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Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2009, 9:41 a.m.

Suspect in Arizona slayings charged in 1997 Wenatchee killing

Jason Bush is already a suspect, along with Shawna Forde, in two recent deaths.

  • Jason Eugene Bush

    Jason Eugene Bush

  • Shawna Forde

    Shawna Forde

WENATCHEE -- Genetic evidence found on a blood- spattered T-shirt has led to another murder charge for a self-styled Minuteman already accused of killing two people during a home invasion robbery in Arizona.
Jason Eugene Bush, 34, is an ex-convict who police say has "long-standing ties" to white supremacist groups. He has claimed to be a decorated combat veteran and former special forces warrior and was known as "Gunny" to members of Minutemen American Defense.
That's the border-watch group founded by Shawna Forde, 41, of Everett.
Forde, Bush and another man were charged Friday with two counts of first-degree murder stemming from a botched May 30 home-invasion robbery in Arivaca, Ariz. Police say a suspected drug trafficker and his 9-year-old daughter were fatally shot.
That same day, Bush was quietly charged with second- degree murder in connection with the 1997 killing of Hector Lopez Partida in Wenatchee.
Bush was linked to the killing through scientific tests and statements he made to police informants, including bragging about killing "a Mexican" and two others in Wenatchee, according to a Chelan County Superior Court affidavit.
Lopez Partida, 29, of Wenatchee, had been sleeping near a grain silo when he was repeatedly stabbed and stomped and left to bleed to death.
When asked who attacked him, the victim reportedly said "Gavachos (white guys)." It was the last thing he ever said, according to court papers.
Bush became a suspect in January after the state crime lab extracted DNA from sweat stains in a T-shirt that was found near Lopez Partida. The shirt, spattered with the victim's blood, was found less than 100 yards from the slain man's body on July 24, 1997, according to court papers.
Police had no suspects and in 2005 asked the crime lab to see if it could use improved genetic testing to pinpoint whose DNA was on the shirt. Tests showed the only genetic material was blood from Lopez Partida and sweat left by Jason Bush, Wenatchee police Sgt. Cherie Smith said.
"This guy was never on our radar screen prior to the DNA match," she said.
Bush was 22 at the time of the killing. He went to prison a few months later and spent nearly five years behind bars for a variety of crimes, including auto theft, assault and weapons violations. After release in 2003, he moved to northern Idaho's Hayden Lake area, where he lived until 2007, the affidavit said.
Wenatchee police "learned Bush has had long standing ties to Aryan Nations groups that commonly believe in white superiority over other races and have been known to be violent towards non-white races. He espoused these beliefs to associates in Wenatchee in 1997," the affidavit said.
Wenatchee police earlier this year issued a nationwide warrant for Bush's arrest on a parole violation.
Last week, Wenatchee detectives were contacted by investigators in Arizona, who were seeking him in connection with the home invasion killings.
Detectives in Wenatchee contacted two confidential informants who provided crucial information to tie Bush to the 1997 homicide, Smith said. Both recounted how Bush bragged about killings in Wenatchee, including a case that matched the circumstances of Lopez Partida's death, court papers said.
On Friday, a Wenatchee detective flew to Arizona to interview Bush.
"He denied any involvement" in the 1997 case, Smith said. "He was served with our murder in the second-degree warrant."
Bush is being held in Pima County, Ariz., accused of being the gunman who shot three people, two fatally, during a home invasion robbery seeking drugs and money.
Raul Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, were killed when a group of armed people, including a woman, forced their way into the home. The child's mother traded gunfire with the attackers. The woman survived but remains hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
Arizona detectives have accused Forde of directing the robbery as part of a plan to raise money for her Minuteman group.
Forde's family said she talked about that idea. They also said they believe Bush was part of a home invasion robbery of a family in Shasta Lake, Calif., on June 8 in which $12,000 was stolen at gunpoint.
Minutemen leaders on Monday continued to distance themselves from Forde.
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration (ALI-PAC), said that most Minutemen and others active on immigration have long avoided Forde.
He pointed to national alerts his organization sent to members during the winter after The Herald reported on Forde's involvement in a flurry of violence in Everett, and her troubled past.
"We did everything that was reasonable within our power at that time to exclude Shawna Forde," he said.
Chuck Stonex of Alamagordo, N.M., earlier was a vocal supporter of Forde. Over the weekend he answered e-mail inquiries from the media on behalf of Forde's group.
On Monday, Stonex said he's breaking ties completely with Forde and her organization.
"This has no connection to Minutemen in any way shape or form," he said of the Arizona killings. "In my opinion, this is nothing more than a cold-blooded criminal act. Just the fact that it was committed by two members of a Minuteman organization does not make it a Minuteman act."
Stonex said he didn't know Forde well, having met her on a desert patrol, and through trading e-mails and a few phone calls. He only met Bush after Forde called him on May 30 and asked him to patch up a minor bullet wound on the man's calf.
Stonex said he was told Bush had been wounded during a desert patrol about 40 miles away. He didn't know about the Arivaca shootings until later, and made no connection to Bush's injury until questioned by police.
Minutemen consider people with proven connections to white supremacists or other hate groups "the ultimate taboo," Stonex said, and they are unwelcome in border operations. Had they been known, Bush's links to such groups would not have been tolerated, he said.
Robbery, murder and racism are wrong, Stonex said.
"I don't want any part of that," he said. "I am a Christian man. I want nothing to do with that kind of stuff."
Detectives in Arizona continue to investigate, Pima County sheriff's spokeswoman Dawn Barkman said.
"There possibly will be additional arrests," Barkman said.
The notion that others involved in the killings may still be free is causing great concern for the Flores family and others, said a Tucson man, who described himself as a family friend.
The man, who spoke only on the condition that his name not be published, said Raul Flores "worked hard for his family ... He lived for his kids, his family, his wife."
It is true that drug trafficking and human smuggling are problems in the border community of Arivaca, but it also is a place where people care about each other and are friendly to visitors, he said.
"I give you my word as a man, if you drive this road, people will wave to you, even if they don't know you," he said.
Wenatchee detectives also are continuing to investigate, Sgt. Smith said. Officials are exchanging information and exploring the possibility that Bush may be connected to other crimes.
"I'm sad that other people died," Smith said. "I'm glad that we were able to get him and tie up some loose ends here."

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com.

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