Suspect's annulment hearing delayed

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— Kimberly Goodwin-Johnson expected to walk into Routt County Court Friday afternoon and be granted an annulment that would end her three-month marriage to a man accused of killing her best friend.

But the decision never came as Judge James Garrecht gave Goodwin-Johnson's husband, Thomas Lee Johnson, two weeks to reply to his wife's annulment request.

However, when she returns to court next month, Goodwin-Johnson may have to rely on a different reason for seeking the annulment other than saying Johnson tricked her into marriage by telling her he didn't kill her friend, Lori Bases of Steamboat Springs.

At the end of the nearly two-hour hearing Friday, Garrecht scheduled a new annulment hearing for Oct. 13.

Johnson successfully argued Friday that he hadn't had enough time to respond to his wife's annulment request, which was filed June 30. Dressed in a Routt County Jail-issue gray sweatshirt and orange pants, Johnson told Garrecht he needed more time to secure an attorney and prepare his case.

"I was surprised when I got this," Johnson said. "I did not know how to respond. In jail, I do not know my rights. I apologize for my appearance, for a lack of effort. There were other issues that needed to be addressed first."

Johnson was arrested June 23 on suspicion of killing Bases on May 12 in her Steamboat Springs apartment. The Longmont man has been charged with first-degree murder and felony murder. Both charges carry a sentence of life imprisonment or death. He is being held in jail without bond. The felony murder charge stems from authorities' contention that he killed Bases while attempting to rape her.

Goodwin-Johnson claims she wasn't in a proper state of mind when she agreed to marry Johnson in Las Vegas less than three weeks after Bases was stabbed to death. Goodwin-Johnson has claimed in court documents that Johnson told her he didn't kill Bases and would help solve the murder.

"She was led to believe he was a person she could rely upon; a person of trustworthiness; a person who could help her through this tough time," Goodwin-Johnson's attorney, Claire Sollars, said Friday. "That was not the case. Her perception of him changed. Her understanding changed."

Proving that Johnson's claims of innocence to his wife were false would mean Sollars would have to convince a court that Johnson did in fact commit the murder.

"The petitioner (Goodwin) would have to prove clear and convincingly that the defendant killed Lori Bases," Judge Garrecht told Sollars. "It will be up to the petitioner to prove that he is guilty of the allegations.

"That is going to be tough. Johnson is innocent until proven guilty."

Johnson's criminal defense attorney also brought up his legal concerns before the court Friday.

Norm Townsend argued that his client's statements to Goodwin-Johnson during their marriage fall under "marital privilege." That normally means they can be kept confidential. However, Townsend is concerned that those statements might be made public if Goodwin-Johnson is granted an annulment.

"Would the privilege end if the marriage were annulled?" Townsend asked. "I don't know the answer to that question."

During Johnson's argument as to why he needed more time to respond to Goodwin-Johnson, his wife shook her head, indicating she was against continuing the matter. However, she changed her mind after conferring with Sollars for about a half-hour.

"We would agree to a short continuance," Sollars told Garrecht after the conference. "We would require a response in two weeks, and that you set a date as soon as possible."

When Garrecht granted Sollars' request, Goodwin-Johnson, dressed in khaki pants and a white blouse and sweater, wept.

According to an affidavit Goodwin-Johnson filed with the court as part of her annulment request, she said she was "emotionally fragile" when Johnson suggested they take a trip to Las Vegas at the end of May. The two were married May 28, 17 days after Bases was killed.

In the affidavit, Goodwin explained why she married Johnson.

"Thomas indicated that he was a man of trustworthiness and honesty and that he had no involvement with the death of Lori Bases, and would aid me in dealing with the murder of my best friend upon becoming married," the affidavit states.

Goodwin "would not have gotten married," if Johnson wouldn't have represented himself as such, the affidavit states.

After the court proceeding Friday, Sollars would not comment.

If Johnson does not reply in the two weeks he has been granted, Garrecht will grant Goodwin's annulment request automatically, the judge said.

Goodwin left Johnson June 21, two days before he was arrested at a Steamboat Springs bus stop. The day Johnson was arrested, he telephoned his ex-wife, Michelle Linnebur, and allegedly confessed to the murder while a Steamboat Springs police detective listened on another phone in Linnebur's home.

J.D. Hays, director of public safety for Steamboat, has said police suspect Johnson thought Bases was interfering with his relationship with Goodwin.

According to a court file, Johnson allegedly told Linnebur, whom he divorced in 1996, that in his planning of the murder he brought with him items to stage a rape and make it look as if it had been committed by one of Bases' ex-boyfriends, according to court documents. Johnson also allegedly told Linnebur he used a stun gun in the attack, the file shows.

Johnson also has been charged with vandalizing Bases' Toyota sport utility vehicle during a time when Goodwin was staying with Bases. Authorities believe Johnson followed Goodwin to Steamboat Springs on April 9 and then slashed the tires, seats and dashboard of Bases' Toyota RAV4. In connection with that alleged crime, Johnson has been charged with first-degree criminal trespassing and criminal mischief.

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