North Sound News

Guilty verdict in 1989 cold-case murder trial

UPDATE: The jury delivered a guilty verdict on the first-degree murder charge against Timothy Bass shortly after 11 a.m. Friday.

ORIGINAL TEXT: A verdict is expected Friday in the murder trial of Timothy Bass, who is accused of killing 18-year-old Mandy Stavik in 1989.

Bass is on trial in Whatcom County, about 80 miles north of Seattle. Closing arguments wrapped on Wednesday and the jury began deliberations Thursday.

Here is a day-by-day summary of what happened in court, and find background information on the case below.

>>Photos from 1989 cold case of Mandy Stavik

Monday May 13th: 

  • Stavik's mother and sister took the stand, as well as several close friends who saw the 18-year-old Nov. 24, 1989, on what would be her very last run through her rural Whatcom County neighborhood.
  • The prosecution began to build a case that the well-liked, athletic college freshman had no relationship whatsoever with Timothy Bass other than that they lived on the same street growing up.
  • The defense pressed witness David Craker, who was delivering newspapers on Strand Road as Stavik ran by.
  • Craker is the only person to have mentioned spotting a vehicle close behind Stavik as she headed toward home yet ultimately never made it there.
  • Craker described the vehicle as a truck with a lightbar on top and two people likely in their 30s inside.

Tuesday May 14th: 

  • The jury heard testimony from Ron Peterson, chief of the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office in 1989 and the first detective to see Stavik's body, naked except for running shoes, floating in the Nooksack River.
  • The jury saw graphic images Peterson shot that day
  • Thirty years later, the seasoned police veteran was still haunted by what he saw.

Wednesday May 15th:

  • Dr. Gary Goldfogel, the Whatcom County Medical Examiner, who performed the autopsy on Stavik in 1989, shared his report with the jury.
  • Of note, Stavik did not appear to have any defensive or combative wounds. The cause of death was ruled asphyxia by drowning.
  • The defense hotly contested Goldfogel's conclusion that the DNA found inside Stavik had been there less than twelve hours before her death.
  • The defense maintained Stavik and Bass had secret and consensual sex and that his DNA was there longer.
  • Bass' brother, Tom Bass, testified, telling the jury that when police contacted Tim Bass in 2015, Tim Bass' growing concerns prompted him to admit to Tom Bass that he had consensual sex with Stavik and to ask Tom Bass to tell police he also had sex with Stavik.

Thursday May 16th: 

  • Two drastically conflicting testimonies were given, first without the jury present so the judge could determine if they were admissible.
  • Gina Malone, Tim Bass' ex-wife, testified that Tim Bass asked his mother, Sandra Bass, if he could blame Stavik's murder on his deceased father, Bud Bass.
  • Sandra Bass was put on the stand afterward, claiming this conversation and several other incriminating ones never happened
  • The judge ruled to allow Malone's testimony.

Friday May 17th: 

  • Two detectives with Whatcom County Sheriff's Office testified on DNA collection and drone mapping of Strand Road.
  • The Prosecution rested.

Monday May 20th:

  • The defense attorneys for Timothy Bass called their first witness to the stand.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, a forensic DNA expert, testified that the DNA discovered inside Mandy Stavik's body could have been there for as long as several days.
  • Johnson's testimony went against last week's testimony from Dr. Gary Goldfogel, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy in 1989, who said that Timothy Bass' DNA had been inside Many Stavik for fewer than 12 hours.

Tuesday May 21st: 

  • The defense team for Timothy Bass called a woman to the stand who moved in near the Stavik's and spotted a suspicious person in a station wagon before she and her husband saw Mandy Stavik run by on Nov. 24.
  • A former Whatcom County Sheriff's Detective was also called to testify that there were at least three individuals deputies investigated as suspects in Mandy's murder over the years.
  • All three suspects were eventually eliminated because their DNA was not a match, but the defense team asked a series of questions to their forensic DNA expert that left the door open to the other three suspects.
  • The defense rested its case after less than two days of testimony.

Wednesday May 22nd: 

  • Closing arguments finished.
  • Special prosecutor David McEachran told the jury the state proved its case that Bass abducted, raped and murdered Stavik. McEachran revisited the testimony of dozens of family members and friends who said Stavik and Bass had no relationship and no common friends in the small town where Stavik was well known as a likable athlete.
  • The defense said the only physical evidence that tied Bass to the case was the presence of his semen found inside Stavik.  A DNA expert said Bass' DNA could have been inside Stavik's body for as long as 48 hours prior to her drowning in the Nooksack River. This supports the argument that they had sex, but that he didn't kill Stavik.
  • Jurors were told to report back to the courtroom at 9:30 Thursday morning where they will receive instructions and then begin deliberating.

Thursday, May 23rd:

  • The jury began deliberating after receiving instructions from the judge.

Background information on the case: 

It was Nov. 24, 1989, when Many Stavik, 18, went running near her family home in Acme on the day after Thanksgiving.

She disappeared, and her naked body was found in the Nooksack River three days later.

Prosecutors said she was kidnapped, raped and murdered.

It took 28 years for investigators to fully zero in on her then-22-year-old neighbor as their prime suspect -- Timothy Bass, who is now 51.

Investigators said they had suspicions about Bass for years.

“Timothy S. Bass was contacted and asked for a voluntary DNA sample. Mr. Bass refused,” said David McEachran, special prosecutor for the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Investigators asked his employer, Franz Bakery, for a sample from his delivery truck, but the company also refused.

But detectives got a break when a coworker gave authorities a soda can and cup Bass had drank from, according to authorities. Bass was arrested on first-degree murder charges in  December 2017.

Prosecutors said the DNA on the items matched semen found on Stavik's body.

“Personally, I’ve been obsessed with this. I feel sometimes that Mandy is speaking to us,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.

Court documents said Bass initially denied having any relationship with Stavik but later said they had consensual sex.

His defense attorneys may use testimony from Bass' ex-wife and mother.

Prosecutors said Bass' wife told investigators he made strange comments while watching a TV segment on a cold case mystery.

"And (they) said, ‘Well, I wouldn't get caught cause I'm not that stupid and it would be easy to get away with it,’” said McEachran.

Stavik graduated from Mount Baker High School in 1989 and was home from Central Washington University on Thanksgiving break when she vanished.

Bass is from Everson.

According to the Bellingham Herald, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office has suspected Bass in the murder since at least 2013, but authorities were unable to arrest him until late 2017 after getting DNA evidence.

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