News

Mandy Stavik

Detectives make arrest in 28-year-old murder

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Each year about this time, local law enforcement reaches out to the community in an effort to solve one of the county’s most perplexing and longest unsolved crimes. This year, detectives announced a probable solution to the mystery.

Mandy Stavik vanished in 1989 on the Friday after Thanksgiving while jogging near her home east of Bellingham. Her body was found three days later in the South Fork of the Nooksack River.

Last week, detectives arrested a man in connection with the rape and murder of the Mount Baker High School honors student nearly 30 years ago. Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said DNA evidence led to the arrest of Timothy Bass, 50, of Everson.

Sheriff’s detectives arrested Bass on suspicion of murder, kidnapping and rape. He appeared in court last week where bail was set at $1 million. It wasn’t immediately clear if Bass had obtained a lawyer.

Long a suspect in Stavik’s murder, Bass had refused to provide investigators with a DNA sample. A sample was obtained through cooperation with one of Bass’ coworkers. A match against DNA removed from Stavik’s body led prosecutors to charge Bass with the murder.

“Among the potential suspects that emerged in recent years was Timothy Forrest Bass,” the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office noted in a press release. “At the time of Mandy’s murder, Bass lived on Strand Road, not far from Mandy’s residence.

“Deputies forwarded DNA samples from Bass to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory who reported that his DNA matched DNA recovered from Mandy’s body in 1989. The laboratory determined that the match probability was 1 in 11 quadrillion,” detectives noted in their statement.

Investigators obtained the DNA in September, Elfo said. Bass had refused to provide a DNA sample when contacted by Sheriff’s deputies. His employer also refused a request to give investigators DNA evidence without a warrant or subpoena. A coworker did agree to provide items that gave investigators Bass’ DNA.

A 1989 graduate of Mount Baker High, Stavik was home on break from her freshman year at Central Washington University when she disappeared.
When her German shepherd returned home alone, a search for the 18-year-old woman began.

A volunteer firefighter found her body during a search three days later in the South Fork of the Nooksack River. The discovery shocked the close-knit rural community.

The cause of Stavik’s death was listed as not inconsistent with drowning. Authorities said she may have been alive when she was dumped in the river.
Bass initially told authorities he had had no contact with Stavik, according to charging documents. But he later allegedly said they’d had a consensual sexual encounter before she went missing. Detectives said Bass may have been obsessed with the athletic young woman.

Bass does not have a criminal history in Washington, according to the Bellingham Herald.

“The investigation into the kidnapping, rape and murder of Mandy Stavik has remained a top priority for the Sheriff’s Office,” Elfo said. “Over the course of the last 28-plus years, hundreds of leads emerged and were systematically investigated. Over the past decades, the community was repeatedly asked for assistance in solving the case. Information was received, pertaining to hundreds of potential suspects and leads that were followed up locally, in other states and foreign countries, including Asia.

“During the course of the investigation, deputies consulted closely with forensic experts and renowned homicide investigators.”

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