A can of Coke may have cracked a decades-old cold case murder

A can of Coke may have cracked a decades-old cold case murder

An open murder case can destroy a community. If an innocent person has been slain in a small town, then many inhabitants will never feel safe there again. Despite the best intentions of modern police precincts, there are some homicides that will never be solved, and the colder a case gets, the harder it is to close. Every day, week and month that passes means that new leads are less likely to crop up, that crucial evidence will be lost or dismissed, and that the memories of potential will cloud.

However, advancements in forensic technology means that more and more criminals are finally being brought to justice. Today, DNA analysis is so precise, that a drop of blood is enough to convict someone, and a fingerprint capable of delivering a verdict. This week, a murder which has gone unsolved for the past 29 years may well have been cracked thanks to something as mundane as an ordinary can of Coke.

Cans of soda on a shelf. Credit: Getty

On November 24, 1989, 18-year-old Amanda Stavik, who was home from University during Thanksgiving, vanished while jogging near her home on Strand Road in Clipper, Washington state. She was last seen at approximately 2:30 pm, accompanied by her German shepherd Kyra. After she had been gone for several hours, her family filed a missing person report with the local authorities, who immediately launched a search for the girl.

Amanda's body was recovered three days later, dredged out of the Nooksack River; little more than three miles away from her  family home. The coroner's report determined that the cause of death was drowning, and an autopsy performed by Dr Gary Goldfogel discovered a blood clot on the back of Stavik’s head which indicated blunt-force-trauma, as well as evidence of a violent sexual assault. Despite the best efforts of the Whatcom County Sheriff's department, the case remained unsolved for nearly three decades.

However, a break in the case finally came in August 2017; one which led to the arrest of 51-year-old Timothy Bass. Bass had been a suspect for a number of years, but a lack of material evidence meant that charging him was impossible. However, a colleague of his who worked at the Franz Bakery Outlet learned he was a suspect, and crapped the Coke can he'd been drinking from at the scene. She then presented this evidence to detectives who sent it to a crime lab, and who compared with it the DNA recovered from the crime scene. Bass' DNA was a one-in-11-quadrillion match.

An image of Amanda Stavik. Credit: Twitter/New York Post

Commenting on the case, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo stated: "I think the highlight of my career, and it’s been a long one ... is being able to tell Mrs. Stavik that the case had finally been solved. People have travelled the world trying to solve the case. There’s been lots of effort from a lot of different detectives, generations of detectives have come and retired. This has been something our deputies have worked long and hard on. We’re really proud of people that put work into the case and we will hopefully have justice for Mandy and her family."

Bass' trial is scheduled to begin in April of 2019.