Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Florida murder suspect jailed in B.C.


Trace Christenson
The Enquirer

A former Battle Creek man, suspected in a Florida murder, is jailed here while detectives investigate the death of his roommate.

Jason Bass, 33, was arraigned Monday in Calhoun County District Court on charges of fleeing from police and resisting police after his arrest Saturday night following a pursuit from Battle Creek into Barry County.

Meanwhile, two detectives from the Fort Myers (Fla.) Police Department are continuing their investigation after spending Sunday and Monday in Battle Creek, before returning to Florida Monday night.

"Our investigation is continuing and we are still collecting information," Sherry Flynn, a spokeswoman for the Fort Myers police, said. "We expect to be meeting with the state's attorney office."

Bass is a suspect in the murder of his roommate, Walter Barr, 40, who was found dead Friday in the home the two men shared at Windsor East Apartments in Fort Myers.

Barr had been bludgeoned to death several days before he was found. He was found by a maintenance man after Barr's family and friends asked the apartment be checked.

Police in Fort Myers began looking for Bass and notified police in Michigan and North Carolina he might be driving a yellow Volkswagen.

Saturday night, Battle Creek police spotted the car and Bass was arrested after leading city officers and Calhoun County Sheriff Department deputies north from Battle Creek into Barry County, where he was stopped.

Police said Bass cut his arm in a suicide attempt before he was pulled from the vehicle. He was treated at Battle Creek Health System and taken to the county jail.

At his arraignment before Magistrate Roger Graves, Bass said at first he didn't need an attorney but then agreed when Graves said one would be appointed.

Assistant Prosecutor Brandon Hultink asked for a cash bond because of the pending case in Florida and because Bass has convictions for larceny from a motor vehicle in North Carolina and resisting police in Ohio.

If convicted of the two charges here, he faces up to five years in prison.

Hultink also said Bass could be dangerous if released.

Graves ordered him held on $50,000 cash bond and scheduled a preliminary examination for May 5.

Police, who believe Bass might have been in the Battle Creek area for a few days before he was arrested, are asking anyone with information to call Detective Brad Wise at the Battle Creek Police Department at 269-966-3322 or Detective Steven M. Tharaldsen at the Fort Myers Police Department at 239-338-2171.

Bass' sister and the mother of his son attended the arraignment but declined comment.

A friend from Fort Myers, Amber Fowlks, 23, called Bass "an absolutely stand-up guy. He is great with kids and always kind and considerate. There is no way I can see him doing whatever they are accusing him of."

Fowlks said Bass and Barr had been living together for three weeks but "were very close, good friends. They were always super cool with each other. I have no idea what happened."

Fowlks would not speculate on the homicide but said when Bass disappeared "we all knew something was wrong. He used to talk with everyone every day."

Trace Christenson can be reached at 966-0685 or tchrist@battlecr.gannett.com.


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