BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel is the longest continuously serving M.E. in the state of Washington.
He performed the autopsy on Mandy Stavik when she died nearly 30 years ago. During her murder trial Wednesday, he remembered the shock when the teen was put on the examination table. She was still wet from being pulled out of the Nooksack River.
"We just would look at Mandy and think if we could just shake her or warm her, we could wake her up," Goldfogel said. "We just wished she'd wake up. It was traumatic for all of us."
Authorities allege Stavik's neighbor, Tim Bass, raped and murdered the young woman while she was out for a jog during Thanksgiving weekend in 1989.
Bass' DNA was found on the victim, but he contends the two had recently had consensual sex.
Bass' brother, Tom, testified that the defendant came to him after being questioned by police a second time in 2015. Tom Bass said his brother asked him to say he had sex with Mandy too, in order to make her look promiscuous.
Earlier testimony from friends and relatives indicated the two barely knew each other.
Prosecutors also pointed to a bruise found on Stavik's head. They contend Bass knocked Mandy unconscious, forcing her to drown in the river. She was found in the river three days after she disappeared.
Goldfogel indicated that the scenario was possible, but under cross-examination, Goldfogel admitted he couldn't be 100% sure Stavik was murdered.
"When I did this autopsy and filled out the death certificate, I listed the manner of death as undetermined," he told jurors.
However, prosecutors asked the longtime medical examiner if, nearly 30 years later, he had changed his mind about whether Mandy Stavik was killed. Defense attorneys objected.
In a conversation outside the jury's presence, Goldfogel said he would now rule Mandy Stavik's death a homicide, given the totality of events.
Jurors, however, will not be able to consider that during their deliberations.