Produced by Alec Sirken and Emily Wichick
[This story first aired on November 30, 2019. It was updated on July 18, 2020.]
It was 30 years ago this past Thanksgiving weekend that Mandy Stavik, an 18-year-old college student, disappeared after going out for a jog in Acme, Washington. Her body was found three days later in the Nooksack River. Investigators believed she had been sexually assaulted, knocked out and placed in the river to drown.
Despite having DNA evidence and an intensive police investigation, the suspect was unknown for more than two decades. Stavik’s murder seemed unsolvable — the case hung over the small tight-knit community like a dark cloud.
That is, until, 2013, when two mothers were chatting while their kids played at a waterpark. The conversation shifted to the Stavik murder.
“And I just kind of turned to Merrilee and said, ‘Well, I am sure I know who killed her,” Heather Backstrom says. “And I turned to her and said, ‘Oh, I do, too,” Merilee Anderson says. “And I just said I knew that it was Tim Bass.”
Bass had lived just down the road from Stavik. Anderson and Backstrom had creepy encounters with him around the time of Stavik’s murder, but they had never come forward with their suspicions. “To accuse someone of something that we don’t know for sure is a little scary,” Anderson says.
However, after hearing each other’s stories, Anderson decided to talk to police. Bass was, by then, married and working as a driver at a bakery. Police began investigating Bass, and turned to the assistance of Kim Wagner, a co-worker at the bakery where he worked. Wagner came up with a plan to help police get the DNA they needed to connect Bass to the crime.
“I just never forgot about Mandy,” Wagner says. “And that’s why I did it.”
NOVEMBER 27, 1989
Peter Van Sant: So, take me back. It’s November 27, 1989. Where are we right now?
Det. Ron Peterson: We’re upstream from where I recovered her.
Peter Van Sant: It’s a solemn place for you isn’t it?
Det. Ron Peterson: It is.
Back then, Detective Ron Peterson led the search team for Mandy Stavik, moving upriver in a Zodiac boat.
Det. Ron Peterson: We came around the corner and we got outta the main river and then into the little side channel and I could see pink. Something pink.
It was Mandy — wearing only her running shoes.
Peter Van Sant: When you lifted her out of the water … as a father, did you say anything to her?
Det. Ron Peterson [emotional, turns away from the camera]: You’re the first person that asked that. I said, “I got ya.” [chokes up]
Peterson, and so many others in the small community of Acme, Washington, are still emotional — even 30 years later.
Peter Van Sant: What was lost for you and this community with the death of Mandy Stavik?
Jim Freeman: A sense of innocence, I think, more than anything.
Jim Freeman was Mandy’s high school basketball coach and gave the eulogy at her memorial service, attended by nearly a thousand people.
JIM FREEMAN EULOGY: You see her smiling back at you right at your soul with eyes that say, “I love life.”
He had mentored her off the court as well, becoming a father figure after Mandy’s parents divorced. Mandy expressed her admiration for him in a card.
Jim Freeman [emotional reading card]: “For Mr. Freeman, the one person who has inspired and influenced me more than anyone. Thank you, you’re the greatest. Sincerely Mandy Stavik, class of ’89, number 13.”
Basketball player, cheerleader, top student, once an aspiring airline pilot, Mandy Stavik truly stood out says her mother Mary.
Mary Stavik: She wanted to do everything … she wanted to be very good to the best at everything she did. And she was.
Molly Brighton is Mandy’s older sister.
Molly Brighton: Mandy, she was larger than life. … It’s just she accomplished a lot in the short time that she was here.
All that promise came to an abrupt end in 1989, when the college freshman came home from Central Washington University for Thanksgiving. The day after the big holiday meal at her house, Mandy set out on the last jog of her life with her German Shepard, Kyra.
Peter Van Sant [riding in car with Det. Bowhay]: How many times you driven this road?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Oh, jeez. Probably — probably close to a hundred over the— over the 30 years of workin’ on the case.
Det. Kevin Bowhay, who was just a rookie deputy back then, has pieced together Mandy’s route from the few people who briefly saw her that day.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: She always … started from the house … and then ran down … westbound towards … the west side of the Strand Road.
The last person to see Mandy alive was a man in a pickup truck. Mandy ran right in front of him while heading towards her home, about an eighth of a mile from where he saw her.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: I would say that wooded area ahead of us is — where I believe she was abducted.
Bowhay says her assailant had to be in a vehicle. Mandy was too fast a runner to catch on foot.
Peter Van Sant: How do you think she was abducted?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: By weapon, that’s what they used to gain to control of her. … I believe it was a gun.
Peter Van Sant: And what? Points the gun at her head and says, “Get in.”
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Yeah. Points the gun at her says “Get in,” that point she’s compliant.
Investigators believe the attacker had kicked the dog into a ditch before abducting Mandy, and then sexually assaulted her about 5 miles away from where she was jogging. Afterward, she tried to flee — a scenario suggested by the scratches on her arms and legs.
Det. Ron Peterson: I immediately went, “Oh my God, she was runnin’ away. Runnin’ through the blackberries.”
Peter Van Sant: Blackberry bushes… got thorns on ’em.
Det. Ron Peterson: Big thorns. And that’s what I thought. She was runnin’ away from whoever had her.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: I believe whoever was chasin’ her caught her and — and hit her in the head, knockin’ her out and then placed her in the river to make sure she drowned.
It occurred to Ron Peterson that Mandy’s body may hold other important evidence. He had just recently been trained by the FBI on recovering DNA.
Peter Van Sant: And based on the position that she was in the water, you knew you had to get her out to preserve it.
Ron Petersen: That was the biggest fear of mine — is how to get her out without disturbing it.
His training paid off.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: So, when they did the autopsy, they were able to recover male DNA from Mandy.
The male DNA was semen, suggesting a sexual attack.
Peter Van Sant: What happened in terms of the investigation?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: From there, it was … you always look for … that person that’s strange or odd that doesn’t quite fit into the community.
Tips poured in and deputies checked them out.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: This is the Standard Road where Suchy was observed.
David Suchy was a local drifter seen in the area that day, Bowhay says.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: They got a warrant and got his DNA and he was ruled out.
Deputies interviewed various persons of interest, including Mandy’s boyfriend Rick Zender.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: They also looked at him just to rule him out.
All dead ends. In total, some 30 local men gave DNA samples. None matched. The case went cold, and the murder hung like a dark cloud over this community for the next two decades.
Ron Peterson: It was like an assault on all of us.
Then, almost 25 years later, a new suspect emerged, and he had lived right in Mandy’s neighborhood.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: His name wasn’t even on the radar.
A NEW LOOK AT THE CASE
Mary Stavik spent years haunted by the murder of her daughter Mandy, and the lack of progress in the case.
Mary Stavik: I just really didn’t have any hope … that became more ingrained in me as the years went on.
But Detective Kevin Bowhay, who attended the same high school as Mandy, had never given up. By 2009, he was the lead investigator on this unsolved case.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: We needed some answers. We needed to get to the bottom of it.
He began scouring the case file, pouring over old leads and old suspects.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: I started goin’ through, “Who’s been interviewed? Who’s been talked to?”
Bowhay noticed that a local drug dealer named John Wisnewski had been questioned because he told people he might know who murdered Mandy. Although his DNA did not match the crime scene, Bowhay still wanted to talk to him again. In 2010, he traveled all the way to Cambodia — where Wisnewski now lives — to question him.
Peter Van Sant: What did you gut tell you about this man?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Well, thought he was a good liar … He— just kept reiterating, “I don’t know who did this.”
Peter Van Sant: You weren’t believing him though?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: I didn’t believe him.
But a feeling wasn’t evidence.
Peter Van Sant: So, it’s another dead end?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Yes.
But then, three years later, the sheriff’s office got a tip that sent them in a new direction. coming from of all places,. It was June 2013.
Peter Van Sant: Where were you guys when you had this conversation?
Heather Backstrom: Sitting on the grass right over there.
Heather Backstrom and Merrilee Anderson had both gone to Mount Baker High.
Peter Van Sant: And you were just watching your kids coming down the waterslide?
Heather Backstrom: Yeah.
Merilee Anderson: Yeah.
Out of the blue, one of the other mothers brought up the name Mandy Stavik. Both Backstrom and Anderson — who barely knew each other — held long suspicions about the same man. Anderson had never told anyone in law enforcement of her suspicions.
Merrilee Anderson: I really wasn’t ready, because we’re in a small town. And to accuse someone of something that we don’t know for sure, is a little scary.
Backstrom also never discussed her concerns with anyone in the area.
Heather Backstrom: No friend or family in the community that I lived in, ’cause of the weight of that.
But talking to each other at the water park decades later, they finally felt compelled to say his name out loud.
Merrilee Anderson: And I just said that I knew that it was Tim. That it was Tim Bass.
Timothy Bass had gone to Mount Baker High too.
Peter Van Sant: Why did you say Tim Bass?
Merrilee Anderson: I thought it was Tim Bass, because of the experiences that I had had with him in the past. And the things that —
Peter Van Sant: Disturbing experiences?
Merrilee Anderson: Very disturbing, yes.
As it turns out, both women had experienced creepy run-ins with him and began exchanging stories.
Heather Backstrom: I’m probably 15 … and he was in his 20s.
It was after a softball game in the summer of 1989, a few months before Mandy’s murder.
Heather Backstrom: We decided, a bunch of us, to go to Dairy Queen.
She says they all piled into a friend’s truck — including Tim Bass, who was sitting next to her.
Heather Backstrom: He would talk about my eyes and say that my eyes were beautiful. … Then he took, like, a pen out of the cup holder and would like start rubbing it along my knees … ’cause I was wearing cut off sweat pants.
Peter Van Sant: You must’ve been scared. You’re 15 years old.
Heather Backstrom: Yeah, I was very nervous.
Hearing Backstrom’s story, Anderson told her own—which was far more chilling. In July 1991, she was at home one night with her young son when she heard a knock on the door.
Merrilee Anderson: So, I … open the door and there’s Tim Bass at the door. … And … he asks if he can use the phone, because he had been hunting all day and wanted to use the phone to call his wife.
When she handed him the phone, he started dialing — but something wasn’t right.
Merrilee Anderson: I hear the “beep, beep, beep, we’re sorry” … when you call on the phone and it’s disconnected, so I thought, “OK, something’s up.”
Then, she says, things got scary.
Merrilee Anderson: So, then he walks through the kitchen and back to my bedroom. … he said that … he used to drive by our house. … And that he had always been in love with me. And wanted to make love to me.
Peter Van Sant: Right then and there?
Merrilee Anderson: Yes.
Anderson says she demanded that Tim leave, but he refused.
Peter Van Sant: And what are you feeling at this moment?
Merrilee Anderson: Uh – terrified!
Eventually, after she threatened to call the police, Bass left.
Years later, the two women now realized they had to speak up. Anderson contacted another Mount Baker High graduate —Detective Ken Gates.
Det. Ken Gates: She had a gut feelin’ that Tim Bass was responsible for killin’ Mandy.
Peter Van Sant: Where did Tim Bass live?
Det. Ken Gates [pointing at house]: He lived right in this house right here.
A home less than two miles from Mandy’s house, right along her running route.
Peter Van Sant: And back in 1989, 1990 … Did they go to the Bass household and question people there?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: They looked at it like, “No, it wouldn’t be this family because … They’re well-liked in the community.” And so, I think it was just overlooked.
Tim Bass, along with his brother and father, had never been asked to give a DNA sample. And for the past 25 years, Tim had been living a quiet life in a nearby community, married with three children, and driving a delivery truck for a bakery.
Peter Van Sant: Any criminal record? … Anything that would have called attention to Tim Bass?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: No. He kept to himself, and, for the most part, worked and came home.
But now, police decided to pay Bass a visit at home.
Peter Van Sant: Very non-threatening in your approach?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Correct.
When asked about Mandy, Bass pretended he didn’t even remember her. At least, not at first.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: So, he just looked up and was, like, “Mandy, Mandy, Mandy. Um, oh, yeah. She was the girl that they found on the river.” And … it was kinda, like, “OK, I think we’re bein’ played here.” He — who could — who could forget Mandy Stavik?
Police asked Bass for a saliva sample to get his DNA.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: And at that point, he goes, “Well, I don’t wanna give my DNA. I’ve watched those crime shows, I see how many people go to prison because they’ve given DNA.”
So, they tried a new plan.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: At this point, we decided, we need to get a surveillance team on him — and follow him on his route.
They followed Tim Bass all night long on his bakery delivery route.
Police were hoping Bass would throw away an item with DNA on it, but no luck. The investigation stalled yet again — until police received an unexpected helping hand.
Kim Wagner: I wasn’t really gonna take no for an answer. … “I’m gonna find something. I’m gonna get you something.”
Twenty-four long years had passed without an arrest, and police finally had a prime suspect. Back in 1989, Tim Bass lived down the road from Mandy Stavik and she often jogged past his house on her regular running route—which is how he fixated on her, police believe.
Peter Van Sant: If Tim Bass … sitting in his home was lookin’ out the window, could he have seen Mandy running by?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Easily.
Investigators knew Mandy didn’t jog by the Bass house the day she disappeared, but Tim was in their crosshairs, so they wanted to know more about him. They got some background from his younger brother Tom Bass. As kids, they palled around together like most brothers.
Tom Bass: Very competitive. We had a lot of fun together playing, you know, different sports.
Tim had always been a loner, but as a teenager he began to reveal deeper issues.
Tom Bass: Social interaction’s never really been natural to him.
Tom Bass remembers a harrowing night after a high school girlfriend had broken up with Tim.
Tom Bass: He was on the phone with her in his bedroom. And he apparently had a pistol with him. … at some point, said … “I’m gonna to kill myself.” He actually ended up firing the gun.
Tim had fired into the air. From that night on, Tom says people close to Tim noticed a change in him.
Tom Bass: Just the disgust … the disrespect towards women.
Robin Bass is Tom’s wife.
Peter Van Sant: Robin, did you ever see this?
Robin Bass: Oh, yes. … I think that he really thinks that women are inferior to him.
Tim got married young, at 22, just six weeks after Mandy’s murder. He married another Mount Baker graduate, Gina Malone. She says it was hardly a fairy-tale romance.
Gina Malone: I married him basically to get away from home.
Malone says throughout their nearly 30-year marriage, Tim was a controlling and emotionally abusive husband.
Gina Malone: I felt like his servant … “Go get me a drink. Go get — make me food.”
Tom Bass: I personally witnessed him tell Gina to shut up, you know, eight million times.
Gina Malone: It didn’t feel like a marriage. I felt like I went into prison, actually.
But Malone stuck with Tim and had three children with him.
Peter Van Sant: Why did you stay with him?
Gina Malone: I was scared. And I did leave, actually. I got a restraining order and left for two months. … at that point, I had started divorce proceedings … And he’s like. “I’m going to lie to the judge and get the kids taken away from you” … anything with my kids, I’m just like, OK. I’m going to do whatever I have to do to not lose my kids.
In Tim Bass, detectives believed they had their killer. But they wanted to cast a wider net of potential suspects to be sure they were on the right path.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: We developed this list … we called it a DNA sweep.
Investigators got DNA from three dozen more men in the area, but Tim Bass wouldn’t cooperate. So, cops called the bakery where Tim worked and spoke with his boss, Kim Wagner.
Kim Wagner: The Tim Bass I knew, he was different. … He was weird.
Peter Van Sant: How was he weird though?
Kim Wagner: You just never knew what Tim was gonna be at work that day. … The smallest thing would anger him. And, so, you’d tend to kinda stay away from people like that.
And Wagner says she experienced Tim’s low regard for women.
Kim Wagner: He never called me Kim. He always called me “woman. Woman.” And— which, you know, whatever.
As Wagner chatted with investigators, she realized they were looking at the Mandy Stavik murder, and figured out what they were really after.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Kim said, “Well, you guys want DNA, don’t you?” And I said, “Well, yes.” And she says, “I can get it for you.”
Kim Wagner: at this point I’m thinking, “I’m working with somebody that potentially did this to Mandy and I gotta know.”
She kept an eye on Tim Bass day after day — watching if he discarded anything that might have his saliva on it.
Peter Van Sant: You’d empty the garbage so it would be empty —
Kim Wagner: Yeah.
Peter Van Sant: — in case he dropped a cup or a bottle —
Kim Wagner: — a cup, yeah.
It took three long months, and then, finally, she saw him throw away a plastic cup — and later, a Coke can.
Kim Wagner: And I just stood there and went, “Oh, s—. It’s game time.” … I’m like, “this is jackpot.” And, so, this time my heart was like, “Ohh.” I was — was dying because there was a lotta people around. … So, I grabbed it and then I was like — [laughs] I threw it in my desk drawer.
And then she gave it to police.
Kim Wagner: My gut said it was him and my heart said it wasn’t, because I just didn’t really want to think that we all were betrayed.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: So, about three months later, we got the results from the state crime lab … and Katie from the crime lab says, “Kevin, we’ve got a match.”
Peter Van Sant: You hear those words. What was that moment like?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: You hear ’em, but you’re not sure — it’s almost like, “I’m dreaming. I’m gonna wake up at any moment in time” … I was just, like, “this is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me.” A lotta tears.
After the DNA match, they paid another visit to Tim as he was leaving work.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: I’m questioning him on, like, “Well, did you have any relationship with her?” … “No.” “So, you didn’t even kiss her or anything?” “No. — never.” … “Then why would your DNA be inside her?”
Det. Kevin Bowhay: He went from denial to, “How did you get my DNA, what are you talking about?”
Right after that conversation, on December 12, 2017 — 28 years after Mandy had been found dead — police arrested 50-year-old Tim Bass in the bakery parking lot. They charged him with kidnapping, rape and murder.
Det. Kevin Bowhay: As my partner’s cuffing him up, I say, “You’re under arrest for the murder of Mandy Stavik.”
Later that day, the sheriff came knocking on Mary Stavik’s door. It also happened to be her birthday.
Mary Stavik: And he says, “We’ve got him.” That’s all he says, “We got him.” and I says, “Who?” [laughs]. I really, really never dreamed … I really never dreamed it.
Mandy’s sister Molly was overwhelmed, too.
Molly Brighton: I was like, “Wow, what a present. What a birthday present.”
Detective Bowhay called Kim Wagner with the news. Her first thought was about Mandy.
Kim Wagner: And I asked if her family knew.
Peter Van Sant: What’d he say?
Kim Wagner [emotional]: That they knew, and so that’s why I did it. I just never forgot about Mandy.
But it’s a big leap between thinking you have your man — and convicting him in a court of law.
TIM BASS INTERROGATION: Are you trying to get me to admit to something I didn’t do, is that what you’re trying to do right now?
Tim Bass says he’s innocent and that he had a secret that explains everything.
Gina Malone: He said, “I just want to let you know I slept with Mandy.” … I was like, “What?”
THE CASE AGAINST TIM BASS
For prosecutor Dave McEachran, it’s been a long road to justice.
Dave McEachran [emotional]: She was such a good kid — it just shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened at all.
McEachran was 44 when Mandy Stavik was murdered. And now, at 73, he’s come out of retirement and insisted he not be paid as he leads the prosecution team in this deeply personal case.
Peter Van Sant: In your heart, as well as in your head, you wanted to finish this?
Prosecutor Dave McEachran: You bet.
After 30 years of heartache, fear and frustration, the trial of Mandy’s accused killer finally begins. The state’s case is simple:
DAVE MCEACHRAN OPENING STATEMENT: The defendant’s DNA was inside her. And we know that she was kidnapped, she was raped, and then she was killed.
Case closed? No, says defense attorney Stephen Jackson.
STEPHEN JACKSON: Tim Bass is not guilty. He didn’t kidnap anyone. He didn’t rape anyone. And he certainly didn’t kill anyone.
Jackson floats a theory to jurors that, if true, would be shocking: the suggestion that Tim Bass and Mandy Stavik had consensual sex in the hours before her murder.
STEPHEN JACKSON: There were no signs of a struggle. … Evidence of sexual contact is not evidence of rape.
In his interrogation after his arrest, Tim Bass claimed he had been having a secret affair with Mandy:
TIM BASS INTEROGATION: Everything I’ve said’s the truth.
TIM BASS INTEROGATION: It was more of a friendship-type thing, we just talked. Then it just kinda grew into more of a physical thing and we didn’t even really do it that much. It was more more kissin’ and stuff.
Starck Follis is one of Bass’ defense attorneys.
Peter Van Sant: Mandy had come home for Thanksgiving break. … Are you saying that when she came home, they met somewhere and had intimacy?
Starck Follis: That’s exactly what I’m saying.
Peter Van Sant: And what do you say to those who say, “Prove It?” That no one saw the two of them together. There are … no telephone calls made between the two of them.
Starck Follis: First of all, I don’t have to prove it. The burden of proof is on the state of Washington, not on the defense.
Remember, when Tim Bass was first questioned in 2013, he said he barely remembered who Mandy was. Now they were lovers?
Peter Van Sant: Why would his story evolve like that, in your opinion?
Prosecutor Dave McEachran: Because he’s making it up. He’s trying to cover himself.
Testifying for the prosecution, is the woman who helped retrieve the DNA evidence that linked bass to the crime scene.
Kim Wagner: I was terrified.
But Kim Wagner knew she had one more job to do.
KIM WAGNER [on witness stand]: If Tim was potentially involved in that crime, I wanted to do the right thing for Mandy.
But the defense is hoping science can support Bass’ account. They call Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, a forensic expert, to the stand. She says the semen could have been deposited up to two days before Mandy’s death.
ELIZABETH JOHNSON [on witness stand]: I would say most consistent is hours to days and probably within up to 48 hours.
The prosecution expert, the original medical examiner from 30 years ago, Dr. Gary Goldfogel, disagrees. He says various indicators say it was much sooner.
DAVE MCEACHRAN | PROSECUTOR: She was raped and then was killed and deposited in the river and drowned in the river. Would your findings be consistent in all regards with that hypothetical?
DR. GARY GOLDFOGEL: Yes, they would.
Now, it was time for a woman to testify who Bass knew very well: his now ex-wife Gina Malone. She divorced Tim after his arrest and claims about his affair with Mandy.
Gina Malone: I was so nervous, and I was … shaking … I don’t even want to see his face.
Malone testifies that she witnessed Tim ask his mother to lie for him — to point the finger at his own dad.
GINA MALONE [on witness stand]: He asked her, “Can we say dad did it?”
Bass’ father had died more than a decade earlier.
GINA MALONE [on witness stand]: She put her hands over her face and — like this [covers her face with her hands]. And paused for a minute and then said, “No.”
Tim Bass’ trial was turning into a family reunion from hell. His brother Tom took the stand.
Peter Van Sant: As you’re about to take the stand, what’s going through your mind? Did you sleep the night before?
Tom Bass: Very little. It was — it was agonizing … As hard as it was, I — I — knew I had to do it.
Tom Bass recounted that when Tim was under investigation, he told Tom he had slept with Mandy Stavik decades ago — and then asked Tom to tell police he had also slept with her.
TOM BASS [on witness stand]: I guess to make it look like she got around, that would be my only, you know, that’s probably why he said that … And then he asked me again. He said, “You believe me, right?” I didn’t know what to say.
And Tom Bass describes another damning incident after Tim was arrested.
TOM BASS [on witness stand]: He said that the cops are lying, everyone’s out to get him. He said, “I need a strong alibi or I’m going to prison.” He said, “Mom, maybe you can say that we were Christmas shopping. Tom, do what you can.”
Despite that testimony, defense attorney Shoshana Paige has an explanation for his behavior.
Shoshana Paige: Even innocent people, when they’re under that great weight of suspicion, can do things that can be interpreted as, “Well, only a guilty person would do this.”
As the nine-day trial wraps up, both sides make their final appeal to the jury.
STARCK FOLLIS | DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It’s easy to make the assumption that this pretty young woman would never have anything to do with Mr. Bass … Just because somebody hadn’t seen them together doesn’t mean that they hadn’t been together at some point. … this is an investigation … based on the faulty assumption that this is a sexual assault. And it may well not have been a sexual assault.
DAVE MCEACHRAN | PROSECUTOR: This was not a situation where there was consensual sex. There was no contact between these people. She was abducted. She was raped. And she was killed. … Hold him accountable.
The DNA was at the heart of Tim Bass’ trial. It would now be at the heart of the jury’s deliberation.
Jay Van Mersbergen | Juror: One of them said, “Teenage girls can sneak out at night … Maybe there was — a secret relationship.”
A JURY DECIDES
As the jury in the Mandy Stavik case deliberated, the hours felt like an eternity.
REPORTER: 30 years of wondering, two weeks of trial, 5 hours of deliberations.
Molly Brighton: I was terrified. I was — “every juror, please do the right thing. Do the right thing, do the right thing.”
Mary Stavik: They have to have 100% agreement. If one person doesn’t agree, you’ve got a hung jury and they have to start all over again. And I was praying that that would not happen.
Although no one testified to ever seeing Tim Bass and Mandy together, juror Ed Beaman says they had a lot to discuss.
Ed Beaman | Juror: When we go in and deliberate, we had to turn in to be investigators and attorneys, too. And we went through everything. … We had posters on the wall and maps. And we went through everything just like the attorneys did.
Jay Van Mersbergen | Juror: Maybe a quarter of the people tied up on whether or not there might be reasonable doubt.
Deliberations lasted a little over a day.
Twenty-nine years and six months to the day had passed since Mandy Stavik was killed. Would her family and friends finally get justice?
COURT CLERK: We the jury find the defendant Timothy Forrest Bass guilty …
Guilty of murder, rape and kidnapping.
Molly Brighton: It was such a relief. It was such a relief.
Peter Van Sant: For you, that moment when you’re seeing the family embrace and the tears, did you think, “This is what justice looks like?”
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Yeah, at that point, I thought, “This is why we do what we do.”
Prosecutor Dave McEachran: The harm that this caused is incalculable. … He has finally received justice. And to me, it can’t be enough time. He should never get out.
Six weeks later, it was time for sentencing. Mary and Molly were too emotional to speak, so Molly’s husband Mike Brighton spoke for them:
MIKE BRIGHTON: My family will never be healed, never be normal. Timothy Forest Bass must never be allowed to walk the earth as a free person. Never ever.
Then it was the Bass family’s turn to speak. Tim’s mom Sandra Bass insisted that her son never tried to blame his father for Mandy’s death:
SANDY BASS: That is totally false. … I do know my son is not guilty of this crime.
JUDGE OLSON: If you would like the opportunity, now is the time.
TIM BASS: I would.
Then, convicted murderer Tim Bass, whose DNA had sealed his fate, spoke in court for the first time:
TIM BASS: I would first like to say that I’m 100% innocent of this crime. Furthermore, I don’t believe I received a fair trial. In saying that, though, the better man in me says I should say very little today and give this day to the Stavik family.
Unswayed, the judge sentenced Bass to the maximum sentence: nearly 27 years. He couldn’t get life because prosecutors did not charge him with premeditated murder — they were not sure they could convict him of that charge.
JUDGE OLSON: For 30 years you have lived free from the responsibility for your acts, but that life has been a lie and tragically it has caught your family, your mother, your brother, your ex-wife and your children in its web.
Peter Van Sant: Tim says he’s an innocent man. What do you say?
Gina Malone: Guilty as hell. … I lived in prison for 28 years with him and now it’s his turn.
For Mary Stavik, who once thought she’d never see justice, Bass’ sentence gave her some solace.
Mary Stavik: Definitely closure, I feel. After all, they’ve got the guy that did it. … he’ll spend enough years in jail, so if he ever does get out, his life will be practically over.
Tom Bass now wonders if his brother considered other killings … possibly even Heather Backstrom or Merrilee Anderson.
Tom Bass: I think … potentially more could’ve been his next … victims.
Peter Van Sant: Do you sometimes think, “we’re lucky to be alive?”
Merrilee Anderson: Yup.
Heather Backstrom and Merrilee Anderson are proud of their roles in putting Tim Bass away.
Heather Backstrom: In the end, three women’s word or experiences are what took him down. And I love that.
Kim Wagner, part of that trio of women, credits Mandy’s hometown of Acme.
Kim Wagner: It really took a village. It took a whole community. The sheriff’s office never gave up on Mandy [emotional].
Det. Kevin Bowhay: We got the right guy. [pauses, emotional] Sorry. … The community could feel safe and be whole again. And I had hoped, at that point, the family could heal.
Peter Van Sant: In some ways, you could be whole again too, right?
Det. Kevin Bowhay: Yeah.
Tim Bass could be eligible for parole in 24 years.
A scholarship fund has been set up in Mandy Stavik’s name at Mount Baker High.
Molly named her daughter after her sister Mandy.