Prosecution focuses on day Bases was allegedly killed
Fort Collins — The first day of testimony in the Thomas Lee Johnson murder trial focused on the day Lori Bases was killed.
After opening statements were delivered by 14th Judicial Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James and Johnson’s court-appointed attorney, Norm Townsend, the prosecution started to lay its foundation Johnson planned to kill Lori Bases.
The prosecution will continue to present evidence when the trial resumes today at 9 a.m.
On Wednesday, Steamboat Springs Police Officer Jason Patrick was the first witness to testify at the trial being held at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins.
Patrick was the first officer to arrive at Bases’ Steamboat Boulevard apartment just after midnight May 12, 2000.
Patrick testified Bases’ roommate Ron Farmer was “screaming and yelling” when he arrived at the apartment.
After placing Farmer in handcuffs for the officer’s safety, Patrick said he walked into the living room where he found the 31-year-old woman lying face down.
During Patrick’s testimony, St. James, using an overhead projector, showed a picture of Bases to the jury police took the night of the alleged murder. Patrick testified that he went into the living room and observed Bases and touched one of her calves.
“Her skin was somewhat firm, but it didn’t feel normal,” Patrick said. “Her skin was white and almost blue. It was cold.”
After Patrick’s testimony, prosecutors called seven witnesses to the stand in regard to the silver 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport Johnson rented in Denver May 11, 2000.
Three employees from an Enterprise Rental Car branch in the Denver area testified Johnson rented the sport utility vehicle at 1:51 p.m. Mark Halliday, a manager at the branch, testified Johnson said he was going to Pueblo on business.
“He said he needed the vehicle for one day,” Halliday said. “He was going to drive to Pueblo and back.”
When the rental company got the SUV back, it was dirty and had been wrecked, Halliday said.
Steamboat Springs Detective Robert DelValle testified Johnson wrecked the SUV on Rabbit Ears Pass, about 10 miles east of Steamboat Springs. DelValle testified the SUV struck a green reflector post at about milepost 147. Debris from the SUV was found in the area. The pieces of plastic molding, which were about the size of an adult thumb, matched the moldings that were repaired because of the accident, DelValle said.
Colorado State Trooper Brian Bagley was the last witness to testify. Bagley reconstructed the accident. He testified Johnson was traveling westbound toward Steamboat Springs when the accident occurred. Defense attorneys did not question a majority of the witnesses called to the stand.
“We don’t have any dispute that the SUV hit the post,” said Eric Vanatta, who is assisting Townsend.
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