Bob Mesecher was not prepared for the phone call.
His wife, Sherry, was vacationing in Europe, so Mesecher was alone when the phone rang at 4 a.m. on May 12, 2000.
Steamboat Springs Police Detective Robert DelValle was on the line. What he had to tell Mesecher was horrific Lori Bases, Mesecher's stepdaughter, had been found butchered in her Steamboat Springs apartment just a few miles from Mesecher's home.
Mesecher, a retired Los Angeles firefighter, was floored. Just the night before, he'd had dinner with Bases. Knowing her mother was in Europe, she had invited him to join her and a friend.
But Mesecher did not have much time to process the news. He had a more pressing task at hand finding a way to tell his wife that her daughter was dead.
For six hours he tried to reach her in Holland. When Sherry Mesecher finally got her husband's message and called his cell phone, he was at the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
"It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life," Bob Mesecher said of relaying the news to his wife. "The second hardest thing I have ever done was picking her up at the airport."
Sherry Mesecher said hearing that her daughter was "dead" and "murdered" put her in a state of shock. She does not remember much about her flights from Europe to Denver.
What she does remember is the pain she felt. It's a pain she continues to feel today.
"Lori Bases spent May 11, 2000, in her Steamboat Boulevard apartment resting from the previous night. She had not gone to work and was dressed in red plaid pajama pants and a black T-shirt. At about 6:30 p.m., Bases sat in a living room chair reclined watching television. Thomas Lee Johnson quietly entered the apartment with a knife in his possession and crept up on the unsuspecting woman sitting in the chair."
Lori Lyn Bases was born Oct. 28, 1968, and grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California. She died at the age of 31.
Sherry Mesecher said her daughter was a "chicken."
"She would never watch violent movies or read violent books," she said. "It would creep her out."
Growing up, Bases liked to ice skate and was involved in drama. In 1989, the family moved to Colorado, and it was a perfect fit for Bases.
"She hated the snow. She did not like to drive on it," she said. "But she loved the summers. She liked to hike and bike."
Bases moved to the Denver area for a couple of years to be closer to her older sister, Kim Cameron. It was during that time that Bases met Kimberly Goodwin. The two women became friends while working at a restaurant together.
Johnson was dating Goodwin and Bases met him through her friend, seeing him twice in two years. Police believe Johnson killed Bases because she interfered with his relationship with Goodwin.
Bases eventually moved back to Steamboat Springs and worked with her mother in real estate.
"She used to love putting on lipstick and giving me a big sloppy kiss on the cheek," Sherry Mesecher said.
The last time Sherry Mesecher heard from her daughter was about two weeks before her death while Sherry Mesecher was in Arizona.
All week Mesecher had problems receiving calls on her cellular phone from her two daughters and two sons. But Bases got through one night.
"I told her we were breaking up," Sherry Mesecher said. "She said, 'That's OK because I just wanted to call you and say I love you.'
"That was the last time I talked to her."
"Johnson quietly walks up behind Bases and stands behind the chair. With a knife he stabs her in the chest. The woman gets out of the reclined chair in an attempt to get to her bedroom to lock a door. The remote control is later found under a coffee table with its batteries close by. Bases suffers defensive wounds to her right forearms, and her left hand is sliced when she grabs the knife. The 5-foot, 6-inch woman eventually falls to the floor where she is stabbed in her heart three more times. She is also stabbed in her back and shoulder."
Sherry Mesecher wakes up every morning feeling sick to her stomach.
"She died helpless and alone," she said. "My hopes were and will always be is that the first wound inflicted is the one that killed her."
Sherry Mesecher said her family has always been close. After giving birth to the two girls, her sons, Jerry and David, followed.
The past 18 months have been tough for the family.
"You grieve, but you are so consumed with catching the person and then the trial it has been tough," she said.
The 31-year-old Johnson was found guilty of murder in November. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Sherry Mesecher said the verdict and sentence have provided the family some relief.
"I'm glad he is out of here," Sherry Mesecher said. "This might sound silly but I did not like going west of town because I knew he was there (in the Routt County Jail)."
She is hopeful the end of the trial can ease some of the pain she feels.
"Time is your friend," she said. "It doesn't mean you will care any less, but maybe I can chat without breaking down."
Since the murder, Mesecher said she has had dreams of her and her daughter doing things together. "I hope there is a life after death, so I can hold Lori in my arms," she said.
"Johnson stands over the woman's body. He grabs her head with his left hand and slices her throat. By doing this, Johnson slices his left thumb. He is bleeding. Knowing his blood is now at the crime scene, Johnson violently stabs Bases in the back and slices the backs of her legs. As he walks out of the apartment, he touches the kitchen counter with his left hand. He also touches the recliner to put the cushion back into place. As Johnson leaves the apartment, his left hand brushes up against the door and leaves blood. Her roommate would later find Bases at 12:30 a.m. May 12."
Sherry Mesecher and Cameron gathered Bases' belongings from the home days after the murder. In doing so, the women had to walk by a white cloth that covered the blood where Bases was found.
"Other people offered to do it, but Lori was a private person," Mesecher said. "She wouldn't want people digging through her things."
Cameron is likely the last family member to have talked to Bases before she was killed. Bases cut a phone conversation short at about 6:22 p.m. that evening.
"She told me she would call me later in the evening," Cameron said.
At 6:30 a.m. the next morning, Cameron was busy with her 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son when the phone rang.
"I thought she was finally calling me back," Cameron said.
Instead, it was Bob Mesecher.
Since the murder, Cameron said she has had a hard time telling her daughter what happened to her aunt.
"I told her she went to heaven and is now an angel," Cameron said.
After Bases' body was cremated, Cameron took some of the ashes and placed them in a wind chime that hangs outside of her Denver home.
"When the wind is blowing, I tell the kids to listen," Cameron said. "Lori is singing for us."
To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205
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The italicized text is 14th Judicial District Attorney Paul McLimans' theory of how Lori Bases was killed. At trial, he ended his closing statement with the theory, which is supported by the evidence.