Alleged shooter in Gilbert slayings had ties to Thunderbird Farms
By Tim Howsare
Jason “J.T.” Ready, the man Gilbert police believe shot and killed four people Wednesday before turning the gun on himself, had established residency near Maricopa so he could run for Pinal County sheriff, according to the owner of the house in Thunderbird Farms.
Harry Hughes III, a friend of Ready’s who lives in the 49000 block of West Val Vista Road, said Ready lived at his house on and off earlier this year, but that he had not seen Ready since April 11.
According to documents from the Pinal County Election’s Office, Ready’s address was the same as Hughes when he filed his paper work to run for office. Ready was running as a Democrat.
“He did establish residency here for the purpose of running for sheriff,” Hughes said.
Though Ready would gather signatures in the county during the day and sometimes sleep at his house, Hughes said he traveled back and forth a lot between his house and the Valley, but was not certain whether he was always going to the house in Gilbert where the shootings occurred.
“He kept his private life very private,” Hughes said.
Ready, in an interview with InMaricopa about his candidacy for sheriff, said he was a volunteer with the U.S. Border Guard, an independent search-and-rescue group not associated with the U.S. government or law enforcement.
The Southern Poverty Law Group, a civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Ala., dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, profiled Ready as an “outright Neo Nazi” who advocated the use of deadly force to stop Mexicans from crossing the U.S. border illegally.
In his interview with InMaricopa, Ready said he realized he was a controversial figure and there is a big difference between immigration and the drug cartel insurgency, which he said victimizes Mexicans forced by cartels to illegally cross the border transporting drugs.
Elias Johnson, spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, said he was not aware of Ready’s group having any incidents with deputies while it patrolled the desert.
“They usually tell us where they plan to patrol before going out,” he said. “There was nothing criminal in nature.”
Hughes said he and Ready would frequently go on patrols together with other militia members.
Ready did not seem distraught lately. “Not at all," Hughes said.
On his reaction that his friend may have killed four people, Hughes said, “I’m not going to speculate as to what happened in an ongoing investigation. I will say this: I cannot picture J.T. Ready ever harming a child. I find that hard to believe at this point.”
Hughes said one of the victims, 24-year-old Jim Hiott, had gone on their patrols a few times.
Hiott was an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. He was the boyfriend of one the other victims, Amber Mederos, 23, who was the daughter of Lisa Mederos. The infant who was killed, Lilly, was Amber Medero’s daughter.
Hughes said Ready lived in Gilbert and had plans to move to Pinal County, where he would need to live if running for office.
Like Ready, Hughes is a controversial figure as a member of the Nationalist Socialist Movement Party, a political organization that promotes white separatism on its website. Hughes said the party is not a Neo Nazi group and the color of a person’s skin is the least of his concerns.
Sgt. Bill Balafas, spokesman for the Gilbert Police Department, said it was his understanding that Ready lived at the house in Gilbert either full time or part time.
Asked if there was a possibility the shooting could have been done by a drug cartel, as Ready acolytes are claiming on his Facebook page, Balafas said, “There is nothing indicating that right now. We have strong evidence that indicates this was a homicide-suicide.”
Chemicals and ammunition where found at the scene, but Balafas would not speculate on whether the chemicals where there to build a bomb. He said the chemicals and ammunition were being investigated by the Joint Terrorist Task Force, a group of law enforcement agencies in the Valley that includes the FBI.
Though there were domestic violence calls from the house, it was not known Thursday whether any of the calls involved Ready. That, too, is being investigated, Balafas.
Local Democratic Party leader Henry Wade called Ready’s candidacy as a Democratic “pretty much a farce” because he never attended meetings and was never involved with party events.
Wade is a Democratic candidate for Pinal County Supervisor District 4, which includes the city of Maricopa.
He offered his sympathies for the family members who were killed.
“I feel for that family,” he said. “That is such a tragedy. Someone who has problems and issues needs to resolve them and not cause harm to other people.”