By AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press
GILBERT, Ariz. (AP) — Many considered Jason Todd Ready to be the most high-profile neo-Nazi in Arizona. He led groups of heavily armed civilians into the desert to look for illegal immigrants as he repeatedly tried to win public office.
But Ready's beliefs and actions got so extreme, including statements that land mines would be a good way to stop border crossers, that the state's most conservative politicians distanced themselves from him.
Unwelcome among Republicans, Ready ran in January for sheriff as a Democrat. He continued to lead immigration patrols and posted Facebook updates, but there was little to suggest his personal life was in turmoil.
On Wednesday, police said, Ready, a burly 39-year-old who went by "JT," shot and killed four people, including a 16-month-old girl, in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert where he lived. He then turned the gun on himself.
The dead included Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47, who is believed to be Ready's girlfriend; her daughter Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; and Amber's boyfriend, Jim Franklin Hiott, 24. The child was found alive but was pronounced dead at a hospital.
A teenager in the house heard arguing followed by gunshots, Gilbert police Sgt. Bill Balafas said. She came out of a back room, found the bodies and called 911.
Balafas said the evidence suggests a domestic dispute, but that investigators aren't sure what triggered it.
Officers had been called to the home previously for domestic disputes, Balafas said. He had no details of those calls or if they involved Ready and said the reports on the disputes would not be released for days.
The killings and Ready's involvement stunned members of his group, the U.S. Border Guard.
"Our sympathies go out to all of his family and friends during this time of unbelievable grief and pain," according to a statement posted on its website. "God bless you, J.T. You will be fiercely missed."
Harry Hughes, a regional director for the National Socialist Movement who went out on patrols with Ready, said the shooting was "completely out of character" for Ready.
"And I'm going to not speculate or make any conclusions. I'm going to let the investigation go take its course," Hughes said. "But I have a real hard time believing that JT Ready could actually shoot and kill a child."
Anti-hate groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center have for years tracked Ready. "JT Ready was a violent thug who typifies the very worst element in the American nativist movement," said the SPLC's Mark Potok.
According to an SPLC profile on its website, Ready was court-martialed twice in 1996 while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, the first time after being gone for eight days without permission.
The center said Ready was demoted to private after the absence, jailed for three months and that, later that year, was court-martialed again for conspiracy, assault and wrongful solicitation and advice. He was found guilty, spent six months in detention and was discharged for bad conduct, the center said.
The Marine Corps was trying to confirm the center's information.
Ready's ex-wife, Arline Lindgren, knew that he had started associating with white supremacist groups when they were married in the late 1990s, her brother, Adam Lindgren, said. The couple divorced in 2003.
Lindgren said he got into a few arguments with Ready but that they were never violent. He said Ready had a temper, but "not a violent temper, that I was aware of." He said he never saw Ready be violent toward anybody.
Ready was "very, very opinionated. He would argue with you until ... well, just keep arguing with you," he said.
Ready was a member of the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement, whose members promote white separatism, dress like Nazis and display swastikas. It believes only non-Jewish, white heterosexuals should be American citizens and that everyone who isn't white should leave the country "peacefully or by force."
Ready first tried to get into politics in 2004, when he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Arizona House. In 2006, he lost a run for Mesa city council but was later elected as a Republican precinct committeeman.