Mandy Stavik case judge rules evidence ‘would be confusing or misleading to the jury’

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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Bass on trial for Stavik’s death

Timothy Bass was convicted in Whatcom County Superior Court for the 1989 murder of Amanda Stavik.

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A Whatcom Superior Court judge ruled Monday, May 6, that a piece of evidence defense attorneys say depicted 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik’s state of mind during the last year of her life cannot be introduced during trial.

Stavik vanished while jogging near her home in Clipper, near Acme on Nov. 24, 1989. Her nude body was found three days later in the south fork of the Nooksack River, according to court records.

Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies arrested 51-year-old Timothy Forrest Bass, of Everson, in December 2017. A coworker of Bass’ turned in a plastic cup and Coke can to detectives handling the case. Bass’ DNA matched the suspect DNA profile created from evidence taken from Stavik’s body during an autopsy, leading to his arrest, court records state.

Bass is currently on trial for first-degree murder related to Stavik’s 1989 death.

Bass’ defense attorneys had sought to include the last 18 pages of Stavik’s diary, which contain entries from the final year of her life. The diary includes references to her struggles with mental and physical health, personal relationships and is relevant to her state of mind around the time of her death, Bass’ defense attorneys argued.

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.

David McEachran, who has been called as a special prosecutor for the case, filed a motion to prevent the diary from being used during trial, saying it contained Stavik’s inner-most feelings, according to court records.

“It contains the highly personal musings of a teenage girl struggling with her identity, love interests and self-worth. There is no mention of Tim Bass,” McEachran wrote in his motion. “To publish the diary during the trial would be degrading to the victim and her family. To further torment the family by embarrassing their deceased daughter or sibling is unconscionable.”

In his order denying the diary and any questions related to it from being used during trial, Superior Court Judge Rob Olson said most of the information in the diary is speculative and amounts to hearsay, according to court records.

“Whether viewed individually or in the aggregate, the diary entries paint a picture of a young woman who was anxious about her appearance and her relationships, a typical condition for young people often described as ‘teen angst,’” Olson wrote in his ruling.

Olson wrote in the ruling that while certain entries may suggest Stavik was depressed or suicidal, that is not a natural conclusion a person would come to after reading her diary passages without other supporting factors.

“Without sufficient foundation, the diary and its entries would be confusing or misleading to the jury,” Olson wrote in the ruling.

Jury selection for Bass’ case started Monday, and opening statements are expected to begin later this week.

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.

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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.