‘He got to live 30 years as a free man,’ Bass’ coworker says as murder sentencing set

Bass’ coworker: ‘If Tim was potentially involved in that crime, I wanted to do the right thing for Mandy’

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.
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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.

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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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Kim Wagner was sitting in a bar in 2017 with her husband and a friend discussing coworkers, the community and, eventually, the 1989 kidnapping and murder of Amanda “Mandy” Stavik. About a month later, detectives came to Wagner’s workplace to find Stavik’s killer.

Wagner’s actions would ultimately lead to his arrest and conviction.

A jury found Timothy Forrest Bass, 51, of Everson, guilty May 24 of first-degree murder for the death of 18-year-old Stavik after a three-week trial. His sentencing is set for Tuesday, July 2, in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Wagner, who is a manager at the Bellingham Franz Bakery outlet, said a lightbulb went off after her conversation in the bar. She remembered when Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kevin Bowhay came to the Franz store in 2015 looking to swab Bass’ work truck for DNA evidence, but the company ultimately declined to allow it without a search warrant.

When Bowhay came back in May 2017, Wagner said she recognized him and asked if he was investigating Stavik’s murder and if the detective suspected Bass. Bowhay’s face told her what she needed to know, she said.

Wagner watched Bass and waited. Over several days in August 2017, she collected a plastic cup and Coke can that Bass discarded and turned the items into Bowhay. Bass’ DNA was a match to the suspect DNA profile created from evidence taken from Stavik’s body during an autopsy nearly 30 years ago.

Bass was arrested four months later, in December 2017.

Kim Wagner, a coworker of Timothy Bass at the Franz Bakery and turned in evidence with Bass’ DNA on it, listens as an attorney asks a question during her testimony in Whatcom County Superior Court on May 16. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

“That day I was just so scared and when they found him guilty it was a huge sense of relief, but sadness because Mandy will never come back,” Wagner said in an interview with The Bellingham Herald.

Stavik disappeared Nov. 24, 1989, while on a jog near her home on Strand Road in Clipper, near Acme. Three days later, her body was found in the south fork of the Nooksack River.

Stavik’s mother, Mary, said the only closure would be to bring her daughter back. Mary Stavik said she’s grateful to Wagner for being smart and suspicious enough to collect the items that led to Bass.

“She is the one that made this possible,” Mary Stavik told The Herald. “She made it possible to get justice.”

Wagner said she didn’t officially learn there was a DNA match until after Bass’ arrest. She was excluded from the courtroom until after she testified, and said she didn’t know how pivotal her role was in leading to Bass’ arrest.

Wagner said she has been called a hero by many but felt it was a collective effort.

“I’m proud of what I did, and I like to think that that’s just me — I like to do the right thing. It wasn’t easy,” Wagner said. “I feel like Mandy guided this to get justice. For me, the end goal was for that mom … to finally know, and for Mandy’s soul to be finally free with a guilty verdict — to say who did this to her is being punished. It was all worth it.”

Wagner said after Bass’ arrest, she was worried about how people might react when they found she turned him in. She wasn’t sure if she would lose her job, and took steps to protect herself. Franz Bakery also had an armed guard at the store for about three weeks after Bass’ arrest, Wagner said.

Mary Stavik, the 82-year-old mother of Amanda “Mandy” Stavik, stands as the jury enters the courtroom in Whatcom County Superior Court May 13 during Timothy Bass’ trial for first-degree murder related to the 1989 alleged abduction, rape and death of 18-year-old Mandy Stavik. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Wagner said that in 1989 she delivered to the Acme area for her family’s wholesale sandwich business. She said the South Fork Valley was a peaceful and serene “little slice of heaven.” She wanted to live there. But Stavik’s death rocked the whole county, she said.

“It was the first time … something bad happened, where I felt like bad things didn’t happen in Whatcom County,” Wagner said. “There were things here and there, but a young girl with her whole life ahead of her out running — it was such an assault on the innocence of this community.”

Wagner said she can’t pinpoint why Stavik’s life and death impacted so many. Wagner said after the trial it was rewarding for her to hug Stavik’s family. She said they waited for her after she testified and thanked her for her actions.

“I didn’t know any of these people, her family or her friends, and they were so wonderful,” Wagner said. “But she’s never coming back, so how do you really get closure? At the end of the day, she’s still gone and he got to live 30 years as a free man.”

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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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.