"Mandy was special. She really was. I don't know why she was or how she got to be that way. I kind of learned that the living have to go on to honor the goodness in what you've lost."
-Mary Stavik, Mandy's mother
It was the 24th of November 1989. A Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. Eighteen year old Mandy Stavik was home for the Thanksgiving break. She was in her first year at Central Washington University. Mandy lived in Alaska until her parents divorced and after the divorce her mother, Mary, moved with her three children, Mandy, her sister Molly and brother Lee, to a new house in Acme, Washington, United States. Acme is a tiny town down Highway 9 in Washington State's Whatcom County. It was a town where everyone knew each other and it had a safe and friendly feel about it.
Mandy's family life had not been easy but she loved spending time with them whenever she got the chance. Her older brother Brent was shot and killed in Anchorage in 1975. So Mandy knew the importance of living life to the fullest and appreciating those around her.
Mandy was a popular girl in the community. She had a boyfriend Rick Zender and was a determined and capable young woman. Mandy loved being outside and enjoyed everything from cheerleading to softball and running track. So it was no surprise that even though it was the day after Thanksgiving and she just had a large dinner, Mandy decided to go out for a run.
Mandy more or less always ran the same route when she was home in Acme. Normally her mother Mary would cycle beside her but that day, Mandy went out at around 2.30pm with her German Shepherd dog Kyra instead. Her usual route was along the street where her house was, Strand Road, and then she would run to the Nooksack River and then back.
That day, David Craker, a delivery man saw Mandy run past his van on Strand Road. She was heading in the direction of her home, running back towards her house. Mandy's brother Lee was at a friend's house on Strand Road and he saw Mandy run past too towards the house.
But even though Mandy appeared to be on her way home and was close to home, she never made it home. And her family were extremely worried when her dog Kyra appeared on the doorstep alone.
Mary contacted Rick and Mandy's friends but none of them knew where she was.
Mandy was reported missing and a search began.
Three days later on the 27th of November, Mandy's body was found. Mandy's body was in the river just a few miles from her home. The section of the river had knee deep water. Mandy's clothes were missing. She was naked except for her shoes and socks.
Mandy had been sexually assaulted and drowned.
Police believed that Mandy was abducted by somebody driving as she was a fast runner. They believed her dog was kicked into a ditch and Mandy was brought to a location five miles from where she was running and sexually assaulted. Police believed that after Mandy was raped, she tried to escape. They believed that as she had scratches on her arms and legs which looked like they were caused by the Blackberry bushes. They believed she was then struck over the head and was unconscious when she was dumped in the river and left to drown. The cause of death was determined as asphyxia by drowning.
Even though DNA was in its infancy in 1989, police managed to gather DNA from inside Mandy's body. There were no matches on their system. They took saliva swabs from thirty men in the community but none were a match.
Mandy and Rick
Police looked into whether Mandy was followed. David Craker told police that when he saw Mandy run past, he noticed a truck with a lighter on top close behind her. He observed two people in their 30s inside the truck. Another man was seen close to where she went missing and a sketch was drawn up. Police also spoke to Rick. They dated on and off for three years. He was cooperative and gave police all the details they required and was quickly ruled out as a suspect.
The case went cold.
In June 2013, two women, Heather Backstrom and Merrilee Anderson, both took their children to a water park. They were there with a group of other mothers. They had both gone to Mount Baker High, the same school that Mandy had attended and they discussed many things that day with the other mothers and one of the things they discussed was the Mandy Stavik case. Heather and Merrilee weren't friends, they barely knew each other. When they were talking about Mandy's case, Merrilee told the others that she knew who killed Mandy. She told the group that it was a man called Tim Bass. Heather couldn't believe it as she believed it was Tim too. Yet, even though Tim lived on the same street as Mandy did and Mandy was friends with his younger brother, he was never on the police radar and never asked to provide a DNA sample.
But, both Heather and Merrilee had a gut feeling it was him based on their own experiences with him.
Heather told 48 Hours that when she was fifteen and when Tim was twenty two, she sat beside him in a friend's truck with other friends. They all decided to go to Dairy Queen after a softball game. Tim told her she had beautiful eyes and began rubbing a pen along her knees. The incident made her nervous.
Merrilee knew Tim because he was friends with her husband. When she was at home one night with her son, he knocked on her door. Her husband wasn't there. Tim asked her if he could use her phone to call his wife as he had been hunting all day. But when he dialed a number, she heard a disconnected tone and she believed he had deliberately dialed an incorrect number. Tim walked through her kitchen and to her bedroom and told her he was in love with her and that he wanted to make love to her.
Merrilee told Tim to leave but he wouldn't leave until she threatened to call the police.
Both women had long believed that Tim was involved in Mandy's murder and after discussing their own experiences, they decided to tell the police.
Tim's family home was a few houses down from Mandy's family home. The families knew each other and Tim had attended the same school as Mandy had. He was twenty two years old when she was murdered. He had never been contacted by the police in relation to Mandy's death. In fact, neither Tim, his brother Tom or their father Bud had ever been asked to provide a sample of their DNA.
Just six weeks after Mandy's murder, Tim married Gina Malone and moved out of the area. When police went to speak to him, he was still married to Gina and they had three children and lived in Everson. He was working as a delivery man for a commercial bakery.
Police went to Tim's home to speak to him. When they asked him about Mandy, he appeared not to know who they were referring to at first and police immediately found that strange as everybody who had lived in Acme knew Mandy's name and what happened to her. The other thing that caused concern was when they asked him to provide a sample of his DNA. He refused as he said he did not trust them. Gina told police that the day Mandy was abducted and killed, she was with Tim.
Police went to his workplace and spoke with his manager, Kim Wagner, but Tim's employers did not consent to them looking through his details and delivery route without a Subpoena. At that time, Kim was not aware that police were investigating Mandy's murder. When she discovered a couple of years later, that it was in relation to Mandy's murder, Kim told them that she would find something that Tim used that they could hopefully obtain his DNA from.
It took three months but one day, Kim saw Tim drink at work from one of the cooler's plastic cups and throw it away. Kim took it from the garbage along with a Coca Cola can.
Evidence photo of the Coca Cola can and plastic cup
When investigators sent the cup for testing, it was confirmed that the DNA retrieved from it matched the one taken from Mandy Stavik's body.
Tim was arrested in 2017. When police told him they had obtained a sample of his DNA and it was a match to DNA found inside Mandy, he claimed that he had been having a secret sexual relationship with Mandy. Police did not believe him and he was charged with Mandy's murder.
Tim pleaded not guilty.
It was the Prosecution's case that Tim would see Mandy run past his house from time to time and that day, the 24th of November, he abducted and then raped Mandy, struck her over the head as she tried to run away and dumped her in the river when she was unconscious and left her to drown.
His wife, who had initially provided Tim with an alibi, testified and said that he told her she would have to lie for him and say she was with him that day or else he would have to go to prison. She also claimed that he asked his mother Sandra if he could say his deceased father Bud had killed Mandy. But Sandra claimed that no such conversation took place.
Gina claimed that throughout her marriage to Tim, Tim was abusive and controlling. He told her what to wear, where she could go and who she could see. Gina said that she only stayed with him for the children.
Tim's brother Tom testified that Tim asked him to say he had a sexual relationship with Mandy too but Tom refused. Tom claimed that when Tim's girlfriend ended their relationship when he was in High School, Tim changed. He had a pistol in his bedroom that night and fired it into the air and since that day he despised women. He had no respect for them. Tom heard him telling Gina to "shut up" multiple times and Kim Wagner said that Tim never used her name, he referred to her as woman.
Dr Gary Goldfogel, the Whatcom County Medical Examiner, who performed Mandy's Autopsy gave evidence. He testified that there were no defensive or combative wounds on Mandy's body. He believed that the DNA that was found inside Mandy's body was there for less than twelve hours.
It was the Prosecution's case that Tim and Mandy did not have a secret relationship. Nobody ever saw them together and no telephone calls had taken place between them.
It was the Defense's case that Tim and Mandy were in a secret relationship and Tim's DNA was found because he had a sexual relationship with Mandy. They called their own Expert, Dr Elizabeth Johnson, a forensic DNA expert, to testify. She claimed that the DNA that was found inside Mandy's body could have been there for several days.
According to Tim, Mandy called to his house on the 24th of November but he didn't rape or kill her. His Attorney, Stephen Jackson, told the Jury that Tim's DNA was found because he had consensual sex with Mandy hours before she was murdered. He told them that evidence of sexual contact is not evidence of rape and he referred them to the fact that Mandy had no defensive wounds on her body.
On the 24th of May 2019, the jury convicted Tim of murder.
At his sentencing hearing, Tim addressed the court:
"I would first like to say that I am 100% innocent of this crime. I wish no ill will towards anyone here, not even today. But I am having a hard time with this."
He was sentenced to the maximum term of 320 months in prison. Prosecutors could not seek a life sentence as he had not been charged with premeditated murder. It took almost thirty years for Mandy's case to be solved. The case of Brent Stavik, Mandy's brother, remains unsolved.
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"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
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