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Herald staff | rking@heraldnet.com
Published: Tuesday, February 1, 2011, 10:22 a.m.

Forde's co-defendant has long, disturbing history

Jason Bush accused of shooting Brisenia Flores

  • Jason Bush's booking photo

    Pima County Sheriff's Department

    Jason Bush's booking photo

  • Brisenia Flores, 9, and her father, Raul, 29.

    Green Valley News and Sun

    Brisenia Flores, 9, and her father, Raul, 29.

One of the more enigmatic and disturbing figures in the Shawna Forde double-murder case is Jason Eugene Bush, the guy some called "Gunny."

If prosecutors in Arizona and eastern Washington have it right, Bush is responsible for at least four killings, including the execution of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores. The girl was shot at such close range the barrel touched her cheek.

How did Bush and Forde allegedly wind up together, committing a home invasion robbery that ended in death for Brisenia and the little girl's dad? Hopefully Forde's trial will provide more answers.

I spent several days in the summer of 2009 retracing Bush's trail in communities across Washington and Idaho. At the time I was writing about how Forde, formerly of Everett, transformed herself from a teen-age felon and prostitute into a middle-aged Minuteman activist. What I learned about Bush didn't really advance that story. It appeared he was only part of Forde's tale in Arizona, the terrible chapter now being explored in a Tucson courtroom. Still, there was plenty about him that seemed worthy of exploration. So here goes:
Forde associates in Washington said they never met Bush. The only time he appears to have lived anywhere near her hometown was the year he served locked away at the Monroe Correctional Complex. Inmate Bush kept a low profile there, working on the maintenance crew. He was released in 2003 and headed back to Idaho. That was years before Forde started trying to become a Minuteman leader.

The FBI says Bush once was an active member of Aryan Nations, and in 1997 they reportedly documented him joining skinheads and other white supremacists for conferences at the group's former headquarters in Hayden Lake, Idaho.

When he was locked up in Washington prisons about a year later, however, Bush didn't run with neo Nazis. Instead, he cliqued up with American Indian inmates, records show. He observed the religious practices of Native American Circle. His most serious prison infraction came at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla, where he was caught making weapons that could be disguised as ceremonial pipes used by the group. By then, his body already was a canvas of tattoos, some with Indian themes but others focusing on the military, including one that read "Recon Team Viper ... We kill for peace."

Bush's legal troubles began before he was 12 when he was living in central Washington. He was for a time placed in a home for troubled children. He was prosecuted for theft and weapons offenses, including bringing a bayonet on a field trip. He spent his teens in northern Idaho, racking up more convictions for burglary. By 19, he already was a father, and facing felony prosecution for bouncing checks in the Idaho panhandle communities of Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene. Released on bail, he left for Kansas, where he wound up serving time for still more felonies, including trying to escape from jail by grabbing a female corrections officer and threatening to kill her with a toothbrush.

Bush returned to Idaho in 1996. He was in his early 20s, and told state corrections officials that while behind bars in Kansas he'd joined the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang "for survival." His family told Idaho authorities that Bush had longstanding mental problems, and that when he failed to take his medication "lives in a fantasy world."

In the spring of 1997, Bush moved to Wenatchee. He was in trouble almost immediately. In addition to Aryan Nations gatherings, he was jailed for stealing from his employer at a welding shop, violating weapon laws and getting into street fights. Before being tossed back into jail, he got a young woman pregnant with his second child.

Bush's mental health became a legal issue. The court was told he'd long been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

"For most of my life since the age of eleven or twelve, I have had an experience of being outside myself, of watching another person take over my body," Bush said in a 1998 court declaration. "… It's like someone else crawls under my skin. It is very frustrating."

Bush was examined by mental health experts and found competent to answer for his 1997 crimes. Prosecutors in Chelan and Douglas counties say they've since developed evidence that Bush also took two lives during that period: a Hispanic man who was stomped and stabbed to death in Wenatchee in July 1997, and the execution-style shooting two months later of a young man whom Bush reportedly considered a race traitor. Murder charges have been filed in both cases.

Bush went back to Idaho after his prison stretch in Washington and remained there at least until 2007. In 2005, he faced a child-support case involving his daughter who was born while he was away doing time. Bush told the court he was barely getting by. He said he had been able to make a decent living "until a trailer fell on me and I fractured two vertebrae in my back; now I can't hold a job as a welder because every time I try to lift something heavy I seem to re-injure my back."

Court papers filed in Washington in 2005 contain a clerical entry about Chelan County officials speaking with "a rep from the FBI" about the need for Bush to be free to testify in Idaho. It is unclear what that was about. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorneys Office in Idaho said there is no record of a case involving Bush. FBI special agent Fred Gutt in Seattle said some of his co-workers in the region recalled dealings with Bush regarding a child custody matter, but "nothing involving us. I'm not sure where that came from."

Bush bounced around north Idaho, creating a paper trail of bad debt and drama that speaks of continued poverty. He resurfaced in Texas in 2008, where he was charged with an assault. A move to Meadview, Ariz., soon followed. He told people he was a wounded war hero, a lie that got him a membership card at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

After her arrest in 2009, Forde sent jailhouse letters to friends expressing shock that Bush had never served in the military. He had a sniper rifle, claimed a Special Forces background and showed medals and documents.

At the same time, Forde appears to have known Bush was a convicted felon. She wrote that Bush claimed to have been pardoned by former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, and had shown her paperwork.

Locke in 2004 did conditionally commute the sentence of a felon named Bush, but that was a different man, one who spells his first name Jayson. The legal papers for the other Bush are a couple clicks away.

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