Johnson’s days now limited
Steamboat Springs — The days are dwindling for Thomas Lee Johnson in the Routt County Detention Center.
On Wednesday, jail cell 190 in Cellblock E was empty in the facility. For the past 16 months, Johnson has occupied the high-security cellblock for the most part alone.
But as Johnson’s murder trial in Fort Collins closes in, the detention center’s days of housing Routt County’s only murder suspect is coming to a close.
Johnson was booked into the jail on the evening of June 23, 2000. The 31-year-old man was arrested for the death of Lori Bases.
Bases, 31, was found dead in her Steamboat Boulevard apartment about a month earlier. Johnson allegedly stabbed the woman to death. Johnson faces charges of first-degree murder. He also faces charges of criminal mischief and trespass for allegedly vandalizing Bases’ sport utility vehicle about a month before she was killed.
On Tuesday morning, Johnson was transported to the Larimer County Justice Center for a court hearing. The trial has been moved from Steamboat Springs because the presiding judge, Justice Joseph Quinn, ruled extensive media coverage made it difficult to select a fair jury in Routt County.
Johnson was expected to return to Routt County after Tuesday’s court hearing, but Quinn granted a defense motion for Johnson to undergo a second mental evaluation. Deputies are expected to transport Johnson to the state’s mental hospital in Pueblo sometime this week.
“There is a possibility he will not be back in Routt County,” Sheriff John Warner said. “But I don’t know for sure.”
Quinn granted Johnson a second chance to undergo a mental evaluation because during the first evaluation earlier this year, he did not cooperate. Johnson, on the advice of his court-appointed attorneys, was advised not to answer questions related to the alleged murder.
Quinn has ordered the mental evaluation needs to be done by Oct. 18 and has scheduled a hearing for the case Oct. 19. The trial is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 29.
In the 474 days Johnson has been in custody at the jail, he has had some run-ins with staff and other inmates, Warner said.
“We have had some problems with him,” Warner said. “Nothing criminal.
“All I can say is he has not been a model inmate.”
Johnson was involved in an incident where another inmate allegedly threw tomato soup on him. On the evening of Aug. 19, Johnson allegedly got into an argument with a cellmate, Michael Pope, during dinner in the cellblock commons area. During the argument, Pope allegedly threw his bowl of soup at Johnson, who was not injured.
Pope now faces a misdemeanor charge of harassment. After the incident, Pope, who is in jail for motor vehicle theft, was moved to a different cellblock.
“At some times, Johnson has been alone,” Warner said of the cellblock that can hold five inmates. “Other times there have been other high-security inmates with him.”
As a high-security inmate, Johnson is allowed to leave his cellblock only to work out in the recreation room for about an hour.
“He is never let out of the cellblock unless he goes to the recreation room,” Warner said. “When he does, he chooses to go alone.”
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