Crime

‘I was very concerned when I saw Mandy that ... the river might have taken that evidence away from us’

Former Chief Civil Deputy describes recovering Mandy Stavik’s body

The prosecution in Timothy Bass' trial for first-degree murder displays a video of former Chief Civil Deputy Ron Peterson describing the recovery of Mandy Stavik's body on Nov. 27, 1989.
Up Next
The prosecution in Timothy Bass' trial for first-degree murder displays a video of former Chief Civil Deputy Ron Peterson describing the recovery of Mandy Stavik's body on Nov. 27, 1989.

More from the series


Bass on trial for Stavik’s death

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

Expand All

The DNA evidence that eventually led to the arrest of Timothy Forrest Bass, the man accused of the 1989 alleged abduction, rape and murder of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik was introduced during testimony in his murder trial Tuesday, May 14, in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Ron Peterson, who is a former Chief Civil Deputy with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, testified about his expertise in evidence collection, preservation and maintenance, as well as crime scene analysis. Peterson, who also later had supervisory search and rescue duties, was involved heavily in the search efforts for Stavik after she went missing on Nov. 24, 1989.

He also helped pull her body from the river and was present for her autopsy.

At that time, in 1989, DNA evidence collection was a new science and only the FBI crime lab was making DNA profiles for suspect identification, Peterson said.

During the course of becoming an expert in fingerprinting and continuing senior crime analyst training, Peterson said he was told by a seasoned investigator that DNA evidence for positive identification of suspects was coming down the pipeline for law enforcement. In fact, the first time FBI scientists testified in a court of law in the United States about positive DNA identification taken from a criminal case happened in Whatcom County that same year.

After Stavik’s body was found in the south fork of the Nooksack River, an autopsy was done a day later and evidence samples, such as blood, semen and hair, were collected from her body, Peterson said. Those samples were then sent off to the FBI crime lab to develop a suspect DNA profile, Peterson said.

“It was brand new,” Peterson said of DNA evidence. “It was new technology, and there were new procedures and handling guidelines, and I stayed through that, but I was very concerned when I saw Mandy that the washing action of the river might have taken that evidence away from us.”

Those samples were not washed away, and would later lead to the December 2017 arrest of Bass, court records show. A fellow coworker of Bass’ turned in a plastic cup and Coke can that he drank out of, and Bass’ DNA matched the suspect profile developed from the evidence taken from Stavik’s body, according to court records.

While the samples weren’t opened, several small manila envelopes that contained the samples inside were entered as evidence in the trial.

During his examination of Stavik’s body, Peterson also said he saw both shallow and deep U-shaped, vertical, horizontal and lateral scratches on Stavik’s thighs.

“When I saw her and saw those scratches, I immediately thought blackberry bushes, as if she were walking or running through the blackberry bushes and that’s how those scratches occurred,” Peterson said.

Peterson also testified about a pair of green sweatpants and two pillow cases with hair on them that were found in Skagit County, about 10 miles from Stavik’s house. Stavik had been wearing green sweatpants when she went missing.

At the time the clothing was found, Stavik’s mother said she was unsure whether the sweatpants were her daughter’s, and while there was never a definitive link that the pants were Stavik’s, Peterson said they were never ruled out as evidence and were still considered a piece of interest in the investigation. The sweatpants and pillow cases also were entered as evidence at trial Tuesday.

0514 Bass Zender.jpg
Rick Zender, left, answers questions from special prosecuting attorney David McEachran Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Whatcom County Superior Court during Timothy Bass’ trial for first-degree murder related to the 1989 alleged abduction, rape and death of 18-year-old Mandy Stavik. Zender was Stavik’s boyfriend. Denver Pratt dpratt@bhamherald.com

Other Tuesday testimony

Stavik’s longtime boyfriend Rick Zender testified. Zender was friends with Bass’ younger brother, Tom, and Bass’ father coached their basketball team. Zender spent several days searching for Stavik. He told police that he believed it would be hard for someone to take Stavik because she was strong and smart.

Stavik’s step-sister Bridget Whitson testified. Stavik was six months older than her,and said they were close throughout school.

Several other friends of Stavik’s testified about their interactions and friendships with her, as well as what they remembered when she went missing and was later found. They all said they had never seen her with Bass.

0514 Bass Whitson.jpg
Bridget Whitson, a step sister of Amanda “Mandy” Stavik, answers questions from special prosecuting attorney David McEachran Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Whatcom County Superior Court during Timothy Bass’ trial for first-degree murder related to the 1989 alleged abduction, rape and death of 18-year-old Mandy Stavik. Denver Pratt dpratt@bhamherald.com

Quotes of the day

Rick Zender: “She was strong, smart, athletic.”

Julia Lautenbach, (played basketball with Stavik): “We knew something was wrong — that wasn’t type of person she was.”

Julia Lautenbach: “People wanted to spend time with Mandy. She was very easy to be around — she was very fun.”

Bridget Whitson: “We were not a wealthy family ... Mandy took very good care of her things. She took very good care of her running shoes. She would have been careful not to go places that she would hurt them because they had to last her a long time.”

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.

The trial so far

A jury was seated Thursday afternoon, May 9, 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, May 10.

Stavik’s family testified Monday, May 13, and some neighbors who lived on Strand Road also testified.

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.

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.

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.

What’s next

Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel, detective Kevin Bowhay with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, two forensic scientists and Bass’ coworker, who turned in the DNA evidence, are expected to testify Wednesday, May 15.

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.

Follow more of our reporting on Timothy Bass on trial for Mandy Stavik’s death

See all 10 stories

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.

  Comments