On Friday, 51-year-old Timothy Bass was convicted of abducting, raping and murdering 18-year-old Mandy Stavik near their rural Whatcom County neighborhood; now one of the detectives who worked the case for years is giving us insight as to how her death cast a shadow over the close community.
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Chief Ron Peterson was the first detective to find Mandy’s body floating in the Nooksack River Nov. 27, 1989.
After 28 years in law enforcement Peterson retired in 2001 and moved into his retirement home five years later.
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“I have no plans to go any place else,” he told us as we walked around his peaceful five-acre property.
Yet even in this hard-earned sanctuary he couldn’t find peace—at least not the kind of peace that comes only from closure.
“It was a really tightknit community and then it was like an assault on it—it was like we were violated, it just hit us all,” Peterson says of Mandy’s death.
He says the case never went cold: “We all had her picture on her desk so we wouldn’t forget.”
When Peterson lifted her lifeless body from the Nooksack River he did so as a detective—but also as a father.
“My daughter was the same age, same physical characteristics and that’s what I saw in the river,” he remembers.
It was the detective in him that knew how to preserve DNA evidence; his work on a brutal assault of an elderly Point Roberts woman about a year and a half prior to Mandy’s murder led to a major break-through in criminal investigations.
“The first time in the United States that DNA was used in a court of law for a conviction as evidence of positive identification,” Peterson told us.
That’s how he knew Mandy’s killer’s day would come, and when the call came from Prosecuting Attorney David McEachran in December 2017 neither could contain their emotions.
“He said ‘Ron we got him.’ I knew exactly what he meant.”
There was one more hurdle to clear, and Friday they cleared it; a twelve person jury found Bass guilty of murder in the first degree, first degree kidnapping and first degree rape.
Peterson can’t say that changes everything— a bright young woman was ripped from this world under the cruelest of circumstances—but he can rest a little easier knowing that Mandy can finally rest in peace.
© 2019 Cox Media Group