Johnson begins serving life sentence |

Johnson begins serving life sentence

— Convicted murderer Thomas Lee Johnson’s first month of a life sentence behind bars has been spent at a high-security prison in Limon.

Johnson began serving the life sentence at the 950-inmate facility Feb. 19. The 31-year-old man is serving the sentence for killing a Steamboat Springs woman in May 2000.

Johnson, 31, was assigned to the “Level 4” facility after undergoing comprehensive medical and mental evaluations at the Colorado Department of Corrections’ Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, said Heidi Hayes, a CDOC public information officer.

Johnson underwent the evaluations after Justice Joseph P. Quinn sentenced him to life in prison without parole Jan. 16. A Larimer County jury convicted Johnson of first-degree murder last November.

The jury determined the Longmont man planned and intended to kill 31-year-old Lori Bases at her Steamboat Springs apartment the evening of May 11, 2000.

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The jury reached the verdict after a 13-day trial, which was moved from Steamboat Springs to Fort Collins because of pretrial publicity.

The eight-woman, four-man jury determined Johnson killed Bases because he thought the woman was interfering with his relationship with Kimberly Goodwin.

Bases and Goodwin were good friends and had talked about moving in together prior to the murder.

Johnson was placed in the all-male prison after correction officials took into account the crime Johnson committed, his work history and education, Hayes said. Officials also took into account his health and mental state.

Officials used this information to determine an appropriate setting for Johnson to serve his sentence among the department’s 23 correctional facilities in the state.

Because of the evaluations, Johnson received a rating of “close custody,” Hayes said.

The rating is just below “administration segregation,” which is maximum security, but is ahead of “medium, minimum restrictive and minimum security,” Hayes said.

Limon is one of two prisons in the state that houses “close custody” inmates.

At the prison, inmates can have jobs, eat meals together and have access to a library, Hayes said.

“Inmates are not allowed outside the prison,” she said. “All of the movement inside is controlled.”

The prison in Limon, which is about 80 miles southeast of Denver in a rural part of the state, was built in 1991.

As Johnson serves his sentence, there is a possibility he could be shifted to another facility in the state.

Johnson’s custody level could change based on his health, age and behavior in prison, Hayes said.

“The custody level could decrease or increase, so there is a chance he could be moved.”

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