County medical examiner outlines Jane Bashara’s brutal murder

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 10, 2014

 Wayne County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Francisco Diaz discusses the injuries sustained by Jane Bashara as he testifies in the murder case against her husband, Bob Bashara, Dec. 1 in 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit.

Wayne County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Francisco Diaz discusses the injuries sustained by Jane Bashara as he testifies in the murder case against her husband, Bob Bashara, Dec. 1 in 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit.

Photo by Deb Jacques

DETROIT — As Wayne County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Francisco Diaz discussed the severe injuries Jane Bashara sustained as she was beaten and strangled to death inside her Grosse Pointe Park garage on Jan. 24, 2012, Robert “Bob” Bashara — the man accused of orchestrating her murder — wept openly in 3rd Circuit Court Nov. 25.

Diaz — whose testimony continued Dec. 1 — said Jane Bashara’s body was brought to the morgue Jan. 26, 2012, for an autopsy.

She sustained injuries to her head, neck, and upper chest and shoulders, including what Diaz said was a “very large and broad abrasion” that extended from her left cheek to her left ear, and an irregular broad abrasion that covered a sizable portion of the left side of her neck. Because of an “extensive accumulation of blood” in the tissues beneath the scalp, Diaz said Jane Bashara sustained multiple incidents of “inflicted blunt trauma,” meaning that she was struck in the head a number of times, although he couldn’t say whether she’d been hit with a fist or another object. And the strangulation that caused her death was so forceful, it “cracked, or fractured” her windpipe, he said.

“The most significant injury that she sustained was to her trachea,” Diaz explained, adding that the trachea, or windpipe, is actually more difficult to break than bone because it’s made of cartilage, which is flexible. Such an injury isn’t typically seen in strangulation because of the amount of force required to cause it, he said.

“It’s basically like a person drowning on dry land. … The oxygen is not getting to the lungs,” said Diaz, noting that she would have had difficulty breathing not only because her neck was constricted by the strangulation, but also because her broken trachea wasn’t allowing what little air she did inhale to reach her lungs.

“You can tell that there was a struggle in that she had multiple areas of inflicted trauma all the way from the top of her head to the top of her chest,” he continued.

Despite the many injuries she sustained, Diaz said Jane Bashara would have likely remained conscious for about three to four minutes as she tried to get away from her assailant.

“The time for her to die is not instantaneous,” Diaz said.

It’s possible that her killer would have heard a crack when he fractured her windpipe, the medical examiner said.

Taking the stand Nov. 25 in 3rd Circuit Court, Detroit Police Department Detective Moises Jiminez remembered responding to 19416 Annott in Detroit, where Jane Bashara’s body was found in the back of her Mercedes SUV the morning of Jan. 25, 2012.

“It’s a very isolated, very vacant (area),” Jiminez said, noting that most of the buildings — including the one behind which the Mercedes was dumped — were abandoned. During a canvas of the neighborhood, he said police were only able to talk to about four or five people who lived nearby.

Police knew immediately that the Mercedes had been staged, because the valuable vehicle was left unlocked, with the keys lying on the floor of the driver’s seat and Jane Bashara’s purse — with contents such as a cellphone and checkbook — carefully “strewn” on the floor of the passenger side, where they would have been visible to anyone who paused to look inside. Jiminez said a bottle of prescription medication had been placed on the passenger seat so that Jane Bashara’s name could be easily seen by someone looking inside the vehicle. Remarkably, none of these items were stolen, despite the street value of a checkbook, cellphone, pills and other valuables, the detective said.

“As a detective… it’s a one chance in 3,000 you’re going to have her pills, her purse, her checkbook, her phone, her keys laid out (and) displayed like it was staged,” he said.

From the pattern of smudges on one side of the vehicle, Jiminez said police believed there had been an altercation between Jane Bashara and her assailant that took place somewhere other than the Annott location. There were leaves stuck to one of Jane Bashara’s socks — her slippers were found, tucked underneath her, inside the Mercedes — but he said they likely didn’t come from the Detroit site, either.

“The ground was frozen,” Jiminez said. “Those leaves (on the sock) were not on that ground (on Annott).”

Although it’s not known where he went, Kristy Sample, who had been a bartender at the Hard Luck Lounge on Mack in Grosse Pointe Park, said she saw Bob Bashara enter the bar around 5:15 p.m. Jan. 24, 2012. She said he usually ordered a beer, but that evening he ordered a rum and Coke. Sample, who testified Dec. 1, said Bashara left the bar around 5:45 p.m. but said he’d be back, and she remembered him returning about an hour later. Before that day, she said Bashara had never told her he was leaving and coming back to the bar.

Prosecutors have tried to show that Bashara was trying to restore his public image and prove that he didn’t have anything to do with his wife’s murder, and Bashara himself has consistently denied any role in her death. Via stipulation, prosecutors last month introduced a prior statement made by a woman who was working at the Wayne County Jail on July 11, 2012, when Bashara needed to place a phone call. Bashara was behind bars at that point for trying to hire someone to kill former handyman Joe Gentz in jail, to which Bashara pled guilty in December 2012.

Bashara is said to have called for his mother and reached his cousin, Stephanie Samuel, to whom he is said to have made the following comment: “You contact Jessie and tell her she better be on my side or I will cut her our of my will, and that will really hurt her.” The reference was to Bashara’s young adult daughter, Jessica Bashara. She and her older brother, Robert Bashara, testified against their father earlier in the trial.

Via stipulation on Nov. 20, Mark Hindelang, one of the Wayne County prosecuting attorneys, introduced testimony from Daryl Bradford from Bashara’s preliminary examination in September 2013. Bradford was a lifelong friend of Paul Monroe, a convicted felon and admitted drug dealer who testified that he sold cocaine to Bashara. Bradford said Monroe asked him to call a tipline in the Jane Bashara murder and say that Monroe’s former fiancée and her new boyfriend, April Montgomery and Charles Wilson, had something to do with the murder. After Bradford called in the fake tip, he said Monroe paid him $20.

Missy Keller, a former tenant of Bashara’s who lived in an apartment above the Hard Luck Lounge on Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park for over two years, testified Nov. 25 about her experiences with her landlord. On the evening of Jan. 24, 2012, she said she had several friends over. Keller said her guests all arrived around 6:30 p.m. that night. Between 7-9 p.m., she said one of her friends had gone to the back parking lot to get something from her car, and when she came back to the apartment, she led Keller to the back window to show her Bashara sweeping up the alley. Keller told prosecutors she’d never seen Bashara cleaning up in the alley before.

After Jane Bashara’s murder, Keller remembered Bob Bashara asking to meet her at the vacant apartment next door. Keller said her friend from the party was with her, so both women went to the meeting.

“He was talking to her (the friend) and wanted to confirm the fact that she had seen him that night and that we had both seen him that night,” Keller said of the night of Jan. 24, 2012. Bashara later asked Keller to be a character witness for him, but she said she tried to dodge the request.

Although Keller didn’t ask Bashara if he had anything to do with his wife’s murder, she said he repeatedly volunteered to her that he did not kill his wife, she said.

The tenant remembered another unusual encounter with her landlord in mid-March 2012, when he asked to borrow her cellphone and went out onto her balcony to make the call in private. Keller, who was with a friend at the time, said she was “a little suspicious” of the request, but she complied.

“Afterwards, he asked if I would delete the number,” she said. “He stood there waiting… so I pretended to delete the nu mber, but I didn’t.”

The young hairdresser said Bashara was often flirtatious with her and her friends, and he let her do work at the apartments occasionally to help reduce her rent payments. Keller said she was sometimes late on her rent.

“In a joking manner, he said, ‘Don’t worry — you don’t have to pay late fees — I’ll just give you spankings instead,’” Keller recounted of one comment he made to her. Keller didn’t think much about the remark, but in light of revelations that Bashara was involved in the BDSM lifestyle, it takes on new weight.

Like Keller and some other witnesses in the Bashara case, Grosse Pointe Woods business owner Kimbriel Towar remembered her friend, Bob Bashara, asking to use her phone after the murder. Towar, who testified Dec. 1, said Bashara stopped by her office Feb. 7, 2012, and used her office phone to call Janet Leehmann — the Oregon woman he had once hoped to bring to Michigan as a second sex slave, alongside longtime mistress/sex slave Rachel Gillett. Towar said she didn’t know Leehmann and had never even heard of her until prosecutors got her phone records.

The timing of Jane Bashara’s murder has also been a pivotal part of the circumstantial case against her husband.

Realtor M. Lorraine Muccioli, who showed houses in the Pointes to Bashara and Gillett starting in the spring of 2011, said Bashara had told her he had finalized the divorce with his wife in June of that year; he was actually still married. Bashara and Gillett finally settled on a house in the 1000 block of Kensington in Grosse Pointe Park, and Muccioli said Bashara came to her office around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 — the day of the murder — to pick up the closing packet. The closing itself was slated to take place that Friday, Jan. 27, she said.

On Jan. 25, 2012, Muccioli said Bashara called her to delay the closing because his wife was missing. Prosecutors showed phone records that Bashara called Muccioli using his mother’s cellphone that day — the first time he’d ever used that phone to call the real estate agent. Muccioli said Bashara “told me that he was getting the rest of his money” for the house from his wife.