Watch CBSN Live

DNA on Coke can leads to arrest in 1989 rape, murder of Washington teen

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Authorities have arrested a man in connection with the rape and murder of a teenager near Bellingham nearly 30 years ago.

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said DNA evidence led to the arrest of 50-year-old Timothy Bass of Everson on Tuesday, The Bellingham Herald reported .

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

Mandy Stavik vanished in 1989 on the Friday after Thanksgiving while jogging near her home east of Bellingham in Acme. A 1989 graduate of Mount Baker High, Stavik was home on break from her freshman year at Central Washington University.

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.

"I think this about the biggest case ever in Whatcom County," Elfo said on Wednesday, adding that detectives have worked the case "doggedly" for years.

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.

Elfo said Bass was a neighbor of Stavik's at the time.

Bass was a suspect for several years, but his DNA wasn't obtained until September, Elfo said. Evidence presented in court Wednesday showed that Bass's DNA was obtained through a co-worker. According to the Bellingham Herald, Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran said that the co-worker gave detectives a plastic glass and Coke can Bass had drank from.

"Deputies forwarded DNA samples from Mr. Bass to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory who reported that this DNA matched DNA recovered from Mandy's body in 1989," Elfo said.

Mount Baker Superintendent Charles Burleigh said Wednesday that the tragic story has resonated through the community.

"This is something that the Mount Baker community has some very deep feelings about," Burleigh said. "People here are still impacted by that case. To hear that they are making an arrest is big news."