She disappeared and was found dead 30 years ago. Alleged killer’s trial starts Monday

Timeline of the 1989 Mandy Stavik murder case

Thirty years after the murder of Amanda "Mandy" Stavik in 1989, Timothy Bass is scheduled to face trial for first-degree murder in May. A reported DNA match led to Bass' arrest in December 2017.
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Thirty years after the murder of Amanda "Mandy" Stavik in 1989, Timothy Bass is scheduled to face trial for first-degree murder in May. A reported DNA match led to Bass' arrest in December 2017.

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More on the Mandy Stavik case

Read about the arrest in the Mandy Stavik murder, plus other coverage of her 1989 disappearance.

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On Nov. 24, 1989, Amanda “Mandy” Stavik went for a jog near her home in Clipper, near Acme. The 18-year-old, who was home from college for Thanksgiving break, took her German shepherd, Kyra, with her.

Kyra returned, but Stavik never did.

Stavik’s nude body was found three days later in the south fork of the Nooksack River, about 3½ miles from the family’s home.

Come Monday, 51-year-old Timothy Forrest Bass, of Everson, will be on trial for Stavik’s alleged abduction, rape and murder.

Public defenders for Bass are relying on an alibi as a defense strategy, with Bass’ ex-wife to provide key testimony, according to records filed in the case in Whatcom County Superior Court. Bass’ mother also is expected to present testimony regarding his alibi, court records show.

Bass’ defense attorneys also are seeking to include the last 18 pages of Stavik’s diary, which has entries from the last year of her life. The diary includes references to her struggles with mental health, personal relationships, and is relevant to her state of mind around the time of her death, Bass’ defense attorneys argue, according to court records.

At a pre-trial motion hearing on Thursday, May 2, Whatcom County Public Defender Starck Follis said it’s not clear how Stavik died — whether it was at the hands of someone else, an accident or a suicide. Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel ruled Stavik’s cause of death as drowning after an autopsy, but a determination was not made about the manner (whether it was homicide, accidental or suicide) of her death, according to court records.

Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Rob Olson is expected to rule on Monday, May 6, whether the diary can be introduced during trial.

David McEachran, who has been called as a special prosecutor for the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, argues that Bass lived on the same road as Stavik, that her jogging route took her by his house and that he began attending her high school basketball games, according to court records. Prosecutors allege Bass kidnapped and raped Stavik and then killed her to prevent her from alerting the police, court records show.

Prosecutors also are seeking to introduce testimony from a man who says that while he and Bass were inmates in the Whatcom County Jail, Bass told him details about the alleged crime, court records state. Bass’ public defenders have filed a motion to exclude the man’s testimony because he was waiting to receive competency restoration services at Western State Hospital, records state. The man was found to have met the provisional criteria for delusional disorder, according to court records.

Prosecutors asked Judge Olson to reserve a ruling on whether the man will be allowed to testify during the trial. A ruling is expected sometime next week or will happen during the trial.

Trial will begin Monday with jury selection, which is expected to take several days. Opening statements will begin after the jury is seated.

Whatcom County Prosecutor David McEachran explains how detectives arrested Timothy Forrest Bass, 50, of Everson in connection with the 1989 abduction and murder of 18-year-old Mandy Stavik of Acme, at Bass’s first appearance Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2

Who you need to know

Prosecution: The team prosecuting Timothy Bass for the alleged abduction, rape and murder of Mandy Stavik includes former longtime Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney David McEachran and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Erik Sigmar.

McEachran, who retired in Dec. 2018 after a nearly half-century in office, is returning as a special prosecutor. Sigmar has been with the office for four years and an attorney for more than a decade. He was recently promoted to Chief Criminal Deputy after Eric Richey won the November election for top prosecutor.

Defense: The team defending Timothy Bass for the alleged abduction, rape and murder of Mandy Stavik includes Whatcom County Public Defenders Starck Follis, Shoshana Paige and Stephen Jackson.

Follis has been the director of the public defender’s office for five years and has been an attorney for more than three decades.

Paige, who is a senior deputy public defender, has been with the office since 2006. Jackson, who is also a deputy public defender, has been with the office for five years.

The victim: Amanda “Mandy” Stavik was a 1989 graduate of Mount Baker High. The 18-year-old was home for Thanksgiving break from Central Washington University when she disappeared while jogging.

Stavik was described as a vivacious and gregarious young woman, played saxophone in band, was an honors student and cheerleader, The Bellingham Herald previously reported. She also played basketball and softball and ran cross-country and track.

Some 900 people attended her memorial service, and a song was created for a scholarship endowed in her name at Mount Baker High. Stavik also worked at the Whatcom Family YMCA.

The defendant: Timothy Forrest Bass, 51, is from Everson. He was a longtime delivery driver for the local Franz Bakery outlet in Bellingham.

Bass grew up on the west side of Strand Road in the Acme area, while Mandy Stavik grew up on the east side of Strand Road.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office had suspected Bass since at least 2013, according to Sheriff Bill Elfo. Detectives twice contacted Bass at his home, but he declined to give a voluntary DNA sample.

Detectives then requested permission to collect a DNA sample from his work truck, but Franz denied the request. Bass was then arrested in December 2017 after a fellow coworker gave detectives a plastic cup and Coke can he drank out of.

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo discusses the arrest of Timothy Forrest Bass, 50, of Everson for the 1989 murder of 18-year-old Mandy Stavik of Acme at a press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.

Background on the case

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office arrested Bass on Dec. 12, 2017. He was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree rape in connection with Stavik’s death.

In late May 2018, the rape charge was dismissed due to statute of limitations concerns. Bass has been in the Whatcom County Jail since his arrest in lieu of $1 million bail. If convicted, he could face 20 years to life in prison.

After Stavik’s death, a DNA profile was created from evidence taken from her body during an autopsy. After Bass twice refused to give a voluntary sample, detectives tried to obtain DNA evidence from his work, Franz Bakery. Franz declined, but a fellow coworker learned of the sheriff’s office’s investigation, collected a plastic cup and Coke can Bass drank out of and turned the items in to detectives, court records show.

Bass’ DNA matched the suspect profile, which led to his arrest, according to court records. Defense attorneys originally tried to suppress the DNA evidence, meaning it couldn’t be used at trial, but Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis ruled at a hearing in late August that it could be admitted as evidence.

Doug Sutton, who has taught music at Mount Baker High School for 36 years, talks about his and the community's reaction to the December 2017 arrest of a suspect in the 1989 murder of Amanda "Mandy" Stavik.

Bass joined the ranks in the growing number of nationwide cold case arrests due to DNA evidence.

What stands out about this case is that rather than identifying Bass through a genealogy website, like was done for the arrest made in the “Golden State Killer” case in California, the arrest made in the slaying of a Canadian couple on an errand to the Puget Sound in 1987 or the most recent arrest in Southwest Washington for the rape and strangulation death of a Vancouver woman 25 years ago, the DNA evidence was turned over to detectives by a fellow coworker of Bass’.

That evidence has now become a central component of his case.

Stavik’s death rocked the small community of Acme and the surrounding area, still haunting some family and friends to this day.

Three generations of sheriffs and detectives, some of whom traveled from as far away as Cambodia to track leads, have worked the case.

Until Bass’ arrest — 28 years after Stavik’s death — her case was one of Whatcom’s most notorious cold cases.

Because of the notoriety of the crime, case and issues at hand, The Herald is providing weekday coverage and live trial updates on social media. Follow coverage on Twitter @DenverPratt or @BhamHerald. Or you can sign up for our Breaking News newsletter.
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Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.