Johnson murder retrial begins in Larimer County

Trial starts Thursday after '01 conviction was overturned


— Thomas Lee Johnson's defense attorney told a Larimer County jury Thursday morning that her client indeed killed Lori Bases in her Steamboat Springs home in May 2000 but that he did not plan the attack.

"Thomas Johnson chose to fight for his life, and at the end of that fight, Lori Bases was dead," Stephanie Hewitt said during the opening statements of Johnson's murder retrial.

The 1988 Longmont High School graduate was convicted in Bases' stabbing death in 2001, but the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in 2006 that the jury was given faulty instructions and overturned the conviction.

After two days of jury selection, the retrial opened Thursday in Larimer County, the venue where Johnson originally was tried after the trial was moved from Routt County in 2001.

Prosecutors think Johnson rented an SUV and traveled to Steamboat Springs with the intent to kill Bases because, prosecutors say, he believed she was a threat to his relationship with her friend Kim Goodwin.

The trial is scheduled through June 26.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Kerry St. James methodically unfolded a story about Johnson and Goodwin's on-again, off-again relationship, during which Goodwin accused Johnson of raping her.

Goodwin and Johnson met when he answered a classified advertisement she placed seeking a roommate to share her Longmont home, St. James said. The landlord-tenant relationship soon grew intimate, but the couple struggled with differences that would periodically break them up.

During one attempted reconciliation in April 2000, Goodwin ended up at Longmont United Hospital with injuries from an apparent sexual assault. She told doctors, and later Weld County deputies, that Johnson had forced her to have anal sex with him at her home.

After that incident, Goodwin went to Steamboat Springs to spend time with Bases. She then returned to Longmont.

By May 9, 2000, Bases and Goodwin had plans to move in together, prosecutors said. However, St. James said, Johnson had been on a campaign to get Goodwin to drop the sexual assault charges and resume their relationship.

Prosecutors allege that Johnson - agitated that Bases disapproved of his relationship with Goodwin because of the assault and upset that the women planned to move in together - rented an SUV, drove to Steamboat Springs and confronted Bases in her apartment. Bases' boyfriend discovered her body May 12, 2000. She had multiple stab and slash wounds.

After Bases' death, Johnson and Goodwin reconciled, married in Las Vegas and moved to California. While living in California, Goodwin found evidence she thought connected her new husband to Bases' murder and called police. He soon was arrested.

Defense attorney Hewitt said prosecutors were wrong about Johnson's motive and plans for the death. She said he went to Steamboat Springs to try to talk Bases into serving as Goodwin's maid of honor for their wedding and she - paranoid from cocaine use - charged at him with a knife.

"Lori Bases attacked Thomas, and he did what he had to do to protect himself," she said. "It is true that Thomas Johnson killed Lori Bases, but he did it in a frenzy of fear."


oldskoolstmbt 7 years, 10 months ago

riiiight, thats why he just left her to die, never reported it, then went to vegas and got married....all out of self defense!!..beentheredonethat summed it all up..thank you


Paul Timmons 7 years, 10 months ago

Defense attorney Hewitt , you have fun playing that game in court. You try to get anybody to believe that Mrs. Bases didnt have the right to try to protect herself in her own home, if any of that is even close to being true....May Thomas Johnson BURN IN HELL....


Elizabeth Danielson 7 years, 10 months ago

Do I remember correctly that he used a stun gun in the attack? I don't think people usually carry a stun gun when trying to convince someone to serve as a maid of honor......


oldskoolstmbt 7 years, 10 months ago

i don't remember abc, there being a stun gun?!...i do remember how messed up his story was on the recollection of that night and how it changed, etc.. Hewitt...go back to making computers please.


oldskoolstmbt 7 years, 10 months ago -

this is unbelievable that he is back in court!!!!!


aichempty 7 years, 10 months ago

From the link posted above:

"Johnson stabbed Bases about 20 times, which included wounds to her neck, chest, legs and left arm and hand. Because of the injuries, Bases bled to death."

"McLimans also suggests Feldmann told Townsend of a federal drug investigation that resulted in the arrest of 14th Judicial District Judge Joel S. Thompson's live-in girlfriend, 36-year-old Billie Vreeman. As a result of the arrest, Thompson recused himself from the Johnson case Tuesday."

It's interesting what a tight little crew has been involved in our local judicial community. O'Hara and McLimans were attorneys jousting with each other over this case back in 2001, and both were later appointed to the bench here in Routt County. The center of the controversy was the judge sitting on the Johnson murder trial back then, who recused himself from the trial, resulting in the change of venue to Larimer County.

Johnson was not convicted because of judicial incompetence across the board in both District Courts and because of misconduct here in Routt County.

In any case, these are the dudes for whom the new Justice Center was constructed using Routt County taxpayer's money starting back around the same time. An unlawful order by former Chief Judge Doucette cost us $18,000,000 before it was over, and now the County is laying people off because of budget problems.

If not for the buffoonery running rampant in the Judicial department back in 2001, Johnson would not be getting a new trial over something that was obviously a brutal murder, no matter who struck the first blow.

Judge Shelly Hill has been doing a fine job. The Routt Kounty Kangaroo Kourthouse is already built, so we can't undo that. The thing we should remember now as the Johnson matter is sprayed out for our enlightenment once again is that the voters have a right to remove judges from the bench, and Judge Hill is the one who should be left holding the keys to the store the next time we are given the opportunity to vote "do not retain" on our local judges.

The Johnson case is a clear example of how bad things can be. Most of you have not been on the short end of the controversy when the laws were ignored. The Johnson case is that tip of the iceberg sitting on top of many other injustices which have occurred in our courts.

We have some fine young ethical attorneys in Steamboat who would be excellent judges. Do youself a favor and given them a chance to apply the next time you have a chance to vote on retention of a local judge. From the school board lawsuit to the botched Johnson trial, anybody who keeps up with current events around here should be able to see that change is desperately needed.


oldskoolstmbt 7 years, 10 months ago

yep, lori was stabbed over 20 times and johnson a little slice on his finger...definately self defense...NOT!!!that poor family having to go through this again... unbelievable...


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