Crime

‘No one knows what happened to Ms. Stavik’ defense says in murder trial opening

Here’s what we learned from the defense attorney on day one of the Bass Trial

Timothy Bass faces charges for the alleged abduction, rape and murder of Amanda "Mandy" Stavik in 1989. Here's what we learned from the defense attorney on day one of the trial.
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Timothy Bass faces charges for the alleged abduction, rape and murder of Amanda "Mandy" Stavik in 1989. Here's what we learned from the defense attorney on day one of the trial.

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Bass on trial for Stavik’s death

Timothy Bass is on trial in Whatcom County Superior Court for the 1989 murder of Amanda Stavik.

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Amanda “Mandy” Stavik’s death is a mystery and there’s zero evidence to suggest that Timothy Bass murdered her 30 years ago, defense attorneys argued during opening statements Friday, May, 10 in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Bass, 51, of Everson, is on trial for first-degree murder related to the 1989 alleged abduction, rape and murder of the 18-year-old Stavik.

“Tim Bass is not guilty. He didn’t kidnap anyone, he didn’t rape anyone, and he certainly didn’t kill anyone,” Stephen Jackson, one of three public defenders handling Bass’ case, said during opening statements.

David McEachran, who has been called as a special prosecuting attorney, said Bass allegedly asked family members to lie so he had a strong alibi. Bass first asked his brother to say he, too, had sexual relations with Stavik, and then later asked his mother to say the family was out Christmas shopping on the day Stavik disappeared, McEachran said.

The defense’s opening

On Nov. 24, 1989, Stavik went for a jog down Strand Road, in Clipper. Her normal route, which was around five miles, would take her past a neighbor’s house, past Bass’ house, to the Nooksack River and then she’d turn around and come back. On that day, Stavik went for the same jog, but never returned home.

Jackson said many people saw Stavik running on Strand Road, including some who say they saw her about 100 yards from her home. Jackson said that Timothy Bass would have had one minute to kidnap Stavik — in broad daylight, in his own neighborhood — based on when multiple witnesses saw her.

The prosecution has no witnesses who saw an abduction, rape or murder, Jackson said.

Jackson said that Stavik’s body had no injuries consistent with sexual assault, nor were there defensive wounds or evidence she was restrained. Jackson said the defense isn’t contesting that Bass’ DNA was found inside Stavik’s body, but are instead arguing that it’s not evidence of a murder.

Jackson also told the jury that words matter, and that it’s the prosecution’s burden to extinguish all doubts the jurors may have regarding the truth of the charge.

“You are going to hear that this case is still an incredible mystery. When you look at the evidence that’s being presented to you, when you look at the lack of evidence that’s presented to you, I’d submit to you that you’ll be confident that no one knows what happened to Ms. Stavik,” Jackson said. “There is no evidence that Tim committed a crime. Period.

“I’d submit to you that you will not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Timothy Forrest Bass, 51, looks on as Stephen Jackson, deputy public defender, makes his opening statement during Bass’ murder trial at Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham on Friday. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

The prosecution’s opening

McEachran went through the details of the crime, and then told the jury they would hear testimony that Bass asked his family members to lie for him so that he would have a strong alibi.

McEachran said that Bass had a meeting in 2015 with his mother, his younger brother Tom and his now ex-wife Gina. They all met at Tom Bass’ house.

Timothy Bass went into a back-bedroom with Tom Bass and told him the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office had twice contacted him, McEachran said. Timothy Bass allegedly told his brother he had a sexual relationship with Stavik and that he believed his DNA would be found on her body, McEachran said during his opening.

Bass then allegedly asked his brother to say he too had a sexual relationship with Stavik, McEachran said. Bass’ brother said he wouldn’t do it, McEachran said.

Bass was arrested in December 2017 because his DNA matched the suspect profile created from evidence taken from Stavik’s body in 1989 during an autopsy. After his arrest, Bass’ mother and brother came to visit him in the Whatcom County Jail.

During that visit, Timothy Bass allegedly slid a note to his family. It read that everyone was out to get him and that he needed a strong alibi or he was going to prison, McEachran said. The note also asked Timothy Bass’ mother to say they were out Christmas shopping as a family on Nov. 24, 1989 — the day Stavik went missing.

Tom Bass stopped visiting his brother shortly after that, McEachran said.

Timothy Bass faces charges for the alleged abduction, rape and murder of Amanda "Mandy" Stavik in 1989. Here's what we learned from the prosecuting attorney on day one of the trial.

What’s happened so far

A jury was seated Thursday afternoon after four days of questioning. It consists of 12 jurors with four alternates. The jury is made up of eight men and four women.

Opening statements were presented by both the prosecution and the defense Friday morning.

David McEachran called his first witness, Jodi Sass, who is a forensic pathologist with the Washington State Patrol. She testified about evidence taken from Stavik’s body during an autopsy.

Quotes of the day

McEachran: “The evidence will show that Mandy was abducted…We know that she did not cross Highway 9. We know that she was on her way home. We know that she had scratches on her legs and arms as though she had been running through the brush. She had an injury to her head, the defendant’s DNA was inside her, and we know that she was kidnapped, she was raped and then she was killed. We know that he wanted his brother to say that he, himself, had sex with her to make her look like she was a loose girl. And he wanted an alibi.”

Jackson: “The DNA found inside Ms. Stavik’s body was Tim’s. But as I’m sure you already know, evidence of sexual contact is not evidence of kidnapping. Evidence of sexual contact is not evidence of rape. Evidence of sexual contact is certainly not evidence of murder.”

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Jodi Sass, a CODIS manager at the Washington State Crime Lab and the first witness of the trial, explains evidence taken from Amanda “Mandy” Stavik’s body during an autopsy, at Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham on Friday. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Key players

David McEachran, who retired in December after 44 years as lead county prosecutor, was called back as a special prosecutor to handle the case.

Starck Follis, who is the director of the Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office, is one of three attorneys defending Timothy Bass.

Timothy Bass is accused of first-degree murder for the 1989 death of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik.

Amanda “Mandy” Stavik, 18, disappeared while jogging near her home in Clipper, near Acme, on Nov. 24, 1989. Three days later her nude body was found in the south fork of the Nooksack River.

What’s next

Testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses will continue Monday, May 13. Some of Stavik’s family members are expected to take the stand.

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.

Background on the case

On Nov. 24, 1989, 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik went for a jog near her home in Clipper, near Acme, and never returned. Her body was found three days later in the south fork of the Nooksack River. She was wearing only her jogging sneakers and socks.

In December 2017, 51-year-old Timothy Forrest Bass, of Everson, was arrested in connection with Stavik’s 1989 death. Bass’ fellow coworker turned in a plastic cup and Coke can he drank out of. Bass’ DNA reportedly matched the suspect profile created from evidence taken from Stavik’s body during an autopsy.

Bass is currently on trial for first-degree murder.



BEHIND OUR REPORTING

About our coverage

Reporter Denver Pratt will be in court every day of the Timothy Bass trial for the 1989 death of Amanda “Mandy” Stavik. Bass is accused of first-degree murder.

Check back weekdays for concise updates from court. Or, sign up for our Breaking News newsletter for updates.

You can also follow the reporter on Twitter @DenverPratt or @BhamHerald for live updates.

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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.


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