Crime

‘Hold him accountable for what he did’ prosecution asks in Bass murder trial closing

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

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The jury will begin deliberating Thursday morning, May 23, whether they will find Timothy Forrest Bass guilty or not for first-degree murder related to the November 1989 death of Amanda “Mandy” Stavik.

Bass, 51, of Everson has been on trial in Whatcom County Superior Court for first-degree murder for the death of the 18-year-old who disappeared while on a run near her Acme home on Nov. 24, 1989.

Her body was found in the south fork of the Nooksack River three days later.

After a nearly two-week trial, both the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments Wednesday. Special prosecuting attorney David McEachran said the evidence shows Bass was responsible for Stavik’s death and he took several steps to conceal what he did and that he asked several family members to lie for him.

Defense attorneys Starck Follis and Shoshana Paige said Stavik’s death was a mystery and there’s no evidence connecting Bass to her death. Paige said the science should leave a reasonable doubt in the juror’s minds and that the only physical evidence connecting Bass to Stavik is his semen, but that does not mean he’s responsible for her death.

Follis said that law enforcement relied on and excluded suspects based on bad science and the belief that whoever left the semen was the person who killed her.

The prosecution’s closing

McEachran said the evidence he’s presented over the past week and a half shows Stavik was abducted, raped and murdered in November 1989 and Timothy Forrest Bass was responsible.

During his closing argument, McEachran weaved through numerous witnesses’ testimonies about Stavik and her disappearance, as he took the jury through the timeline of events leading up to Bass’ December 2017 arrest and subsequent trial.

McEachran said Stavik was a bright student and extremely active, playing numerous sports, as well as having a favorite running route that took her down Strand Road — the road she lived on — to the river and back. He said Bass, who also lived on Strand Road in 1989, would have had a clear view from his bedroom window and seen Stavik running often.

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 defendant certainly knew where the Staviks lived, and he certainly was aware of Mandy Stavik,” McEachran said.

McEachran recounted the testimonies of friends, family and neighbors who said they saw Stavik running the day she disappeared, including Bass’ younger brother, Tom, who had a mutual friend with Stavik. Tom Bass testified he was the only one at home that day.

McEachran said testimony provided by Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel narrowed the window to when a sexual assault occurred prior to Stavik’s death. Based on when she last ate and several tests conducted on microscopic slides on evidence taken from Stavik’s body during an autopsy, Goldfogel determined that sexual activity had occurred approximately one to six hours prior to Stavik’s death.

McEachran said Bass took steps to cover up what he did, including asking his family to lie or create an alibi for him on three separate occasions.

Gina Malone, Timothy Bass’ now ex-wife, testified May 16, 2019 in Bass’ first-degree murder trial for the 1989 alleged abduction, rape and murder of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik.

McEachran told the juror members to use their common sense to determine Bass’ credibility and whether the statements he made to his brother about having a consensual sexual relationship with Stavik were truthful or not.

McEachran repeated several times during his closing arguments that multiple witnesses, including Bass’ brother, testified that they had never seen Bass and Stavik together.

“These things are all critical when you’re trying to put together the puzzle of what happened. ...The evidence is very, very clear. This was not a situation where there was consensual sex, there was no contact between these people,” McEachran said. “She was abducted, she was raped and she was killed. ... I’d ask you to hold him accountable for what he did, which was an atrocious thing.”

Shoshana Page.jpg
Whatcom County Public Defender Shoshana Paige delivers the defense’s closing statement in the first-degree murder trial of Timothy Bass Wednesday in Whatcom County Superior Court. Denver Pratt The Bellingham Herald

The defense’s closing

The defense attorneys handling Bass’ case maintained that Stavik’s death is still a mystery, that Bass was not responsible and that the two had a consensual sexual relationship.

Paige said the only physical evidence connecting Bass to Stavik is his DNA that was found inside her body. She said there was no DNA found under Stavik’s fingernails, there were no restraint marks on her body and there was no evidence putting Bass near the river at the time Stavik disappeared.

“The credible science in this case leaves you with a reasonable doubt,” she said.

Paige said Goldfogel’s examination of the sperm on the microscopic slides was not correct and that the jurors should instead believe the defense’s expert witness, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, and her examination of the slides.

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.

Follis, who handled the latter portion of the defense’s argument, said three things came from the bad science:

The misdirection of law enforcement leading them to believe that this was a sexual assault when it might have been something other.

The disregard for suspects who did not match the suspect DNA profile created from the semen.

Law enforcement’s blind focus on Bass as the killer because his DNA matched.

“For 30 years, that’s how law enforcement investigated this case, is that that semen donor must be the killer,” Follis said. “That is the fundamental error in this case.”

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.

Follis said the sheriff’s office received thousands of tips in the case, but not one was about Bass. He also said that just because nobody saw Bass and Stavik together, does not mean that they weren’t together at one point.

Follis said the conversation Bass had with his brother where he admitted to a consensual sexual relationship with Stavik happened two years prior to his 2017 arrest. Follis also said that anyone would have trouble remembering where they were on a specific date in November 1989, and that when Bass’ family came to visit him in the jail that Bass was trying to figure out where he was, not ask his family to lie for him.

“What happened here is a big question mark. This case is a big mystery,” Follis said. “We don’t know anything of the manner in which Ms. Stavik disappeared.”

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.

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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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