Thomas Lee Johnson’s latest murder trial could be held in Routt County

Matt Stensland
Thomas Lee Johnson

— The man imprisoned for the May 2000 slaying of a Steamboat Springs woman is returning to Routt County, where a new trial might take place.

This would be the third time Thomas Lee Johnson has been tried for the murder of Lori Bases.

Johnson was originally sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 16, 2002, but the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in 2006 that the jury was given faulty instructions and overturned the conviction.

During Johnson’s retrial in 2009, it took jurors less than three hours to find Johnson guilty.

Earlier this year, Johnson won another appeal related to his 2009 retrial.

The three judges from the Colorado Court of Appeals who reviewed Johnson’s case agreed Johnson was denied his Sixth Amendment Constitutional right to defend himself. They ordered Johnson be given a new trial.

Johnson’s previous two trials were held in Fort Collins after requests for changes of venue.

Prosecutors are trying to get the latest trial in Routt County.

The Colorado Department of Corrections brought Johnson to Fort Collins for a hearing Monday.

“Our office stands ready to resume the prosecution of this case, and we will go wherever we need to go to do that,” District Attorney Brett Barkey said in a news release. “Having said that, I intend to ask the Larimer District Court to return the case to Routt County for trial.”

During the hearing, a judge ordered that Johnson be returned to Routt County for a hearing at 3 p.m. Sept. 11, but it is not certain that the new trial will be held here.

The Bases murder was a high-profile case in the early 2000s and garnered significant media attention.

“The media attention that created the change of venue in the first place is 14 years ago,” Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen said Tuesday.

He thinks a fair trial can be held in Routt County because of the turnover of residents.

Karzen said Johnson is being represented by an attorney. His trial has to be held by Feb. 12, unless Johnson agrees to a delay.

“Generally, it’s a full new trial,” Karzen said.

A judge could allow testimony from previous trial transcripts from witnesses who died or are otherwise truly unavailable, Karzen said.

Johnson was suspected of stabbing Bases more than 20 times. Authorities believed he killed the 31-year-old woman because he thought she was interfering with his relationship with Kim Goodwin, a good friend of Bases.

Johnson claimed he killed Bases in self-defense.

Once Johnson is returned to Routt County, it will mean four people are being held at Routt County Jail awaiting murder trials.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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