Profiles of 10 Racist Skinheads
Racist skinhead culture has long brimmed with violence and venom.
Jessica Nelson, 31
A dirty blonde with glacial eyes and an equally icy temperament, Jessica Nelson has a sweet smile that spreads across her face like Novocain.
Born in Huntington Beach, Calif., Nelson moved to Arizona when she was in the eighth grade. She enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. After leaving the military, she had a son (who is now 13), developed an on-again, off-again methamphetamine addiction, and starting having trouble with the law, racking up a felony forgery conviction, a DUI, and misdemeanor charges for making false statements.
In May 2001, Nelson became romantically involved with Phoenix skinhead leader Joshua Fielder, who worked in a tattoo shop she frequented. When Fiedler was sent back to prison for violating his probation in the fall of 2001, he arranged for Nelson and her son to stay, rent-free, at the home of two of his tattoo clients, Bruce and Marie Mathes, setting in motion the chain of events that would lead to one of the most brutal skinhead murders in recent memory.
Not long after Nelson moved into the home, Bruce's brother, Mark, a middle-aged drug addict and petty criminal who had fled to Arizona to dodge a warrant in Washington state, also joined the household.
Nelson worked as a security guard, saving money in anticipation of Fiedler's release. One morning in late February 2002, she discovered an envelope with $600 in it had gone missing. Suspecting Mark Mathes — who was not home at the time -- she called Sean Gaines, Fiedler's second-in-command, who told her to call back as soon as Mathes returned, according to police reports and transcripts of Nelson's later accounts to homicide investigators.
That evening, sometime after 9 p.m., Mathes came in the back patio door while Nelson was outside smoking. She offered Mathes a beer, snuck inside to call Gaines, and then returned to the patio, where she petted a cat, made small talk, and waited.
Soon enough, Gaines and two other Unit 88 skinheads -- longtime Fiedler associate Patrick Bearup and "fresh cut" Jeremy Johnson -- entered the yard swiftly, carrying a shotgun, a large knife, and a baseball bat, respectively.
According to police reports, Gaines pointed the shotgun at Mathes, shouting, "You fucked up!"
Under orders from Gaines, Johnson began beating Mathes about the legs and back with the baseball bat. After Mathes fell, Gaines allegedly bashed him in the head with the shotgun's butt, knocking him unconscious. The four skinheads dragged Mathes into an alley and lifted him into the trunk of a car.
They drove to a remote area about an hour north of Phoenix known as Swastika Mine.
"What are we going to do with him?" police say Gaines asked Nelson.
"You know what we have to do," she replied.
Nelson and Bearup ripped Mathes' clothes from his body. Noticing a cheap ring on one of his fingers, Nelson tried to slip it off, but the finger was too swollen, so Bearup allegedly helped her cut off the finger using wire clippers while Mathes screamed. Gaines then allegedly smashed Mathes head with the shotgun butt, repeatedly, until he fell silent.
The four skinheads then dragged Mathes to the side of an embankment and threw him over a guardrail. Hoping to prevent identification through dental records, police say, Gaines pumped two shotgun blasts into Mathes' face.
Johnson was arrested on Sept. 10, 2003, and confessed. Nelson, Bearup and Gaines were arrested the following day. When police showed her Mark Mathes' ring during one interrogation session, Jessica Nelson sat back in her chair and cackled.
Nelson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of kidnapping (as did Johnson) in exchange for her testimony against Gaines and Bearup, who remain jailed awaiting trial for capital murder.