Sunday, December 3, 2000
Steamboat Springs About seven months after the brutal murder of a Steamboat Springs woman, the criminal case against the alleged killer takes a first major step today.
Since September, the case against Thomas Lee Johnson, 30, has been delayed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's crime laboratory. Staffing shortages at the CBI have held up study of evidence and it has taken the laboratory longer to send results back to local authorities. Among the things the lab is analyzing are blood and clothing samples.
Johnson is accused of stabbing to death 31-year-old Lori Bases in her Steamboat Springs apartment in May.
A preliminary hearing is set for 9 a.m. today inside Routt County Judge James Garrecht's courtroom. The hearing is expected to go forward despite the fact the defense has yet to see all the evidence collected by investigators.
"It is a detriment," public defender Norm Townsend said. "I have not gotten all the evidence yet. There are a number of things I have not seen, but we are going to move forward."
Townsend said he has not received a videotape that was made of the crime scene nor all the results from evidence tested at the laboratory.
"Had this been the trial, we would not go forward," Townsend said. "But this is something that is not going to stop me from moving forward."
This morning's court proceeding will determine if there is probable cause for Johnson's case to be bound over for trial.
Johnson has been charged with two felonies: first-degree murder and felony murder.
Both felonies carry a sentence of life imprisonment or death.
Johnson has been in custody in the Routt County Jail in Steamboat Springs since June 23. He is being held without bond.
Bases was found dead by her roommate in their apartment, 1620 Steamboat Blvd., in the early morning hours of May 12. She had been stabbed numerous times and had wounds throughout her body.
A preliminary hearing for Johnson was scheduled in October after a hearing in September had to be postponed. The October hearing was not held because results from evidence being analyzed at the state laboratory were not available. The reason for the delay was because a laboratory agent at the CBI facility had to take a leave of absence for health reasons, said Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James, who is prosecuting the case.
The absence created a backlog at the laboratory.