5 of Arizona's Most Notorious Racists and Their Crimes
New Times illustration

5 of Arizona's Most Notorious Racists and Their Crimes

Not all racists, bigots, and nativists are criminals, but, psychologically, it doesn't seem like much of a leap for such scum to go from hating minorities — and thus transgressing the bounds of civil society — to breaking the law and hurting others.

Arizona has plenty of haters, and some have gone on to commit heinous acts — everything from molesting children to killing little kids and their parents. Here are five of Arizona's most notorious racist criminals of recent memory. 

Simcox during his June 2013 arraignment on charges of child molestation.
Simcox during his June 2013 arraignment on charges of child molestation.
New Times pool photo

1. Chris Simcox, child molester

The former Minuteman leader, nativist stalwart, and onetime Republican U.S. Senate candidate was convicted of molesting a 5-year-old playmate of his two daughters. He also had been charged with molesting one of his own daughters, and was alleged to have bribed another little girl with candy to see her genitals. But it was on counts related to the neighbor girl that he was found guilty after a trial, in which he acted as his own attorney. On July 11, Simcox, 55, was sentenced to 19.5 years in prison.

Ready during one of his periodic patrols in the desert, hunting for migrants.
Ready during one of his periodic patrols in the desert, hunting for migrants.
Stephen Lemons

2. J.T. Ready, neo-Nazi, murderer and suicide.

The longtime local racist and onetime member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement was not shy about his beliefs. For years, he was active in Republican and right-wing circles, though after attending an NSM rally in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2007, he openly began wearing swastikas and dressing up in Nazi regalia. Ready spent a lot of time patrolling the Arizona desert, sometimes holding undocumented immigrants he ran across till U.S. Border Patrol arrived. On May 2, 2012, in a fit of rage that has never been fully explained, Ready shot and killed his girlfriend, whom he had been living with, along with his girlfriend's daughter, her granddaughter, and her daughter's fiance, before turning his gun on himself.  

Kid-killer and nativist vigilante Shawna Forde, one of two women on Arizona's death row.
Kid-killer and nativist vigilante Shawna Forde, one of two women on Arizona's death row.
Pima County Sheriff's Office

3. Shawna Forde, militia leader and child-murderer

In May 2009, Forde and two men murdered 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul Flores, during a home invasion robbery in Arivaca. Brisenia's mom, Gina Gonzalez, was shot three times, but survived. A onetime prostitute, Forde was one of many right-wing nutcases drawn to the Arizona-Mexico border as part of the Minuteman movement. A vigilante and the head of her own militia group, she was the ringleader of the trio that shot and killed Brisenia and her dad, and they would have murdered Gonzalez, too, if Gonzalez hadn't returned fire, wounding one of the men. In 2011, a Tucson jury sentenced Forde to death. She is currently one of two women on Arizona's death row.

Ricci, a devoted neo-Nazi, flipping a sieg heil atop a howitzer.
Ricci, a devoted neo-Nazi, flipping a sieg heil atop a howitzer.
Maricopa County Superior Court

4. Travis Ricci, Vinlander, white-supremacist and accused murderer.

Maricopa County prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty against Ricci, an ardent neo-Nazi with the tattoos to prove it, for allegedly shotgunning to death 39-year-old Kelly Ann Jaeger in 2009. Jaeger, who was white, had been walking with her African-American boyfriend Jeffrey Wellmaker in a Phoenix park at night when a shirtless Ricci confronted Wellmaker, calling out, "Hey, nigger, what are you doing with that white woman?" Shortly after this encounter, Ricci and another man, Aaron Levi Schmidt, returned in a car, with Schmidt driving and Ricci armed with a shotgun. Though Wellmaker was their intended victim, Ricci shot and killed Jaeger instead. Schmidt has since admitted to his part in the homicide in a plea deal still under seal. Both Ricci and Schmidt were members of the violent, neo-Nazi street gang, the Vinlander Social Club.

Gary Kelley's mugshot: He's currently doing 27.5 years in prison for the 2010 murder of Juan Varela.
Gary Kelley's mugshot: He's currently doing 27.5 years in prison for the 2010 murder of Juan Varela.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

5. Gary Kelley, anti-Mexican bigot and drunken killer

For evidence that rednecks, guns, and alcohol don't mix, look no further than the May 2010 murder of south Phoenix resident Juan Varela by his drunken, white neighbor Gary Kelley. Reportedly Kelley, 51, approached Varela because he wanted to argue with the Latino man about Arizona's notorious immigration legislation, Senate Bill 1070, signed into law just days before by then-Governor Jan Brewer. Kelley screamed at Varela, "You fucking Mexican, go back to Mexico!" He ended the discussion by shooting Varela as Varela's brother and mother looked on. In 2011, Kelley was convicted of second-degree murder in Varela's death and sentenced to 27.5 years in prison.

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