Child-rape suspect faked own death, lived quietly in Los Angeles under assumed name for more than a decade

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DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Residents of a downtown Los Angeles building were sad when they learned their longtime maintenance man, a 56-year-old resident of the building they knew as Mark Clemens, had died.

But even as they were planning a memorial service to honor his memory, their grief turned to shock as they learned Mark had hidden a dark secret for more than a decade: He was actually a man named Christian R. Basham, a suspect in a Seattle-area child-rape case who had faked his own death by jumping off a bridge in 2009.

The stunning hidden identity was uncovered only after his death by the Los Angeles County coroner.

“Very shocking,” said Tommy Cuellar, who lived next door to “Mark.” “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.”

Child-rape suspect Christian R. Basham faked his own death in 2009 by jumping off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Kistap County Sheriff’s Office / KOMO-TV

Police in Bremerton, Wash., a small city in Kitsap County west of Seattle, say the Los Angeles County coroner informed them of Basham’s death and secret identity earlier this week.

The department says Basham was arrested in 2008 and charged with second-degree child rape. He was released after posting $350,000 bail.

In March 2009, a witness reported seeing a man, later identifed as matching Basham’s description, jump from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. His car was found near the scene with a suicide note but his body was never recovered. Police said he was presumed dead, though he remained on a most wanted list and the subject of an outstanding warrant.

The Bremerton Police Department says further investigation will now be conducted to trace Basham’s movement and actions after 2009.

Mark Clemens was already the Los Angeles building’s handyman when Cuellar moved in about a decade ago.

Cuellar said his interactions with Mark were always positive. He always made repairs quickly in the building and even babysat Cuellar’s cat on occasion. Residents of the building were preparing a ceremony to honor his memory before the stunning news spread.

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

In retrospect, Cuellar wonders if the assumed name Basham chose was a clue sitting under their noses all this time.

The name Mark Clemens, he speculates, could very well be a combination of the pen name Mark Twain and the author’s real name, Samuel Clemens.

After all, it was Twain’s most memorable characters, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, who famously faked their own deaths.

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