Wednesday, October 25, 2000
Steamboat Springs A preliminary hearing for a man accused of murdering his estranged wife's best friend has been set for the first week in December.
The court hearing for Thomas Lee Johnson, 29, is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 4 in Routt County Judge James Garrecht's courtroom.
Johnson allegedly killed Lori Bases, who was found dead by her roommate in their apartment, 1620 Steamboat Blvd., in the early morning hours of May 12. Bases had been stabbed numerous times and had wounds throughout her body, including her neck.
Johnson has been charged with two felonies: first-degree murder and felony murder. Both charges are Class 1 felonies and carry a sentence of life imprisonment or death.
Johnson has been in custody since June 23. He is being held without bond.
The preliminary hearing was scheduled after a brief court appearance by Johnson Wednesday afternoon.
Garrecht set the hearing, although the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's crime laboratory still has not sent back test results on evidence taken from the crime scene.
Johnson's attorney, Norm Townsend, asked Garrecht to postpone setting a date for the preliminary hearing until those results are complete.
"There are still discoveries that we don't have," Townsend said.
A preliminary hearing, which will determine if there is probable cause for Johnson's case to go to trial, had to be postponed in September because of incomplete laboratory results.
The reason for the delay is a laboratory agent at the CBI facility has had to take a leave of absence for health reasons, said Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James, who is prosecuting the case
The absence has created a backlog at the crime laboratory, St. James said. St. James urged Garrecht to schedule the preliminary hearing. After the court proceeding, he declined to elaborate.
Townsend is skeptical that the CBI laboratory will have completed the tests by the time of the preliminary hearing, he said.
"This occurred in May and it is already November," Townsend said. "They have not completed all of it. I have been told the rest will be done in the next 30 days."
After the murder, Steamboat Springs police sent blood and clothing samples and other evidence to the state's laboratory for analysis. When the evidence was sent, J.D. Hays, director of public safety services, was told by CBI officials that the results from the evidence would be available within 60 to 90 days.
Johnson was arrested for the murder June 23 after police monitored a telephone conversation between Johnson and his ex-wife, Michelle Linnebur, in which he allegedly admitted to his ex-wife that he planned to hurt Bases when he went to her apartment May 11, according to a court file.
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