Judge rejects bid to toss evidence in 2014 Phoenix ax killing

FILE - Generic gavel on wooden table.

A judge rejected a bid to throw out evidence against a man charged in the 2014 killing of an Arizona man who was bound, gagged and struck with an ax in a death allegedly involving people affiliated with a white supremacist prison gang.

Attorneys for Christopher Paul Mason asked the court to toss evidence collected at a friend’s apartment where authorities say Joshua Calkins was killed.

Investigators say Mason attacked Calkins because Calkins’ romantic relationship with a woman affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood had ended badly and because Calkins had robbed a drug dealer who was a friend of Calkins’ ex-girlfriend.

They say Calkins, who was badly beaten over the course of a day, begged for his life and was forced to apologize over the phone for having robbed the drug dealer. His body was later found wrapped in a rug and plastic in a Phoenix alley.

Defense lawyers argued Mason had a reasonable expectation of privacy as an overnight guest at his friend’s apartment and that police made illegal searches there because they didn’t have search warrants.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Ryan rejected the argument on Feb. 2, saying Mason was more like a squatter than an invited overnight guest when a property manager posted a notice of abandonment on the apartment. Mason’s friend, the only registered tenant, had been arrested and hadn’t been seen in several weeks.

In rejecting the bid to throw out evidence from the searches of the apartment, the judge concluded it was reasonable for Phoenix police to treat the apartment as abandoned.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Mason, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. His trial is scheduled for July 19.

Prosecutors say efforts were made to clean up and hide evidence from the killing and noted that a bloody tissue was found in a garbage can inside the apartment. They said a witness told police she saw Mason clean up the floor twice with bleach during that period.

Last month, another man, Charles Robbins, was sentenced to nine years in prison for helping move Calkins’ body. He had pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution and abandoning a dead body.

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