Coworker felt ‘moral obligation’ to get DNA. Using it in Stavik case was up to judge

The DNA evidence that 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, will be allowed to be used at trial.

Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis ruled Tuesday in Whatcom County Superior Court that while Bass had a reasonable expectation of privacy while at work at Franz Bakery, his fellow coworker was not acting as an agent of the state and did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure when she collected and gave to detectives a plastic cup and Coke can with Bass’ DNA on it.

Montoya-Lewis said there was little evidence presented during testimony Monday that would suggest detectives had directly or indirectly told the coworker to collect an item from Bass that contained his DNA.

Montoya-Lewis said because the woman came up with the idea on her own and said she felt an obligation to help, she was not acting as an agent of the state.

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.

Whatcom County Public Defender Stephen Jackson said he filed the motion to suppress the DNA evidence because he has an ethical responsibility to protect his client’s constitutional rights and where he sees “deficiencies and perceived illegality on the state’s behalf” in the case.

“I thought that it was kind of obvious that they had used an intermediary to collect evidence against Bass in an area where they were previously prohibited from getting evidence themselves, which violated a fundamental privacy interest,” Jackson said.

“We obviously disagree with the ruling. We will respect the ruling and move forward with the case as we normally would.”

Tim Bass 1.jpg
Timothy Bass sits with his attorneys during the first day of an evidence suppression hearing this week at the Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham. Bass is accused in the 1989 murder of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik of Acme. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran said he was extremely happy about the ruling.

(The woman) “who got this for us was not really an agent of the detective. She felt a moral obligation, she knew about the case and took an item that had been discarded that Bass had no expectation of privacy to,” McEachran said.

During the two-day proceeding, Montoya-Lewis also ruled that Bass wasn’t read his Miranda rights correctly.

When detectives arrived at a Franz Bakery outlet store on Dec. 12 to arrest Bass, they talked with him for about an hour next to his work truck before arresting him and reading him his rights. Montoya-Lewis ruled statements Bass made during that conversation couldn’t be used during the upcoming trial, as he was under arrest at the time and should have been read his rights immediately.

Bass’ defense attorneys reserved the right to argue whether Bass’ statements made during a four- or five-hour conversation held after his arrest and he was read his rights could be used during trial.

A moral obligation

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, collecting evidence 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 investigation, Bass was contacted twice at his home by law enforcement, but after speaking with family members, declined to give a sample. 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.

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.

In spring of 2017, a detective came back to Franz, where the coworker recognized him. The detective told the coworker they never got permission for what they were searching for. The coworker told the detective she didn’t know what they were looking for and wasn’t involved.

She then asked if the detective was investigating Stavik’s murder and if the individual they were investigating was Bass, to which the detective said yes. The coworker gave the detective Bass’ delivery route and the general times he would be in those areas.

“In my mind, it’s public knowledge. You can sit on a street corner and see the same person drive by at the same time every day. It’s not privileged information,” she said Monday during testimony. “I just gave it to (the officer). After I asked if it was that case and who it was, I felt a basic human moral obligation to help.”

Detectives did one night of surveillance of Bass on June 10, 2017, looking for discarded items that had his DNA, but didn’t find anything.

Sometime later, the detective reached out to the woman again and asked if Bass ever ate while at work. The woman said she offered to collect a water bottle Bass had used and the detective replied with something along the lines of “that would be great.”

Detectives told the woman 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.

The woman said she watched Bass for a period of time to see if he threw anything away and was able to collect a plastic cup and Coke can he drank out of, which she turned over to detectives. Both items were sent to the state crime lab.

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.

Charges faced

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 was also charged with first-degree rape in late January, but due to statute of limitations concerns, the charge was dismissed in mid-May.

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.

The case

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.

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ABC’s investigative series “20/20” will premiere “30 Years Searching,” a two-hour special on this case at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt
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