In November 2011, we told you about themurder of Thomas Bashline
, a sometime trainer for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Just under a year later, Draton Mares, 24, has been convicted of first-degree murder in the crime, which took place after a relationship that began more than a year earlier with a Craigslist hookup went terribly wrong.
As we've reported, Bashline, who was 42 at the time of his death, supplemented his occasional work as a trainer for the Globetrotters with a side business in which he tested athletes for performance-enhancing drugs.
The latter gig factored in on early speculation about a motive after an unresponsive Bashline was found by a girlfriend at his Frederick home on November 4. (Although emergency personnel didn't initially characterize the case as a homicide because there were no obvious signs of trauma on the body, a bullet entry wound was subsequently discovered.) But investigators at the Weld County Sheriff's Office began working on a different theory after Bashline's stolen Chevy pickup was found in Boulder, more than twenty miles from his home, with a semi-automatic handgun thought to be the murder weapon inside it. Shortly thereafter, they arrested a man later identified as Mares for the slaying.
What happened? WCSO sources said Mares and Bashline had met via the "man-for-man personals section" of Craiglist. Bashline was thought to have driven to Longmont to pick up Mares, then took him back to his place, after which the man shot him in the head and stole his truck.
Many more details emerged during Mares's recently concluded trial, which lasted nine days.
Prosecutors put forward a simple scenario. They said Mares and Bashline had met through Craigslist way back in May 2010. On the fateful day in November 2011, Bashline drove Mares to his place and laid down on his bed for a nude massage. But something went wrong, the prosecution contended, with Mares eventually blindfolding Bashline, covering his head with a pillow and shooting him with a handgun he'd swiped in a previous burglary before stealing his truck and making his getaway.
Evidence used to connect Mares to the crime included DNA, text messages and feathers that were found both at the victim's house and on the accused killer's shoes.
As for Mares, he didn't deny pulling the trigger in testimony recounted by the Boulder Daily Camera. Instead, his legal team focused on arguing that second-degree murder was a more appropriate charge, because the killing had happened during the heat of passion.
Continue to read Draton Mares's description of how he killed Thomas Bashline. Mares testified that during the massage, Bashline referred to him using variations on the word "faggot" a number of times, and used what the Camera describes as a "vulgar Spanish term" while throwing him down on the bed, thereby triggering memories of a rape Mares said he'd suffered at age seventeen. But he claimed the breaking point came when Bashline criticized his massage in comparison to ones given him by "my girl" -- a reference to a straight relationship of which Mares was supposedly unaware until that moment.
Hence, the blindfolding (which was done with socks) and the fatal shot, after which Mares grabbed some wine and a few other items before leaving in Bashline's truck.
In the end, however, the jury didn't buy these explanations -- at least not to a degree that the charge was lessened. The members eventually convicted Mares of first-degree murder, in addition to a single count of aggravated motor-vehicle theft. "We're satisfied that justice was served in this case," Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck said afterward, in a statement. "Thomas Bashline didn't deserve to die that day. Now his killer will spend the rest of his life behind prison walls thanks to the good work of the dedicated investigators and prosecutors in this case."
Bashline wasn't forgotten by the Globetrotters, either. After his death, the team issued a statement that read in part, "Our condolences go out to Tom's family and friends. The entire Harlem Globetrotters organization is deeply saddened by this news."
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Here's a look at a larger version of Mares's mug shot, followed by a 9News report about Bashline broadcast shortly after his body was discovered, and before the Craigslist angle was made public.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Alie Berrelez murder: DNA from underwear links chief suspect Nicholas Stofer 18 years later."