Timothy Bass to spend nearly 27 years in prison for 1989 murder of Mandy Stavik

Timothy Bass reacts as Judge Olson sentences him to 27 years in prison

Timothy Bass reacts as Superior Court Judge Rob Olson reads his sentence in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash., on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Bass will serve nearly 27 years in prison for the 1989 kidnap, rape and murder of Mandy Stavik.
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Timothy Bass reacts as Superior Court Judge Rob Olson reads his sentence in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash., on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Bass will serve nearly 27 years in prison for the 1989 kidnap, rape and murder of Mandy Stavik.

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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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Timothy Forrest Bass will spend almost three decades in prison — almost as much time as he was free — for kidnapping, raping and murdering 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik nearly 30 years ago.

Judge Rob Olson sentenced the 51-year-old Everson man to nearly 27 years Tuesday, July 2, for Stavik’s death. A jury found Bass guilty of murder May 24 after a three-week trial in Whatcom County Superior Court. He was also found guilty of special verdicts for first-degree rape, attempted first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and attempted first-degree kidnapping.

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.

Special prosecuting attorney David McEachran, who came out of retirement to handle the case, asked for the maximum amount of time, which is nearly 27 years. Bass’ public defenders asked for the minimum sentence of 20 years, arguing that Bass had no criminal history and was 22 at the time of Stavik’s death.

“I’ve never seen (a case) that had an impact like this one did. People felt that they didn’t have a sense of safety. It was the realization that we’re not all that safe and that there was a monster who was really living among us,” McEachran said Tuesday in court.

Timothy Forrest Bass, left, is led out of the Whatcom County Superior Court Tuesday after he was sentenced for the 1989 kidnap, rape and murder of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

The sentencing law in effect at the time of the crime is the law that governs this case. For someone convicted of first-degree felony murder in 1989, the minimum standard range is 20 years, with a maximum of nearly 27, according to court records.

Remembering Mandy

Mike Brighton read a statement for Stavik’s mother, Mary, and Molly Brighton, his wife and Stavik’s sister. Brighton said he never met Stavik, but remembered pictures of her hung on the kitchen walls in the family home on Strand Road.

He said Molly still won’t go down the stretch of the Nooksack where Stavik’s body was found. He said their children are involved in activities that remind the family of Stavik and that his children and the community were robbed of the impact she could have had on their lives.

“The memory of her tragedy never left our thoughts. This loss’ impact can never be imagined, never replaced. My family will never be healed, never be normal. Mandy will never be returned to our family, our lives,” Brighton said. “Timothy Forrest Bass must never be allowed to walk the Earth as a free person. Never ever.”

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.

Bridget Whitson, Stavik’s step-sister, said her strongest early memories were of her and Stavik playing together. She said they enjoyed riding horses, sledding and ice skating, climbing hay bales and talking for hours into the night.

Whitson said having to explain or justify her grief and relation to Stavik is difficult every time. She said she knew what irritated Stavik, her dreams and plans for adventure and the way she laughed.

“I know these things because, except for biology, Mandy was my sister. We were close and we needed each other. I still need my sister,” Whitson said.

Whitson said she’s lived the past 30 years filled with anxiety because of Stavik’s murder and knowing her killer was free. Since the guilty verdict, Whitson said she’s experienced a new, unexpected joy in her life.

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.

Rick Zender, Stavik’s longtime boyfriend, brought letters the two wrote one another. He said he’s ashamed he hasn’t kept in better touch with Stavik’s family and said it was too painful after her death.

“The nightmares came immediately. The worst part isn’t dreaming that she’s alive, but dreaming she’s dead. Because for those few moments in transition, as I open my eyes, there’s hope her death was just a nightmare. But she’s really gone,” Zender said.

Maintaining innocence

Bass’ mother, Sandra, said Bass got good grades in high school, never caused trouble and worked hard at his job and college. She said many parts of the case bothered her, like Bass’ ex-wife’s testimony, and that she knows her son isn’t guilty. She said she believes Stavik’s killer is still out there.

“He was found guilty in people’s minds way before the trial even started, and is being sent to prison on people’s emotions, not any real evidence. The prosecution wants to solve this case, even if they convict an innocent person,” Sandra Bass said.

Timothy Bass also said he’s innocent and believes he didn’t receive a fair trial.

Bass was arrested December 2017 after his DNA, collected from a plastic cup and Coke can he discarded, matched the suspect DNA profile created from evidence taken from Stavik’s body.

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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.