‘Only closure ... would be to bring Mandy back,’ Stavik’s mom says after Bass 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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Mary Stavik said she believes her daughter’s 1989 murder was solved by a miracle.

Mary’s daughter, Amanda “Mandy” Stavik, went for a jog on Strand Road in Clipper, near Acme, on Nov. 24, 1989, and never returned. The 18-year-old disappeared a few hundred yards from her doorstep.

Three days later, Mandy’s body was found in the south fork of the Nooksack River. She was naked, except for her socks and running shoes. Mandy’s cause of death was drowning, and her case was investigated as a homicide.

As the decades went by without an arrest, Mary said she didn’t think her daughter’s case would ever be solved. But on her 81st birthday, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo came to her door and said they’d arrested her daughter’s killer. Elfo told Mary they had a match in the DNA suspect profile, which was created from evidence taken from Mandy’s body during an autopsy.

Elfo told Mary they’d arrested 51-year-old Timothy Forrest Bass. Bass’ coworker at Franz Bakery, Kim Wagner, collected a plastic cup and Coke can he discarded and turned the items into detectives, leading to his arrest and subsequent conviction for Mandy’s death.

Mary, now 82, said she’s grateful to Wagner for being smart and suspicious enough to collect the items that led to Bass. Mary said she thanked her when she met her during Bass’ murder trial.

“She is the one that made this possible,” Mary said last week in an interview with The Bellingham Herald. “She made it possible to get justice.”

A guilty verdict

Bass was found guilty May 24 of first-degree murder for Mandy’s death after a nearly three week trial in Whatcom County Superior Court.

The jury also returned special guilty verdicts for first-degree kidnapping, attempted first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape and attempted first-degree rape.

One of the ways to charge first-degree murder in Washington state if is the person either committed or attempted to commit the crimes of rape or kidnapping, and in the course of those actions caused the death of another person. There is no statute of limitations for murder in Washington.

Bass’ sentencing has been set for July 2.

Mary said the conviction was the most she could hope for and it was the verdict she believes Bass deserved.

Mary was present every day of the murder trial, except one. She stayed home the day following former Whatcom Sheriff’s Chief Civil Deputy Ron Peterson’s testimony. Peterson helped pull Mandy’s body from the river and made a video of the scene as evidence. That graphic video was shown to the jury and those present in the courtroom.

Mary said she has tremendous respect for the legal system. She said both sides got to share their evidence, and the jury ultimately made a decision that she believed was right.

Mary said she’s happy Bass will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, and said she hopes “he thinks about what he did.”

Mary said she’ll never get past Mandy’s death.

“It’s foremost in my mind,” Mary said. “The only thing that would be closure, would be to bring Mandy back.”

Amanda “Mandy” Stavik’s mother Mary Stavik, in blue, and others hug May 24, in Whatcom County Superior Court after Timothy Forrest Bass was found guilty of first-degree murder for the death of the 18-year-old. David Rasbach The Bellingham Herald

Letters to ‘Mandy’s mother’

Everybody has a story about Mandy, her mother said.

After Mandy’s death, Mary said she received numerous letters, which now fill a cardboard box in her home, from all over the world. Writers shared how they’d been touched by Mandy’s story and her life. One letter was simply addressed ‘Mandy’s mother’ with no other identifying information on it.

Mary said she loved and appreciated her daughter when she was alive and was “trying to save the world,” but Mary said she learned how truly amazing her daughter was after she died. Mary said her daughter had a friend who was around 6 feet tall. When Mandy told the girl she should be playing basketball, the girl told her she wasn’t athletic. Mandy then told her she’d learn, and the girl joined the basketball team alongside Mandy, Mary said.

Mandy worked hard to help her friends reach their potential, Mary said.

“She saw a need, she fulfilled it,” Mary said.

Mary said it isn’t hard to talk about Mandy, or share stories from her life.

“It keeps her alive in my heart,” she said. “I knew she was a neat kid, but I was a little surprised when the whole world latched on.”

‘Wouldn’t wish it on anyone’

Mary said she’s learned to live with her daughter’s absence for nearly 30 years.

“I’ve had time to get used to the idea that she’s gone,” she said.

On the day Mandy went missing, Mary was supposed to go on Mandy’s run with her. Mary normally rode her bike alongside Mandy as she ran the roughly 5-mile round-trip route from their house to the river and back. Their German shepherd, Kyra, usually trotted along with them, too.

In November 1989, Mandy had come home for Thanksgiving break from her freshman year at Central Washington University. Mary’s sister was in town from North Carolina for the holiday. On the day Mandy disappeared, Mary did not ride with her because her sister wanted her to spend their last few hours together.

Mary said she became worried after their dog returned home several hours later without Mandy, because Mandy was very dependable. She said it’s been hard living with the fact that she didn’t go with Mandy that day.

Mary said she didn’t know Bass was watching them as they went past his house, also on Strand Road, every time they went for a run. Mary said they didn’t know him or his family well, but she recognized him from the bus route she drove for the Mount Baker School District for 22 years.

Mandy was Mary’s second child to be murdered. Her firstborn son, Brent, was shot to death in 1975 while bow hunting in Alaska.

Mary said her family said that it didn’t seem fair that they had to go through that pain twice, but she told them that life wasn’t fair and they had to keep going.

In addition to the box full of letters filled with stories about Mandy, Mary also has a shoebox filled with letters from other parents who wrote to her saying they, too, had been through a similar situation. She said she’s become very close friends with a few people who wrote to her.

“It was good to know other people had gone through the same thing, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” she said.

‘A Mandy in the family’

Mary said her family is what keeps her moving forward.

Since Mandy’s death, Mary said she’s become closer with her daughter, Molly.

Mary sold her home on Strand Road a few years back to a young couple and moved in with Molly, her husband and their children in Oak Harbor. She said she’s grateful and it’s been a blessing to be part of their family.

When Molly and her husband found out they were pregnant with a girl, Mary said the pair wanted to name her Mandy. Molly’s husband would call Mary about once a week to make sure she was OK with it.

“I said yes, we need a Mandy in the family,” Mary said.

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.


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.