‘Now we can slowly start healing’ Stavik family says after Bass murder sentencing

These are the key moments in the arrest and trial of Timothy Bass

Timothy Forrest Bass, 51, of Everson, was found guilty of the 1989 murder of Amanda “Mandy" Stavik of Acme and was sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison July 2, 2019, in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash.
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Timothy Forrest Bass, 51, of Everson, was found guilty of the 1989 murder of Amanda “Mandy" Stavik of Acme and was sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison July 2, 2019, in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham, Wash.

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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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Amanda “Mandy” Stavik’s siblings say the pain of trial was worth it to bring their sister’s killer to justice.

Molly Brighton, Stavik’s older sister, said the trial was like experiencing Stavik’s death twice. Going through the proceedings brought everything back to the surface, Brighton said recently in an interview with The Bellingham Herald.

“We waited 28 years and it was bittersweet,” Brighton said. “It’s like a wound that just won’t heal. It’s starting to heal and it’s got all this scar tissue — you can see it every day. And then all of a sudden, they literally rip the scar tissue off the wound and reopen it and so it’s this raw pain that we had to deal with all over again.”

“But I think now we can slowly start healing, growing,” Brighton added.

Eighteen-year-old Stavik disappeared Nov. 24, 1989 while on a jog near her home in Clipper, near Acme. Her body was found three days later in the south fork of the Nooksack River.

On July 2, 51-year-old Timothy Forrest Bass, of Everson, was sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison for Stavik’s abduction, rape and murder. A jury found Bass guilty in late May after a three-week trial in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Bass maintains his innocence. A notice of appeal was officially submitted to the Court of Appeals July 5, court records show.

Both Brighton, and Stavik’s step-sister Bridget Whitson, say enduring the pain of trial was worth it because Bass was found guilty of all crimes, and was sentenced to the maximum time allowed under the law. But both wish he could have received a longer sentence, they said.

“Almost 30 years we suffered. …. I want him to suffer like we did,” Brighton said.

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.

Convicted of first-degree murder

Bass was sentenced according to the laws in 1989, so the minimum time for someone convicted of first-degree murder was 20 years, while the maximum was nearly 27.

Whitson said she had to keep moving forward after her step-sister’s death. They were the same age and had grown closer in the last year or so of Stavik’s life, Whitson said. She said the family didn’t really have a choice but to keep going.

“I want people to know my family was doing everything we could to survive. After Mandy’s death, the emotions were so painful and raw. We all just did the best we could,” Whitson said.

Before sentencing, she would think that the person who already hurt her family may come back for her children. But now, she said she doesn’t worry as much. Whitson said the worst part of the last 30 years was not knowing if the person responsible was at the same park, same grocery store, or the same school she was at.

‘The monster is not lurking anymore’

“I hope that our family gets back to a sense of normal. Only this time, normal means not having to worry about the monster being out there. The monster is not lurking anymore,” Whitson said.

Brighton, who had a four-year age difference with Stavik, said she believes she and Stavik would have grown closer as they aged.

“I was robbed of that. I didn’t get that opportunity to reconnect with Mandy,” Brighton said. “I think that as we got older, I think we could have become friends again, and to be able to watch all the things she was going to do and the role model she would have been for my kids would have been just amazing.”

Brighton said she and Stavik bonded over horses and would often ride together. She also remembers tubing down the river together.

“She was your all-American girl. Everybody loved her. She was beautiful, she was talented not only musically, she was an athlete. She wasn’t perfect, but she was close, and she cared about people. The world was robbed of this when she died,” Brighton said.

Whitson said she resolved herself to the fact her step-sister’s death would never be solved. She said she wasn’t given updates about Stavik’s case, and that she felt invisible as the years went on. Whitson said except for blood, she and Stavik were sisters, and were close.

“She was gregarious and adventuresome and loved a challenge. She was the girl who would look at a mountain and say ‘Wow, that looks hard. Let’s do it,’” Whitson said. “She was a leader, she got everybody to follow behind. I followed Mandy everywhere.”

‘We won’t forget them’

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, who has met with Stavik’s mother nearly every year to give her updates on her daughter’s case, said he hopes the community knows victims of crime are important to his office.

“We won’t forget them, and will continue to pursue justice for them and their families,” Elfo said. “I understand the Stavik family will never see justice because we can’t bring Mandy back, but I do hope they get some modicum of peace in the sentencing.”

Brighton echoed Elfo’s sentiments. She said the holidays are hard, with her sister’s death and Bass’ arrest in November and December, respectively, but said she hopes they get easier.

“I just want us to heal. She’s never forgotten, it’s always there, but it’s nice to kind of move on,” Brighton said. “I hope things get easier. I hope my mom got some peace.”

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.

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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.