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Child-rape suspect living under a pseudonym in L.A. for 15 years is found dead

FILE - The sun sets through smoky air behind the Narrows Bridge in Tacoma, Wash., on Aug. 19, 2018. A coroner's investigation into the death of a man in Los Angeles in February 2024 revealed that 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. A witness reported seeing the man jump from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on March 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Christian R. Basham, a suspect in a 2008 Washington state child rape case, was previously thought to have jumped to his death from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. He'd been working as Mark Clemens at the downtown L.A. complex where his body was found last month. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

The death of a Los Angeles handyman took a twisted turn when authorities discovered the man who had been living a quiet, unassuming life was actually wanted in connection with the rape of a child in the Seattle area more than a decade ago.

The body of a 56-year-old man originally identified as Mark Clemens was found at a residential building in the 700 block of South Spring Street on Feb. 26. The Los Angeles Fire Department had responded to a dispatch call to the area with an ambulance around 3 p.m. that day, although the circumstances surrounding the man's death and how his body was discovered were not immediately clear.

The Los Angeles Police Department said his death did not appear to be a homicide, and the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner's office deferred citing his cause of death pending additional investigation. But a routine scan of the man's fingerprints uncovered his true identity: Christian R. Basham.

Basham had been working as a building supervisor at the residential complex in the Fashion District where his body was discovered. His neighbors say that he had been working as an independent contractor since a recent ownership change with the building.

But they were unaware of his infamous past.

Police in Bremerton, Wash., say Basham raped a 13-year-old child in September 2008. He was out of jail on $350,000 bond when, six months later, a witness saw Basham jump off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. He had left a suicide note in his vehicle, which police found at the scene, Bremerton police Capt. Aaron Elton said.

"Several agencies engaged in a search ... but Basham's body was never found," Elton said in a news release posted last week on the agency's Facebook page.

Elton, who was on the Bremerton force in 2008 but was not assigned to the Basham case, said that because there had been no confirmation of his death at the time, the criminal case against Basham remain opened — until now.

Bremerton detectives are still hoping to piece together how Basham came to be living in Los Angeles under a pseudonym, Elton said. They also are working to reach the now-adult victim in the rape case, who was not related to Bashman, or the victim's family member, he said.

"It's important to us to let the victim know [he died] if they don't already know," Elton said.

Tenants and neighbors of the downtown L.A. building where Basham lived and worked were shocked by his alleged criminal past. Petra Wright, gallery director of Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, said all she knew about Basham was that he was helpful.

"He was a trustworthy, dependable, hardworking, kind person who was always willing to be there if I needed anything," Wright said of the man she knew as Mark Clemens.

He often helped Wright install or remove cumbersome pieces at the gallery that were too big for her to handle alone, she said. Several of its curated pieces are 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

"He always was super respectful of removing the art, making sure it's not near any hardware ... so nothing gets damaged," she said. "And he was a consummate professional."

Tommy Cuellar found the news about his former next-door neighbor "very shocking," he told ABC-TV Channel 7. "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."

The building's previous owners could not be reached for comment about Basham's employment.

Police in Bremerton are asking anyone with information about Basham during the years since his faked death in 2009 to contact Det. Derek Ejde at (360) 473-5497 or Derek.Ejde@ci.bremerton.wa.us.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.