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February 19, 2013

Gentz gets 17-28 years for murdering Jane Bashara

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

Joseph Gentz — the former Grosse Pointe Park handyman who told police he murdered Park mother and marketing executive Jane Bashara at her husband’s behest — will spend the next 17-28 years behind bars in a Michigan state prison.

Gentz — who agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder during a special pre-trial hearing Dec. 21 — learned his fate during a sentencing hearing Feb. 19 in front of 3rd Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans.

Gentz will get 333 days credited toward his sentence, because he has been behind bars for nearly the past year. Evans said he has 42 days to appeal her decision.

Gentz, appearing in court in a suit and tie with his attorney at his side, again apologized for murdering Jane Bashara.

“I am very sorry for what happened,” he said. “I am asking the family for forgiveness, (and) asking my family to forgive me for what I’ve done and the pain I’ve caused.”

Although Evans acknowledged Gentz’s low IQ, she sharply chastised him for committing the murder, saying he accepted the “cowardly task of taking the life of a woman who did not deserve (this).”

“This case is about power and control,” Evans told Gentz. “You knew right from wrong and good from bad.”

Jane Bashara’s sister, Julie Rowe, shared an emotional impact statement with the court in which she explained how this crime has had a profound impact on her family, leaving her sister’s children without a mother, leaving godchildren, nieces and nephews without a beloved mentor and leaving the Engelbrecht family without its leader.

“This has completely devastated our family,” she said.

“Her senseless murder has left an open wound that will never truly heal,” Rowe continued. “Every single day … we will be haunted (by this loss). We will never get over this.”

Rowe recalled her sister as a much-loved member of the community and someone who gave so much of herself to others.

“My sister Jane was one of the most decent and honest people I’ve ever known,” she said.

Acknowledging the family’s grief, Evans urged Jane Bashara’s loved ones to find comfort by carrying on the good work she performed during her brief life.

“You have to continue that legacy,” Evans said. “Instead of being haunted by how she died, be empowered by how she lived.”

Last January, Gentz went to the Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department to tell police that on Jan. 24, 2012, he strangled Jane Bashara, 56, inside her garage. He told police that the murder was ordered by her husband, Robert Bashara, who Gentz has said offered him money and an old car and also threatened Gentz if he didn’t go forward with the murder. Robert Bashara has maintained that he played no part in his wife’s slaying, but he did plead guilty last fall to solicitation of murder for trying to have Gentz killed while he was being held in the William Dickerson facility in Hamtramck. For that crime, Bashara was sentenced Dec. 10 to six to 20 years in a state prison. At press time, Robert Bashara, 55, was incarcerated at the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections website.

Gentz’s attorney, Susan Reed, said that besides regretting his role in the murder, her client regrets the separation from his young daughter caused by his incarceration.

“I believe he will miss her,” Reed said.

Despite the plea deal, Reed said she didn’t feel the sentence her client received was “generous at all,” considering that the 49-year-old Gentz will spend at least the next 17 years behind bars, meaning he wouldn’t be out until he is at least in his mid-60s.

As to whether Robert Bashara might be facing charges in the near future in connection with his wife’s murder, Reed said she’s not the prosecutor and it’s up to the prosecutors to make that decision. She wouldn’t be surprised by such charges, however.

“Obviously, everyone believes that there was someone else involved in this,” Reed said in the hall outside of Evans’ courtroom.

When asked if Gentz would testify against Robert Bashara in such a proceeding, Reed said he has to abide by the court agreement for special consideration, which included the possibility of such testimony.

“I think he’s willing to do whatever’s necessary to see that everything comes to light. … He wants to see the whole truth come out,” she said.

Jane Bashara’s family also believes more charges are needed in the brutal murder.

“Our family feels very strongly that this is not over with the sentencing of Mr. Gentz,” Rowe said in court. “Our healing will begin when the whole truth is known.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.