Police said Christopher Paul Mason beat Joshua Calkins, 35, before he murdered him with an ax, wrapped his body in plastic and dumped it in a Phoenix alleyway in April.
Mason, 31, was in custody and dressed in black and white jail attire when he appeared in Maricopa County Superior Court on Monday morning to face the murder charge and a dangerous drug possession allegation in a separate case.
Mason was arrested in December on suspicion of murder, kidnapping and assault after a lengthy investigation stemming from the April 15 murder, court records show.
Mason told some witnesses that he murdered Calkins as retaliation because Calkins had robbed Mason's former girlfriend at gunpoint, police said.
On April 16th, Calkins body was found in an alley near 27th Avenue and Indian School Road with his hands tied behind his back and bloody towels and bleach thrown nearby.
Further examination revealed that Calkins' had trauma to his neck, back and body that led a medical examiner to believe he had been killed with an ax, police records state.
Police say Mason bragged to a witnesses that he "almost took this guy's (expletive) head off."
Throughout the investigation, more than 20 people were interviewed and helped to confirm the medical examiner's speculation. At least one person was inside the apartment near 59th Avenue and Camelback Road when Mason attacked Calkins with the blunt side of an ax, court documents show.
That same witness also helped Calkins to safety, only to have him return to the apartment to retrieve his belongings. Several other witnesses recalled seeing Calkins bound and gagged in the apartment.
Calkins and Mason were affiliated with a white supremacist prison gang, according to court records.
Mason's criminal record reaches back to 1999, followed by a series of vehicle thefts between Nov. 2002 and Feb. 2003, according to reports.
In 2003, Mason told the courts that he experimented with LSD and used marijuana at 10-years-old. He said he had been using cocaine on a nearly daily basis from ages 13 to 16 and first tried methamphetamine at age 14, a report showed.
Mason's initial pretrial conference date is set for Feb. 17, 2015 at the Maricopa County Superior Court.