Justice for Lori Lyn Bases
After the guilty verdict was handed down Saturday, the focus shifted from Thomas Lee Johnson to the life of the 31-year-old woman he brutally murdered on May 11, 2000.
Before Judge Michael O’Hara sentenced Johnson to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the prosecution played a video memorializing the life of Lori Lyn Bases. At that moment, for those who did not know her, she became more than just the name of a woman who was slashed and stabbed 20 times by Johnson in her apartment.
The song, “In the Arms of an Angel,” by Sarah McLachlan, played while dozens of photos of Bases were shown. Bases could be seen hugging family members, hiking across Devil’s Causeway, skiing, biking and a variety of other activities living in Steamboat Springs offered her.
While friends and family members wept, O’Hara shielded his eyes from those in the audience.
O’Hara thanked the family for the video and said it provided some insight into Bases’ life.
“Even though it’s a little bit hard for me to watch, I’m grateful you brought that and played it today,” O’Hara said.
Bases’ mother, Sherry Mesecher, was among those who spoke at the sentencing hearing.
“The horrendous pain and suffering you have caused our family is immeasurable,” Mesecher said.
Mesecher said she would be forever haunted after going to Bases’ apartment and seeing the blood-soaked carpet.
“What you really deserve is a lethal injection,” Mesecher said. “Only a monster could do what you did. You are a vicious killer.”
Bases’ sister, Kimberly Cameron, described how she scoured Bases’ apartment on her hands and knees looking for clues that might help police find Bases’ killer.
“The harsh reality is, he still gets to live his life,” Cameron said.
This was the third time family and friends of Bases have had to endure a trial. Johnson’s first two convictions were overturned on appeal. This was the first time the trial was held in Routt County.
“If someone would have told me I’d be doing this for a third time, I would never have believed them,” Cameron said.
O’Hara acknowledged the frustrations of family members, who are hopeful this conviction will stick.
“I know that I cannot know what you went through and continue to go through,” O’Hara said to the family. “I’m sorry for what happened. I’m also sorry that this judicial system for which I work appears to be more concerned with the rights of some over the rights of others, and I do understand how it can look like that sometimes, and I’m sorry for that impression.”
Johnson chose not to speak during the hearing.
“There is nothing that can be said that can in any way justify the taking of a life of another person, particularly someone who, under any analysis of the facts, it seems to me, did not have to die,” O’Hara said to Johnson.
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Failure to protect: A system meant to support defendants often backfires on victims of domestic violence
Editor’s note: To protect the identity of the victim in this story, Steamboat Pilot & Today has used a pseudonym to identify the victim and the defendant. This story focuses on domestic violence.