DNA evidence led detectives to Timothy Forrest Bass, the Everson man accused of the 1989 abduction, rape and murder of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik of the Acme area. But one of Bass’ defense attorneys wants the DNA evidence thrown out, according to new papers filed in the case.
Whatcom County Public Defender Stephen Jackson filed a motion this week in Whatcom County Superior Court to suppress evidence obtained in Bass’ case, arguing the collection of Bass’ DNA from a plastic cup and Coke can turned in by a fellow Franz Bakery coworker violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the evidence is suppressed, it can’t be used in his trial.
Jackson argued the coworker was working as “an agent of the state” when she collected the evidence because she knew it was related to the Stavik murder investigation, she collected it from a private place where the public is denied access, and she was collecting it solely for the purpose of the investigation rather than for her own purpose, records show. Jackson also argued in the motion that the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office knew she planned to watch Bass and collect DNA evidence from him.
A person acts as an agent of the state if the person performing the search intended to assist law enforcement efforts rather than further their own ends, and if the government knew of and accepted the conduct, according to court records.
“Put simply, law enforcement officers cannot use private citizens to obtain evidence without a search warrant where a search warrant would otherwise be required,” the motion states. “This search was done for a singular reason: to assist law enforcement.”
Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran said he can’t comment on the Tuesday motion, but intends to file a response sometime next week opposing it. Jackson also said he couldn’t comment until the court makes a ruling on whether the evidence will be suppressed or not.
A suppression hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 27.
Getting the evidence
After Stavik’s death, a DNA profile was created from evidence taken from her body during an autopsy. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office did a voluntary DNA campaign where evidence was collected from at least 50 people in the Acme area where Stavik lived. More than 30 samples were sent to the Washington State Crime Lab for analysis, but none of them matched the suspect profile, according to court records.
During the campaign, Bass and his brother were contacted several times by law enforcement, but after speaking with family members, declined to give samples, court records show. Detectives learned Bass worked as a delivery driver for Franz and in 2013 requested his delivery route and permission to collect a DNA sample from his work vehicle, Jackson’s motion states.
A coworker at Franz put detectives in touch with corporate officials, but the company ultimately decided not to turn the information over without a search warrant. At the time, the coworker knew the evidence being sought was related to the Stavik murder investigation, records state.
Sometime later, detectives reached out to a former Everson police officer who was working as a Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy at the time, and was also a former coworker of Bass’ at Franz. Detectives asked for his help in getting Bass’ DNA. When the deputy asked why detectives couldn’t get a search warrant, they told him they didn’t have enough evidence to do so, records state, and the deputy declined to help.
Detectives reached back out to the woman coworker at Franz and asked for Bass’ delivery route, which she gave to them, records state.
On June 10, 2017, detectives did one night of surveillance of Bass looking for discarded items that had his DNA, but didn’t find anything, records state.
A detective then reached out to the coworker again and asked if Bass ever ate (while at work).
“‘What do you need and I’ll get it?,’” the coworker asked.
“‘That would be great,’” the detective responded, according to court records.
Detectives told the coworker they weren’t directing her to do anything, but she said she “had a daughter and would hope that someone would do the same if it were her daughter,” according to court records.
On Aug. 10, the coworker told detectives she had a plastic cup and Coke can that Bass had used. She put it in a Franz plastic bag and gave the items to detectives, which were sent to the state crime lab, records show.
Bass’ DNA matched that found in Stavik’s body, according to court records. The chance investigators would select a random, unrelated citizen in the U.S. with a matching DNA profile is 1 in 11 quadrillion, records show.
In his motion, Jackson argues that while detectives may have advised the coworker they weren’t telling her to collect Bass’ DNA, they didn’t try to dissuade or stop her, ultimately making her an agent of the state, according to court records.
The coworker “was informed about the case and evidence detectives sought. She was repeatedly approached by detectives to help obtain that evidence, first by providing Mr. Bass’ delivery route and then collecting items that may have contained his DNA. Detectives instigated and encouraged (the coworker’s) actions,” Jackson wrote in the motion. “They knew she was going to search and clearly acquiesced to the search.”
Bass, 50, was arrested Dec. 12 by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. He faces a first-degree murder charge.
Suspects can be charged with first-degree murder in Washington state if they either attempted to commit or did commit the crime of rape or kidnapping and then fled, which resulted in the victim’s death. There is no statute of limitations for murder.
Bass’ trial has been tentatively set for Nov. 5, and he remains in Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.
If convicted, he could face 20 years to life in prison, with a $50,000 fine. The death penalty cannot be sought in this case because Bass is not charged with premeditated murder.
Stavik went missing Nov. 24, 1989, while jogging near her home on Strand Road in Clipper, a community clustered along Highway 9 between Acme and Van Zandt. She was home for Thanksgiving break from her freshman year at Central Washington University, and was last seen around 2:30 p.m. that day with her German shepherd dog, Kyra.
Stavik’s body was found three days later in the south fork of the Nooksack River, about 3½ miles from the family’s home. Stavik’s cause of death was drowning, according to an autopsy done by Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel.
Goldfogel also found a blood clot on the back of Stavik’s head, which indicated a blow to the head that could have knocked her unconscious, according to court records. No injuries were observed on her body, other than a few superficial scratches stretching from her thighs to her knees, which could have been caused by running through the brush.
The match in DNA profiles led to Bass’ arrest, 28 years after Stavik’s murder.
When Bass was interviewed by investigators in December, he initially denied any contact or sexual relations with Stavik. After he was told about the matching DNA profile, Bass indicated he had a consensual intimate relationship with Stavik prior to her disappearance, according to court records.