Details of Disappearance
Basham was last seen in St. Petersburg, Florida at 10:00 p.m. on February 27, 1984. He left his wallet and clothing behind at home, and missed an important meeting the next day. He has never been heard from again. He disappeared two days after he was released from jail on theft charges.
A few days after Basham disappeared, John Edward Bellas and Jeffrey Austgen were accused of his murder. Investigators determined Basham was murdered by Bellas in the 2700 block of 18th Avenue north on the night of his disappearance. The motive was supposedly because Bellas thought Basham had "snitched" to the police while he was in jail.
Bloodstains, hair and electrical wire were found in the house where the murder allegedly took place, and the carpet had been ripped out of one of the rooms. According to witnesses, Bellas beat Basham on the head with a hammer, strangled him with copper wire, bound his body with the wire and and transported it to the Burks Road area north of Clear Lake in Dade City, Florida, before burying it in a shallow grave in an orange grove.
Austgen cooperated with the prosecution and pleaded guilty to more than half a dozen felony charges, including being an accessory after the fact to Basham's murder. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. Bellas pleaded guilty to second-degree murder one week before his trial was to begin and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He tried to help authorities find the body, without result. He served his sentence and has been released from prison. Basham's remains have never been found.