Crime

Defense expert refutes prosecution’s claim that Bass raped Stavik hours before her death

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

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A forensic scientist for the defense in the first-degree murder trial of Timothy Forrest Bass said Monday, May 20, that her examination of DNA evidence taken from the body of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik was consistent with sexual intercourse happening up to two days prior to Stavik’s death.

Stavik disappeared while on a jog near her home in Clipper on Nov. 24, 1989, and was found dead in the south fork of the Nooksack River three days later. Bass, 51 of Everson, is on trial for her 1989 death.

During her testimony, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson said she analyzed microscopic slides of swabs taken from Stavik’s body for the presence of sperm. Johnson said there were too many variables to be precise about the time that passed between intercourse. The evidence presented on the slides, Johnson said, was more consistent with intercourse happening between six hours and two days prior to Stavik’s death.

Johnson refuted Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel’s opinion that, based on the presence of the number of sperm on the microscopic slides, intercourse likely happened shortly before Stavik’s death.

Johnson also refuted Goldfogel’s opinion that the slides have degraded and show less sperm upon examination since they were prepared nearly 30 years ago. Johnson said there was no evidence in, her opinion, that the slides had degraded, because they were properly prepared and stored.

“Well preserved evidence is the best evidence,” Johnson said. “That looks like a slide I could have made this morning if I made one this morning — it looks great. So no, I don’t see any deterioration.”

The defense said during its opening that, though Bass’ DNA was found inside Stavik’s body, it doesn’t mean he was responsible for her death. When Bass’ brother, Tom, took the stand, he testified about a conversation where Bass told him that he and Stavik had a consensual sexual relationship.

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Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Rob Olson stands as the jury enters the Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash., for the first day of Timothy Bass’ murder trial on Friday, May 10, 2019. One of the jurors was excused from the trial on Monday, May 20, due to contact with law enforcement over the weekend. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Also happening Monday

A male juror was excused Monday morning for having contact with law enforcement over the weekend. The juror was allegedly trying to use his position as a juror on the case as leverage and was sharing trial testimony with his son. One of four alternates took his place.

The defense also filed a motion early Monday to dismiss the case against Bass. Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Olson denied the motion to dismiss at a pre-trial hearing Monday, and the defense called their first witness.

Joe Dozal, a senior investigator for the Whatcom County Public Defender’s office, testified about attending a witness interview with Dr. Goldfogel. Dozal said that at one meeting, Dr. Goldfogel said the expert witness, Johnson, had a serious problem and he made his opinion in less than 20 seconds, and that there were not less than 20 sperm per field.

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.

The trial so far

Stavik’s family, friends and neighbors testified Monday and Tuesday, May 13-14.

Ron Peterson, the former Chief Civil Deputy for the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office testified about finding Stavik’s body and preserving evidence.

Tom Bass, the defendant’s brother, testified Wednesday, May 15, about two meetings he held with his brother where his brother asked him to lie for him, as well as admitted to having a sexual relationship with Stavik prior to her death. Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel testified that Stavik’s death was consistent with someone abduction, raping and murdering her.

Gina Malone, Bass’ now ex-wife, testified Thursday, May 16, that Bass forbade her from attending Stavik’s memorial and that he moved their planned marriage up from June of 1990 to January of 1990 — less than a month and a half after Stavik’s death. She also testified about a conversation where Bass asked his mother if they could blame Stavik’s death on his late father.

Detective Kevin Bowhay, with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, testified Thursday that he took over the Stavik case in 2009 and started a systematic DNA campaign of people that lived in the area where Stavik lived. Bowhay also said that when he contacted Bass the first time, Bass at first didn’t remember Stavik or where she lived.

Kim Wagner, the coworker who collected the cup and Coke can that Bass’ drank out of, said Thursday she wanted to do the right thing for Stavik. A cheek swab was later obtained from Bass, and a DNA profile was created. That profile matched the one found on the cup and can, and the suspect profile created from the evidence taken from Stavik’s body, according to Katherine Woodard, a forensic scientist. Woodard and other scientists computed the statistical probability they would select an unrelated individual in the U.S. population at random who also matches the DNA profile is 1 in 11 quadrillion.

The state rested its case against Bass Friday, May 18, after calling two detectives who showed aerial footage of Stavik’s running route, and the view from Bass’ bedroom window.

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.

Kim Wagner, a coworker of Timothy Bass, testified on Thursday, May 16, 2019. The evidence Wagner provided led to Bass' arrest in December 2017 – almost three decades after Mandy Stavik's 1989 death.

What’s next

The defense has a few witnesses left to call, including several sheriff’s deputies and Bass’ mother, Sandra, who is the only known alibi witness at this time left for the defense. Bass has not yet decided whether he will testify, but Starck Follis, director of the Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office, said he expects their case to wrap up by the end of Tuesday.

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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