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August 19, 2013

Phone records show extensive contact between Bashara, Gentz prior to Jane Bashara’s murder

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

When Robert “Bob” Bashara stands trial for allegedly hiring handyman Joseph Gentz to kill his wife, jurors are expected to hear about Gentz’s state of mind in the months leading up to the January 2012 slaying of Grosse Pointe Park mother and marketing executive Jane Bashara.

Gentz — who told police he killed Jane Bashara at Bob Bashara’s behest — pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Dec. 21 in 3rd Circuit Court, for which he was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison.

In a pre-examination hearing Aug. 12 at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, Judge Kenneth King ruled in favor of the prosecutors when he decided to allow their motion to introduce state-of-mind evidence in the case.

“The court is prepared to admit the state-of-mind evidence, finding that the proffered evidence is relevant,” King said.

But King didn’t offer a decision on the prosecutors’ motion to admit statements by co-conspirators during the course of establishing that there was a conspiracy to commit murder between Bashara and Gentz. And evidence with regard to Jane Bashara’s state of mind around the time of the murder is expected to come up during the Sept. 9 preliminary exam, King said.

Mark Procida, one of Bashara’s defense attorneys, argued that Gentz’s state of mind “is irrelevant” to the case and allegations of a conspiracy, but Lisa Lindsey, one of the attorneys with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office handling this case, contended otherwise. Lindsey said Bashara alleged Gentz made up the conspiracy story to get a plea deal for killing Jane Bashara, so showing Gentz’s state of mind rebuts that argument. She also said it corroborates Gentz’s assertions that he was afraid of Bashara, who reportedly offered handyman Gentz several thousand dollars and an older Cadillac to commit the murder. Gentz said Bashara threatened him if he didn’t go through with the crime.

Lindsey said that in the months leading up to Jane Bashara’s murder, a number of witnesses have said Bob Bashara asked them if they knew someone who could “rough up somebody for money,” in some cases saying that the intended target was a female tenant in a building Bashara owned.

Bashara’s sexual practices — which are expected to come up at the trial, since Bashara reportedly had at least one and possibly more than one mistress who participated in BDSM activities — became a source of contention almost immediately between the prosecutors and the defense attorneys.

Renee Cooper, another of Bashara’s attorneys, objected to Lindsey’s reference to one of the witnesses — identified in court only by number — as someone Bashara knew from the BDSM community.

“Where this man is a friend from is not important,” Cooper said. “I didn’t know we were going through (Bashara’s) lifestyle (today) … The BDSM lifestyle is something they’re going to try to taint (Bashara) with.”

But Lindsey said identifying the context of the friendship is relevant because she argued Bashara sought out an attacker from among a variety of people he knew in different contexts. In addition, “The BDSM lifestyle is part of the motive for murder,” she said.

“The relevance is that Mr. Bashara made solicitations with several different people in different aspects of his life,” Lindsey said. “He is desperately going to anybody (in search of an attacker).”

Phone records show that some 472 calls were made between Gentz and Bashara between Aug. 1, 2011, and January 2012, when the murder occurred, Lindsey said. In January 2012, she said, Bashara placed more calls to Gentz, whereas in prior months, Gentz had initiated phone contact more frequently. From Jan. 21-24, 2012, she said, there were 36 calls between the men — 33 of them coming from Bashara to Gentz.

Lindsey said on Jan. 26 — the day after his wife’s body was discovered inside her SUV on Detroit’s east side — phone records showed Gentz received a phone call from a cellphone owned by Nancy Bashara, Bob Bashara’s mother. The prosecutor argued that the use of a different phone was an effort to not show phone contact between Bob Bashara and Gentz after the murder. Lindsey said that day, while Bashara was allegedly mourning the loss of his wife, he went to Gentz’s place of employment to present him with a check for $457.

Appearing in court by teleconference from prison, Bashara objected to that figure, saying the check was actually for $452. King then told Bashara it was up to his attorneys to speak, not him.

“That’s why you have two attorneys,” King told the defendant.

Lindsey said Bashara befriended and assisted Gentz — paying him for odd jobs and vouching for him to get him an apartment, saying he had known Gentz for years when he’d actually only known him for a few months — to gain his compliance.

“He did this to gain the trust, dependence and loyalty of Gentz as his benefactor,” Lindsey said.

Witnesses number 160 and 151 were asked separately if they wanted to make $2,000-$5,000 to commit a hit-and-run accident against someone — specifically, a female victim with a luxury SUV, Lindsey said. Jane Bashara’s body was found inside her Mercedes SUV. In November 2011, Lindsey said, witness number 12 was asked by Bashara to tip over a car and “hurt someone real bad” for $5,000, with the victim being identified as a Grosse Pointe Park woman who had a luxury SUV.

Cooper countered that “no evidence has been shown” of a conspiracy, and Gentz was merely contacting Bashara because he wanted to get paid for work he had done for the businessman.

“When it all comes together, you’ll see that there was no conspiracy,” Cooper said.

He also said that, contrary to Gentz’s assertion that Bashara was present during the time of his wife’s murder, Bashara was actually at a bar “with a prominent Grosse Pointe attorney.”

As to Lindsey’s assertions that at least a couple of witnesses said Bashara asked them where he could get injectable insulin, Cooper said Bashara is a diabetic, not someone who was seeking the medication to cause another person to have a heart attack.

After the hearing, Procida said he and Cooper were going to try to get Judge Timothy Kenny to approve having Bashara moved back to the Wayne County Jail so that he can work more closely with his attorneys as the trial approaches.

“He’s just too far away … to have him involved appropriately in our preparation,” Procida said in court of the four-hour drive to Manistee, where Bashara is being held in the Oaks Correctional Facility. On Dec. 10, Bashara was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to solicitation of murder for attempting to hire someone to kill Gentz.

At press time, Bashara was scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary exam at 9 a.m. Sept. 9 at 36th District Court.

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