Dictionary, card, n.2, 2nd Edition, 1989, Oxford University Press, accessed 2 Jan 2009 <http: 50033338="" cgi="""" entry="">.

2Lester V. Berrey and Melvin Van Den Bark, American Thesaurus of Slang (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1942), 699.

3OED2, sharper1, <http: 50222024="" cgi="""" entry="">.

4OED2, shark, n.2, <http: 50221984="" cgi="""" entry="">.</http:></http:></http:>


TomBearup, Well said. The public can see for themselves where arpaio/thomas/hendershot/aubuchon all find themselves today. If they are allowed to continue down their path of destruction after their "enemies", then what happened to you is a warning to anyone else that crosses their paths.


You are a courageous person to say this. You speak from experience and should be heard by all those wielding the power in the state of Arizona. You have credibility. They do not.


Hi Darren,

I know that we live in a world where everybody has a right to raise his or her voice but I'm sure you would have been able to find a better wording. I understand you faced a lot of hate in your life as I don't have a better excuse for you talking about governmental homicide. For me, a German woman it is completely strange to discuss about death penalty  as OUR history showed to the whole world WHAT happens if a state uses such a law for its own purposes. I promised myself that I will raise my voice if something like that should ever occure again somewhere in the world. And so I raise my voice in Patrick's case and scream out loud: So you have no reason, whoever you are, for judging: for in judging another you are judging yourself, for you do the same things.

My heart is with Patrick and his family and also with you, Darren. I hope you will find a person who can heal the wounds and the wrath in your soul.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Wow, so card sharp is actually older than me, even... I didn't think it possible. My apologies, Mr. Lemons. Nice catch, Word Geek...

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