Coroner’s probe reveals man was rape suspect believed long dead

LOS ANGELES — A coroner’s investigation into the death of a man in Los Angeles last month revealed he was a suspect in a 2008 Washington state child rape who was believed to have jumped to his death from a bridge on Puget Sound years ago, authorities said.

Christian Robert Basham was living under the alias Mark Clemens when he died Feb. 26 at age 56, police in Bremerton said in a press release Thursday.

The Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office discovered his true identity and informed the Bremerton Police Department on March 13.

Basham was arrested in 2008, charged with second-degree child rape and released on $350,000 bail, police said.

On March 29, 2009, a witness reported seeing Basham jump from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, police said. Searches using boats and an airplane failed to locate a body, but his car and a suicide note were later found.

In Los Angeles, Basham was known as Clemens, a longtime maintenance man at a downtown apartment building where he lived.

His next-door neighbor, Tommy Cuellar, told KABC-TV that Clemens was already the building’s handyman when Cuellar moved in about a decade ago.

“Very shocking,” Cuellar said of the news about his neighbor’s real identity. “This was our maintenance guy. This was the guy who had keys to our apartments. It was troubling to say the least, as you could imagine.”

Cuellar told the station their interactions were always positive.

“He was just like a normal person, a little rough sometimes, but it was his personality,” Cuellar said. “No other clue that he was this person he was accused of being.”

The medical examiner’s online case information available Friday listed the cause of Basham’s death as “deferred,” meaning it requires additional investigation.

“Though the criminal case against Basham will be closed Bremerton detectives will be doing follow-up regarding Basham’s movement and actions since his supposed death in 2009,” the police statement said.

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