Prosecuting attorneys rest case |

Prosecuting attorneys rest case

Defense for Thomas Lee Johnson begins today

Gary E. Salazar

— After six days of testimony where 35 witnesses testified and 118 exhibits were entered into evidence, attorneys prosecuting Thomas Lee Johnson for the alleged murder of Lori Bases finished their case Wednesday evening.

At about 5 p.m., Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James notified Justice Joseph P. Quinn and the 12-member jury the prosecution had completed its case, in which they claim Johnson planned to kill the 31-year-old Bases May 11, 2000, at her Steamboat Springs home.

St. James and 14th Judicial District Attorney Paul McLimans also presented evidence that Johnson allegedly vandalized Bases’ sport utility vehicle about a month before the woman was killed at her Steamboat Boulevard apartment.

“At this point, the state would respectfully rest,” St. James said.

Immediately after this, Johnson’s attorney, Norm Townsend, requested Quinn to acquit his client of the three felony charges he faces: first-degree murder and criminal mischief and trespass.

“There is no evidence tying our client to the vandalism or the trespass,” Townsend said. “There is no evidence of deliberation or intent as to the murder charge.”

Quinn reviewing the evidence “in the most favorable light to the prosecution” denied Townsend’s motion.

“There is sufficient evidence to submit this case to the jury on all counts,” Quinn said.

Defense attorneys Townsend and Eric Vanatta will present their side of the case when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. today at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins.

“We have a number of frustrated witnesses that are here,” Townsend said. “I guess we will start tomorrow morning.”

At this point, it is uncertain if the 31-year-old Johnson will testify. At the end of Wednesday, Quinn advised Johnson he has the right to testify and asked if he would.

“I don’t know yet,” answered Johnson.

Johnson’s attorneys plan to present evidence that supports their stance their client did not plan to kill Bases when he drove from Denver to her apartment. They claim Johnson killed the woman in self-defense. They assert Bases came at Johnson with a knife.

They claim Bases had been keeping a knife in her bedroom since April 10, 2000, when her vehicle’s tires and interior were slashed. Townsend claims Bases was in a “frightened” and “paranoid” state because of cocaine use when she came after Johnson with a kitchen knife.

The defense’s claim is quite different from what St. James and McLimans have laid out in front of the jury, which consists of eight women and four men.

The prosecutors claim Johnson stabbed and slashed Bases with a knife more than 20 times because she was interfering with his relationship with Kimberly Goodwin.

Goodwin testified she had broken up with Johnson May 9, 2000. Goodwin also testified she and her “best friend,” Bases, were planning to move in together at the end of July 2000.

Prosecutors showed jurors that Johnson rented a Mitsubishi Montero in Denver the afternoon Bases was killed and drove to Steamboat Springs to confront the woman.

The evidence shows traces of Johnson’s blood were found in Bases’ apartment.

Ronald Arndt, who is a DNA specialist for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, testified Wednesday Johnson’s blood was found on the door to Bases’ apartment and on a kitchen counter and rug inside the residence.

Prosecutors also played for the jury a tape-recorded conversation between Johnson and his ex-wife, Michelle Linnebur. During the June 23, 2000, telephone conversation, which Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Richard Crotz listened to and recorded, Johnson told Linnebur he killed Bases.

Johnson “said Lori went back into the bedroom and came out with a knife,” Crotz testified Wednesday. “They started fighting and Lori cut him. He said they started fighting on the couch, and (Bases) was yelling ‘rape.’ When they fell to the ground, he felt the knife go through her.”

Prosecutors have also shown the jury evidence that supports their claim Johnson tried to cover up the alleged murder.

According to the evidence, Johnson drove to Texas and then to Wisconsin to visit his brother after Bases’ death.

In Wisconsin, Johnson’s brother, Scott Johnson, testified his brother used his identity to get a driver’s license there and apply for a passport.

Johnson, 32, also testified his younger brother was talking about going to Mexico.

Thomas Johnson never went to Mexico but came back to Colorado, where he renewed his relationship with Goodwin. The couple drove to Las Vegas and got married May 28, 2000.

The couple then moved to a Sacramento, Calif., suburb. Prior to Johnson’s arrest in June, he had met with Steamboat Springs Detective Robert DelValle three times.

DelValle testified Wednesday that in each of the three interviews, which were conducted May 12, June 1 and June 22, Johnson did not tell the truth.

On Wednesday morning, the jury was shown DelValle’s June 22 interview with Johnson in Folsom, Calif.

The two-hour video showed Johnson told police he said he rented the Mitsubishi Montero to go to Pueblo for his job, a delivery salesman.

At first, Johnson was relaxed and calm as he answered questions. Johnson’s demeanor changed during the interview when DelValle informed him he knew Johnson had rented the vehicle and drove to Steamboat Springs.

During the next couple of days, Townsend said he will introduce evidence Bases was not planning to move in with Goodwin. He also said he plans to submit evidence that supports his claim Bases was “frightened” and “paranoid” because of cocaine use the day she died.

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