Johnson's attorney seeks to supress evidence


— The lawyer representing Thomas Lee Johnson on Friday filed 15 motions to suppress evidence and statements police officers gathered in their investigation of the murder of Lori Bases.

Defense attorney Norm Townsend filed the motions claiming Steamboat Springs police conducted illegal searches and interrogations in building a case against the 30-year-old suspect.

Absent from the legal documents is a motion to the change the venue of the jury trial that is expected to start in October.

The motions will be argued in front of 14th Judicial District Judge Joel S. Thompson during three days starting at 9 a.m. Aug. 8.

However, more time may be needed for Townsend and Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James to argue the legal points, Townsend said.

"This could take a week," he said.

Key evidence police gathered during its investigation is an alleged confession from Johnson.

Through a motion, Townsend is preparing to argue the alleged confession was gained illegally.

Johnson was arrested in Steamboat Springs in June 2000, after he allegedly confessed to his ex-wife, Michelle Linnebur, that he committed the murder.

A Steamboat Springs police officer overheard the confession, according to court documents, when the officer listened in on a telephone conversation between Linnebur and Johnson.

At the time of the reported confession, the officer was at Linnebur's home to interview the woman about her ex-husband.

Johnson was arrested when he traveled to Steamboat Springs by bus. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, criminal trespass and criminal mischief.

Johnson is accused of killing Bases and vandalizing the woman's sport utility vehicle.

Bases, 31, was found dead in her Steamboat Boulevard apartment by her roommate the morning of May 12.

According to an autopsy, Bases bled to death. She was stabbed numerous times and had wounds throughout her body, including her neck.

Johnson is in custody and being held without bond. He has been in jail since his arrest last summer.

Johnson is in Pueblo undergoing a mental evaluation at the Colorado Mental Health Institute. The evaluation is being done because Townsend intends to introduce testimony regarding Johnson's mental condition.

For now, Johnson's trial will be held in Steamboat Springs. The trial is expected to start the morning of Oct. 29 and last three weeks.

"At least at this moment, we are not seeking a change in venue," Townsend said. "We do not intend to file a motion to seek a change of venue, but that could change."

The motive police have given for the murder is Johnson allegedly thought Bases was interfering with his relationship with Kimberly Goodwin, who was Bases' friend.

Johnson married Goodwin about two weeks after Bases' death. The two were married during a trip to Las Vegas but divorced this past December.

The vandalism and criminal mischief charges Johnson faces stem from the alleged vandalism of Bases' SUV weeks before she was killed.

About $6,400 in damage was caused to the SUV. The vehicle's tires and dashboard had been slashed.

If Johnson is convicted of the murder charge, he faces life imprisonment. If Johnson is convicted of criminal mischief, he could serve one to 16 years in prison.

The trespass charge carries a minimum prison term of six months and a maximum of eight years.


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