PHOENIX — Steven Love-Mason is behind bars and accused of murdering two people inside an apartment in north Phoenix.
However, 10 days before that shooting that killed an ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend, Love-Mason was in jail, apparently unable to post bond for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend a month earlier.
According to Phoenix police, the man has had three domestic violence-related convictions within the last seven years.
So, how was a convicted felon able to get out of jail in seven days?
It's a question that police and prosecutors were wondering about Tuesday when they realized the same homicide suspect had been in contact with the justice system fewer than three weeks before Monday's deadly shooting.
Police said on Oct. 16, 2021, dispatchers received a 911 call from a woman who told police that she was about to be assaulted. That call for help ended when Love-Mason allegedly grabbed her phone and smashed it on the ground.
According to police, Love-Mason pushed the mom to the ground, while she was holding her young child. The mom's head reportedly hit the concrete.
Love-Mason ran away that day but was arrested by Phoenix police later in the week. In the police report, officers wrote that he escaped arrest and resisted arrest. He was booked into jail on charges of three felonies and five misdemeanors, including aggravated domestic violence.
Police recommend charges, but it is up to county or state prosecutors to take the case to trial.
Seven days after that October arrest, Love-Mason would be released from the Maricopa County Jail without prosecutors bringing one charge against him. Instead, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office referred the case to the City of Phoenix, which could file misdemeanor charges.
Why did MCAO prosecutors defer the case? They wouldn't elaborate when ABC15 reached out.
In a statement, a spokesperson for MCAO said: "The facts in this case were reviewed by this office and a decision was made that the charges be forwarded to city court to be prosecuted as misdemeanors."
"As such, the release conditions set by the judge in this matter were lifted. The defendant was released from custody on Oct. 29, 2021. Prosecutors in this office make very tough decisions every day. It is always our hope that these decisions will protect victims and keep our community safe and the loss of life in this situation is truly tragic."
In prior arrest reports, Phoenix police officers laid out their case for why prosecutors should bring felony charges against Love-Mason.
"Steven has three prior domestic violence convictions within the last 84 months," the report stated.
In a 2019 case involving another woman, officers said Love-Mason strangled her and that she had visible injuries from that attack.
Most recently, his ex-girlfriend told officers that her former boyfriend was a convicted felon and in possession of a handgun.
According to records, Love-Mason spent 18 months in jail in Yuma, Arizona, for discharging a firearm within city limits.
"I think it's a breakdown in the way the system is supposed to work," said defense attorney Jack Litwak.
"He's got at least three priors potentially, he's also on probation, and the county attorney's office is just gonna kick it down to the city's office? It's kind of concerning," he said.
Litwak said Maricopa County's prosecutors should have recognized that Love-Mason posed a serious risk.
"I think she could still be alive today had they at least just filed and moved forward with the preliminary hearing," he said.
That preliminary hearing never happened and as a result, Love-Mason was able to pay $50 and get out of jail. All of the initial judge's release conditions no longer applied because it was pushed to a lower court.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the City of Phoenix said it received the case from MCAO "as a regular submittal" on Oct. 28, 2021.
"The case was in intake and is under review for charging. Any charges filed by the Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office would be a long-form complaint for misdemeanor charges in the Phoenix Municipal Court. The Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office has reached out to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office regarding the dismissal of felony charges."
On Monday, police said Love-Mason had a neighbor knock on his ex-girlfriend's apartment door and when the door was opened, he forced his way in. He then shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, Trystan Benallie, and another man, Martin Louis.
After the shooting, police said he ran away from the apartment and was later found in Tempe and arrested.