Co-defendent in 1995 Bassett family murders found eligible for parole and release

KXRO has learned that a decision by the Washington Department of Corrections Indeterminate Sentence Review Board found that 44-year-old Nicholaus McDonald has been found eligible for parole and releasable.

McDonald was the co-defendant of Brian Bassett in the 1995 murders of his parents Michael and Wendy Bassett and his 5-year-old brother Austin.

In DOC documentation, it identified McDonald as firing the rifle that killed Michael Bassett as well as drowning 5-year-old Austin in the bathroom of the home.

Both teens were convicted in the murders, with McDonald receiving a sentence for two counts of Murder in the Second Degree. His sentence was originally set at 178 months for one count and 600 months for the other, running consecutively. McDonald has served approximately 278 months in prison. 

This was the second release hearing for McDonald, with the board finding in 2019 that he was not releasable. In that decision, they noted that he could re-petition in 2021. 

Additionally, the Board recommended he “pursue more intensive chemical dependency treatment, would benefit from further programming to modify his criminogenic thought processes and behavior, develop a well thought out release plan, and he could benefit from vocational training offered at the Washington State Penitentiary if approved by DOC”.

In their recent decision, the board stated that they did “not find by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. McDonald is more likely than not to commit any new criminal law violations if released on conditions”.

His release is dependent on a number of factors, including “ tight controls related to substance use”. The board also recommended that he participate in the Champion Program’s recommended aftercare to include sober support groups.  He will be expected to participate in electronic monitoring for the first 90 days of supervision. In addition, McDonald should be supervised at the highest level for the first year in the community. 

Documents state that McDonald “Has demonstrated positive prison behavior for approximately the past 5 years, with no serious infractions since his last Board hearing (approximately 5 years)”

The parole document noted that  he “does not appear to experience any acute distress or psychiatric dysfunction that increases his risk for violence.” 

The decision states that McDonald “ has family support in Grays Harbor County, but his release plans do not include a return to that area” 

“He indicated he has strong community support and two primary options for release.  He qualifies for the Fare Start program in Seattle but also has a good friend in Island County who owns a concrete business for which he could be employed.  He stated he still has the tattooing business option as well.  Mr. McDonald did express remorse for his crimes and verbalized he believes he is ready to be released to the community. “

The decision to allow for his release was unanimous by the board.

As of May 12, he is still housed at Airway Heights Correctional Facility pending release.