In a voice fraught with emotion, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo announced the arrest Wednesday of an Everson man in the rape and murder of Mandy Stavik nearly 30 years ago.
Stavik’s slaying is one of the area’s highest-profile cold cases, and Elfo said he has been “obsessed” by the crime for several years.
“It was one of the best moments of my professional career when we got to inform her mother that we were making an arrest,” Elfo said before a Wednesday afternoon press conference to announce the arrest.
Elfo said recent DNA evidence led investigators to arrest Timothy Forrest Bass, 50, about noon Tuesday on suspicion of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree rape.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
“I think this about the biggest case ever in Whatcom County,” Elfo said Wednesday morning. “Our detectives have just done a phenomenal job.”
Bass has been a suspect for several years, but his DNA was obtained only in September, Elfo said at the press conference. It was a match to DNA recovered from Stavik’s body, he said.
Elfo said he couldn’t discuss how Bass’s DNA was obtained, but evidence in court later Wednesday showed that it came from evidence submitted by a co-worker of Bass.
Despite the passage of time, local investigators have continued to pursue the case, following leads across the United States and even to Asia, Elfo said. He said detectives sought the help of FBI agents and “renowned homicide investigators.”
Use of DNA in criminal investigations was in its infancy in 1989, but evidence that was properly obtained and stored for nearly three decades ultimately led to Bass’s arrest, Elfo said.
Flanking Elfo at the press conference Wednesday were more than a dozen detectives and investigators who Elfo said have spent hundreds of hours following leads and gathering evidence since Stavik was raped and dumped in the Nooksack River just after Thanksgiving 1989.
Stavik would be 46 years old now, and her slaying has haunted investigators, too, he said.
“Some of them knew Mandy, some of them went to high school with Mandy, and they’ve invested their heart and souls into this case for almost 30 years,” he said.
Sheriff’s Detective Kevin Bowhay – who assisted in the case as a rookie sheriff’s deputy in 1989 – snapped the cuffs around Bass’s wrists Tuesday morning and took him into custody. Bowhay deferred comment to Elfo, saying the investigation was a team effort.
Bowhay and other officials tried to remain stoic and professional, but the pain and pride of their lengthy effort to build a case against Stavik’s killer showed visibly on their faces.
“Her brutal murder rocked our community and she is still remembered by many,” Elfo said. “We hope that this arrest will help bring closure to Mandy’s family and the greater Whatcom County community.”
Elfo said Stavik’s family has asked for privacy in the days following Bass’s arrest.
Elfo said Bass was a neighbor of Stavik’s at the time of the murder, and they both lived on Strand Road off Valley Highway in rural Acme.
“Deputies forwarded DNA samples from Mr. Bass to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, who reported that this DNA matched DNA recovered from Mandy’s body in 1989,” Elfo said. “The laboratory determined that the match probability was 1 in 11 quadrillion.”
Bass was 22 at the time. Stavik was 18.
Bass appeared in court Wednesday afternoon, where bail was set at $1 million. His next court appearance was scheduled for December 22.
Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran read a probable cause statement and discussed how Bass’s DNA was obtained.
Bass worked at a Franz Bakery outlet store in Whatcom County, according to court documents.
Domestic violence alleged
According to Whatcom County Superior Court records, Bass’s wife filed for a domestic violence protection order lasting longer than a year in August 2010.
In the court filing, she alleged physical and verbal abuse and sought to protect herself and their three children.
Bass’ wife terminated the protection order a few months later, court records show.
She also filed for divorce in 2010, but the proceedings were dropped because the pair had “reconciled,” according to court records.
He has no criminal convictions in the state of Washington.
Amanda Theresa “Mandy” Stavik vanished November 24, 1989, while jogging near her home on Strand Road in Acme, according to Bellingham Herald archives.
Her nude body was found three days later.
“It was awful,” Van Zandt resident Kathy Kyle told The Herald in 2009. “I just remember feeling totally sick. I think everyone in the valley felt she was one of our children.”
Stavik left home for a run just before 2 p.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving, wearing green sweat pants and a lighter colored sweat shirt.
Her German shepherd returned home alone a few hours later, prompting fears that she had been abducted and sparking an intense search.
Her body was found three days later in the south fork of the Nooksack River, by a volunteer firefighter assisting the search.
She had been raped, a fact that detectives initially withheld.
Cause of death was listed as not inconsistent with drowning, and authorities think she may have been alive when she was dumped in the river.
Promising future ahead
A 1989 graduate of Mount Baker High, Stavik was home on Thanksgiving break from her freshman year at Central Washington University.
At Mount Baker, she played saxophone in band and was an honors student as well as an athlete. She played basketball and softball, and ran cross-country and track.
Mount Baker Superintendent Charles Burleigh said Wednesday that the tragic story has resonated through the community.
“This is something that the Mount Baker community has some very deep feelings about,” Burleigh said. “People here are still impacted by that case. To hear that they are making an arrest is big news.”
Some 900 people attended a memorial service in early December 1989, and an endowed scholarship was established in her name at Mount Baker High.
She’s buried at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery on Clipper Road.
Elfo said investigators are continuing to collect information about Bass and encouraged members of the public to contact the Sheriff’s Office.
He said a call center was established to process tips and other information. It would be staffed by detectives and volunteers.
Anyone with information about Bass or the crime in general is asked to contact the call center at 360-788-5303, the sheriff’s tip line at 360-778-6663 or the detectives bureau at 360-778-6600.
The Bellingham Herald’s Dave Rasbach and Denver Pratt contributed to this story.
Nov. 24, 1989: Amanda “Mandy” Theresa Stavik, 18, a Central Washington University freshman who was home visiting family, disappears after going jogging with the family dog near her mother’s home near Acme. She was last seen by her brother at 3 p.m. Her mother went looking for her at 4:30 p.m. The dog had returned without Stavik and the family called 911 about 7 p.m. Law enforcement began searching around 9:45 p.m.
Nov. 26, 1989: Friends and neighbors collect more than $8,000 for a reward fund.
Nov. 27, 1989: Stavik’s nude body was found in the south fork of the Nooksack River.
Dec. 3, 1989: More than 900 people attend a memorial service for Stavik at Mount Baker High School.
Dec. 6, 1989: Stavik’s ashes are buried at the St. Joseph Mission Cemetery on Strand Road near Acme.
2007: The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office devoted more hours to reviewing the case reports and sending detectives to re-interview people involved, but the case remained unsolved.
2003: Whatcom County law enforcement officials discount a report that linked a deceased robbery and murder suspect to the murder. Former Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Piccini had said that in 1990 he found evidence in a Sumas storage locker that linked Charles T. Sinclair to Stavik. Sinclair died in jail in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1990.
Dec. 12: 2017: Timothy Forrest Bass, 50, of Everson is arrested on suspicion of the first degree murder, first degree kidnapping and first degree rape of Stavik.