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Death sentence stands for man who cut off victim’s finger

Patrick Wade Bearup was not the person who delivered a beating to a Phoenix man in 2002, nor did shoot the man twice in the head on a dusty road near the old mining town of Crown King.

But he did stuff Mark Mathes, whose face and body had been smashed with a baseball bat, into the trunk of a car. And he did cut off one of Mathes’ fingers to retrieve a ring before Mathes was thrown into a ravine and shot.

As such, the death sentence delivered upon him in 2007 will stand, according to an opinion released July 17 by the Arizona Supreme Court. The justices, relying on testimony from witnesses and Bearup himself, rejected Bearup’s legally mandated appeal.

In February of 2002, Bearup, 32, joined his friends Jeremy Johnson and Sean Gaines to exact revenge on Mathes, who had been accused by roommate Jessica Nelson of stealing money in her possession.

The three men confronted Mathes on his backyard patio, Johnson carrying an aluminum baseball bat, Gaines carrying a shotgun and Bearup armed with a large folding knife. They surrounded Mathes, and Johnson used the bat to strike Mathes as many as 25 times in the head and torso.

Mathes was stripped of his clothing on Crown King Road in an effort to help conceal his identity from law enforcement before the three men threw him into a ravine. Gaines then shot him twice with a shotgun, according to court documents.

On appeal, Bearup claimed prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence to support charging him with kidnapping. That crime requires that a person restrain another with the intent of inflicting death or injury or to aid the commission of a felony.

It is also a predicate crime for felony murder charges, which allow charges of murder to be brought against defendants who accidentally kill or contribute to the deaths of others during the course of committing other felonies.

Bearup argued the trial court jury should have been instructed to consider the lesser-offense of unlawful imprisonment, which does not serve as a predicate to felony murder charges and is only defined as “knowingly restraining another person.”

The claims were rejected by the court’s five justices who noted Bearup’s statements made prior to the attack and his failure to intervene or protest the “length and severity” of Mathes’ beating indicated that he was well aware of the plan to cause harm.

“Once the beating commenced and Bearup continued to restrain Mark (Mathes), no reasonable jury could have found that he merely intended to restrain Mark,” wrote Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch.

The justices also noted that Bearup had claimed at trial that he was not even present during the assault, and he did not request that jurors be instructed on unlawful imprisonment charges.

Bearup, the son of a former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office employee, also urged the court to overturn his sentence because the Eighth Amendment largely bans executing indirect participants in murders.

In order to warrant a death sentence, a jury had to determine that Bearup was a “major participant” in the death of Mathes and to have acted with reckless disregard for human life.

Throughout the assault, Bearup “must have known” that Mathes’ life was at risk, wrote Berch, who also stated there was ample legal reason to uphold the death sentence because Bearup had helped kidnap the victim and dispose of the body.

Bearup also used a pair of wire cutters to cut off one of Mathes’ fingers while the man may have still been alive. Bearup also laughed and seemed amused when he told others, including his ex-girlfriend, about what he had done, Berch wrote.

The court was also not moved by Bearup’s claim that the disparity of his sentence compared to the punishments received by Nelson and Johnson, who both entered plea agreements with prosecutors, should warrant leniency.

Both were sentenced to 14 years in prison for kidnapping and murder, while Gaines has yet to be sentenced, according to court documents.

The Arizona Supreme Court found that plea deals entered with Johnson and Nelson were “necessary to bring everyone in this killing to justice,” wrote Berch, noting that Bearup’s prior criminal history and the substantial aggravating factors in the case did not warrant leniency.

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