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Johnson back in Routt County

Gary E. Salazar

— Before convicted murderer Thomas Lee Johnson starts serving a life sentence in prison, his last two months will be spent in the Routt County Detention Center.
Johnson, who was convicted of first-degree murder by a Larimer County jury, was transported from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs Thursday.
Norm Townsend, Johnson’s attorney, has not been available to comment on whether he will appeal the verdict.
The previous day, the 12-member jury determined the 31-year-old Johnson planned to kill Lori Bases the evening of May 11, 2000, at her Steamboat Springs apartment.
The jury also found Johnson guilty of criminal trespass and mischief for the vandalism done to Bases’ sport utility vehicle about a month before she died.
Because Johnson has been convicted of the crimes, Routt County Sheriff John Warner said his staff is treating Johnson differently than most inmates in the facility.
“At this point, he is in a single cell by himself,” Warner said. “He is a convicted felon, so the level of security we have placed on him is much higher.
“It is at the highest level. It will be in place until he leaves the facility.”
Johnson was brought back to Steamboat Springs because Routt County is responsible for holding him until he is sentenced at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 in Fort Collins.
Johnson’s trial was held in Larimer County because Justice Joseph P. Quinn changed the venue because of pretrial publicity in Routt County.
Because the trial was moved, Warner is anticipating it will cost his office between $10,000 and $12,000.
During the 20 days Johnson was in Fort Collins, Warner contracted the services of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to provide security.
“When the trial got moved, we had a couple of choices,” Warner said. “We could have sent down two deputies to provide the security in court. What we ended up doing is having Larimer County provide the security.
“It was a whole lot cheaper to do that.”
Warner’s office will pay the Larimer County’s Sheriff’s Office for Johnson’s cost of care at its detention facility. Routt County will also pay Larimer County its cost for providing two deputies in court and the transportation costs.
During the 13-day trial, Johnson had to be shuttled back and forth from the Larimer County Detention Center to its justice facility in downtown Fort Collins.
Although the murder charge carries a mandatory life sentence without parole, Johnson could not be sentenced for the criminal mischief and vandalism without a presentence investigation.
For the mischief charge, Johnson could get an additional 16 years in prison. The trespass charge carries a prison term of between six months and eight years.
In the time before the sentencing hearing, Warner decided to bring Johnson back to Routt County.
“It was senseless for him to stay in Larimer County,” Warner said. “If he would have stayed there, we would have had to pay the costs to house him there. We brought him back because it is cheaper for us. It is better use of the taxpayers’ money.”
Prior to the trial, Johnson had already been a costly inmate, Warner said.
Johnson has been in the Routt County Jail since his June 23, 2000, arrest. Usually, Warner would try to recoup the cost of care, $42.50 a day, from Johnson, but can’t because the Longmont man is going to prison.
“We will not see any of the money from him,” Warner said.
According to court testimony, Johnson killed the 31-year-old Bases because he felt she was interfering with his relationship with Kimberly Goodwin.
The jury rejected Johnson’s claim that he killed Goodwin’s best friend in self-defense.

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205
or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com


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